The 1955 Bowman set is an important one in the history of the hobby.
First, it marked the last full year baseball set produced by Bowman, before being acquired by Topps in 1956.
Second, the card's tv design made for one of the most unique and memorable sets from the 1950's.
Due to fairly widespread distribution, the set tends to be more affordable than early Bowman issues, yet collectors are quite fond of the set's big stars, including Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.
The brown borders make the set a condition sensitive issue, as the cards are quite commonly found with chipped corners and borders.
Follow along as I explore the 1955 Bowman Baseball issue, providing data on scarcity, investment potential, and the most valuable cards in the set.
1955 Bowman Baseball Card Facts
Excluding maybe the 1952 Topps Baseball set, the 1955 Bowman 'Color TV' issue could be one of the most recognized baseball card sets of the 1950's.
Bowman went out with a bang design wise, given that it would be their last baseball card issue before getting acquired by Topps in 1956.
The first all-electronic color televisions were introduced in the United States back in 1953 and by 1955 major networks were slowly introducing color television broadcasts.
However, most consumers were slow to adopt purchases of color TV's due to the cost and lack of programming.
Yet, Bowman decided to leverage the oncoming technological innovation with cards that featured players inside of a color tv set on its cards. And Bowman did so, by producing its largest set of all time, with a total of 320 cards in the set.
The cards measure 2 1/2" x 3 3/4", however the cards are commonly known to be offsized by as much as a 1/4 inch. The front of the cards feature a brown border to represent a color television. The 1955 Bowman card set is also the first all horizontal card set for Bowman.
Backs of the Bowman baseball cards have some variation. Some feature a player profile, as shown on the back of this Willie Mays card.
And many of the cards feature a quote from the player regarding 'The Best Hitter They've Ever Seen' or 'My Favorite Baseball Story' as just two examples of many.
Here's the back of the 1955 Bowman Pee Wee Reese card for which he waxes poetic about his favorite hitter - one Stan 'The Man' Musial, who ironically had no card in the Bowman set. Wonder what the cutting room floor thought about that?
Cards 1 thru 64 feature a lighter brown TV border, whereas the remainder of the set features a darker brown border. Personally, I hate the light brown cards, but really like the darker brown variations.
Cards were sold in both 1 cent (with 1 card) and 5 cent packs with nine cards. Each pack also included a stick of gum. Note that Bowman also issued cards in a 10 cent (20 card) cello pack. Here's an unopened 5 cent 1955 Bowman wax pack.
The cards were issued in two series. The higher series cards (225-320) are tougher to find. There are also some notable error cards in the set. See the checklist at the end for a full listing of errors.
Bowman also reached exclusive agreements with more players than Topps had in 1955, yet missed on a few big time players.
Notable omissions from the set include Ted Williams and Stan Musial along with Sandy Koufax, Roberto Clemente and Harmon Killebrew, with the later three all having rookie cards in the 1955 Topps set.
This leads to the Bowman set having very few rookie cards of importance. The key rookie cards being those of NY Yankees slugger Elston Howard and HOF coach Don Zimmer. But that's it. Thus, it's the star power here that carries the popularity of the issue.
Bowman decided to include cards for 31 umpires in the 1955 Bowman set, which likely got tossed in the trash by most kids looking for the Mantle or Mays cards. I'm not going to profile the umps in this set, but SABR research did a great job doing so.
The 1955 Bowman set is one of the most condition sensitive baseball card sets of the 1950s. The darker border cards are harder to find in good condition due to the propensity of chipping on the borders and corners.
This Mickey Mantle card from the set is a common sight with whitening around the corners. Still, the Mantle card especially, is highly desired by collectors even in poor condition.
1955 Bowman Baseball Most Valuable Cards
Commons from the set (in lower grades) average $5-$10 per card.
1955 Bowman Mickey Mantle #202
From 1954-1955, Mickey Mantle had an exclusive baseball card contract with Bowman. Thus, there were no Topps Mickey Mantle cards issued during these two years.
So, the 1955 Bowman Mantle #202 card is a must-have for any Mantle collectors seeking to own all cards for 'The Mick'. It's a great-looking card too; showcasing a young Mantle within the color tv border design.
I've always thought this was Mantle's best-looking card, aside from the 1952 Topps Mantle, which has an allure all its own.
In terms of scarcity, the Bowman Mantle card is still quite easy to find. From a PSA grading standpoint, there are over 4000 PSA graded copies. Yet, the condition sensitivity of the set makes finding a high-grade copy quite tough.
Note there are only three PSA 10 1955 Bowman Mantle cards in existence-the last sale happened in 2005 at a little under $17K. In today's market, that number would likely eclipse the million dollar mark.
There is a lot more data to work with at the PSA 9 grade. While only 8 copies exist, a PSA 9 Bowman Mantle sold for $375K back in November of 2021.
In low grades, the Mantle card is certainly within reach for many collectors. Ungraded copies in low grades or even graded copies at PSA 2 and under often sell for under $500.
1955 Bowman Willie Mays #184
Look at Willie peering into that TV. I love this card, the design is so perfect. I can only imagine this is exactly the feel that Bowman was trying to create.
Willie also had a lot to smile about at the time; he was just coming off a 1954 MVP season in which he batted .345, with 45 home runs and 110 RBIs.
No copies of Mays' 55 Bowman card have earned a PSA 10 grade, owing to the condition problems that plague the set.
Only 5 have earned a PSA 9 grade; the last auction sale happened back in 2019 for close to $20K, likely a far cry from what it might earn in today's market.
The good news is that collectors can buy a 1955 Bowman Willie Mays card in lower grades for an affordable price. A PSA 4 (VG-EX) copy usually sells for less than $400.
1955 Bowman Hank Aaron #179
The 1955 Bowman #179 Hank Aaron card is the third most valuable card in the set. And for good reason. It's "Hammering Hank's" second year card.
Note that Topps had exclusive rights in 1954 to produce Aaron's rookie card. And still had the contract in 1955, thus Aaron has two 1955 cards (Topps and Bowman).
Like the Bowman Mays card, there have been no PSA 10 grades issued to date. And only 4 PSA 9's exist, with the last sale at nearly $27K back in 2016.
About 2500 total copies of Aaron's card have been graded by PSA. So, as with the remainder of the set, not a tough find, but higher graded copies most certainly are more of a challenge.
If you're looking for a deal, grab a lower graded Aaron (PSA 4 or below) for under $400.
1955 Bowman Ernie Banks #242
This is also considered a second year card for Cubs legend Ernie Banks. His rookie card appeared in the 1954 Topps set, of which Topps had exclusive rights.
Thus, Banks has two second year cards, this one and a 1955 Topps issue (shown below)
For me, it's the Banks Bowman 1955 card all day long. I know the TV design on the Bowman cards is an acquired taste. But the Banks card has the perfect combination of player photo/pose and TV background.
Like many other cards in the set, no PSA 10 Banks cards exist and only five copies of his card have passed the PSA 9 grading test.
The Banks Bowman second-year card is one of the better values in the set. A PSA 7 copy (of which there are less than 130 graded copies) sells for less than $1000. A very attractive value.
1955 Bowman Yogi Berra #168
HOF catcher Yogi Berra's official rookie card is his 1948 Bowman issue. His 1955 Bowman card would be his final Bowman issue, ending a seven-year run. Notably, Berra's first Topps issue didn't come until 1952.
At the time of the card's issue, Berra was in the midst of posting back to back MVP seasons. Thus, this card, from a timing perspective holds a ton of history for one of the greatest catchers ever to play the game.
Berra's card doesn't hold the same sort of value as the top cards in the set. Yet, the scarcity of top grades and the relative value make Berra's Bowman card worth another look.
1955 Bowman Eddie Mathews #103
Slugger Eddie Mathews provides the perfect pose for his '55 Bowman card. Doesn't it look like Mathews is about to blast one out of Milwaukee County Stadium?
The Braves slugger was about to post a 40+ home run season in 1955, well on his way to becoming one of baseball's esteemed 500 home run hitters.
The Mathews 1955 Bowman card is one of the most affordable HOF cards in the set. PSA 6 (EX-MT) and PSA 7 (NM) copies have sold recently for under $100.
1955 Bowman Pee Wee Reese #37
Reese wasn't exactly a prolific hitter. He batted .269 over the course of his career but provided all the intangibles. Reese led the Dodgers to seven pennant wins and one World Series victory.
Reese's card is one of the lighter color Bowman TV border issues. Not exactly my favorite, but a cool pose for the Dodger legend.
His 1955 Bowman card is VERY affordable. Low to mid-PSA, graded copies are easily found for under $100.
1955 Bowman Roy Campanella #22
The back of 'Campy's' Bowman card called him one of 'baseball's finest catchers' and it couldn't be further from the truth. Campanella was about to secure his third MVP award in 1955. At the same time his counterpart - Yogi Berra would win the AL MVP award.
Campanella's Bowman card is one of the more affordable HOF cards in the set. PSA has graded over 1600 copies of his card. Collectors can secure a mid grade copy for $100 or less.
1955 Bowman Whitey Ford #59
The back of the Ford card discusses his 'Biggest Thrill in Baseball' which came when he was called up to the Yankees in 1950 in the midst of a big pennant race.
1955 would prove to be an excellent year for Ford as he chalked up an impressive 18-7 record with a 2.63 ERA.
1955 Bowman Al Kaline #23
The back of Al Kaline's Bowman card notes that his biggest thrill was playing opening day in Detroit. Oh and that he loved watching his favorite player Ted Williams, who oh by the way isn't even in the set (chalk it up to contractual issues).
The Kaline card is quite affordable and represents a second year issue for the Tigers slugger. (Note his 1954 Topps card is his lone rookie card).
It's not a rare issue (PSA has graded over 1900 copies) but for collectors looking to pick up a bargain HOF early issue, I like the Kaline card.
1955 Bowman Elston Howard (RC) #68
The 1955 Bowman set has few rookie cards of note. The Elston Howard rookie card is the most notable and most valuable rookie card in the set. It's still cheap, since there isn't a ton of demand for Howard cards. He was a good player, but his stats weren't quite enough to get him into the HOF. Though, some make a good argument that he should be there.
1955 Bowman Bob Feller #134
This card caught the amazing Bob Feller at the tail end of his career in baseball. In 1955, Feller was barely hanging on with the Indians, pitching only 83 innings that year. However, his cards all are highly collectible. Good news for Feller collectors -this one can be found for under $100 in nice condition all day long.
Investment Potential Of The 1955 Bowman Set
Overall Investment Rating: 7.5 out of 10
The set doesn't carry the same sort of rookie power as the 1955 Topps set which features first year cards for Roberto Clemente, Harmon Killebrew and Sandy Koufax.
Yet, for all its rookie card shortfalls, the 1955 Bowman makes up for it with a unique design and big time cards of Mantle, Mays, Aaron, Banks and more.
Condition issues also make finding higher grade cards a challenge, thus the argument could be made that higher grade 55 Bowman cards are a better longer term investment than their Topps counterparts.
The umpire cards and lesser know players in the set are a bit of a distraction, but overall, I think the 1955 Bowman set should remain a solid long term investment for collectors.
1955 Bowman Baseball Checklist
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