Things Got a Little Larger
The 1951 Bowman Baseball set is the largest in the Bowman run from 1948-1955 and features an impressive total of 324 cards --- each measuring approximately 2-1/16" by 3-1/8". In 1951, Bowman increased the card size compared to previous releases, and would change it again in 1953.
It has been widely speculated that the set was going to be complete at 252 cards --- just like the 1950 Bowman Set --- but they decided to add an additional series of 72 cards to the original production. These "high numbers" are rarer and more highly coveted. Commons typically value at about twice the price of commons in the lower series.
The cards feature a name plate on the front and a biographical reverse.
The High Numbers
The 1951 Bowman Set features dozens of stars and Hall of famers in the early part of the set, but the "high number series" is where it really shines. The final 72 cards in the set, numbered from #253 to #324 are much tougher to find. They also happen to feature the rookie cards of two of the greatest center fielders to ever lace up a pair of spikes. The Mickey Mantle (#253) and Willie Mays (#305) are the undisputed keys to the issue and are two of the mainstay cards within the hobby.
Other Key Rookies
Mantle and Mays aren't the only Hall of Fame rookie cards in the set.
The first card in the set is that of Edward "Whitey" Ford. This is Ford's rookie card and being the first card in the set, it is extremely condition sensitive. With less than 150 of the more than 1400 graded obtaining a PSA 7 Near Mint or better grade, it is one of the more difficult cards in the set to find in top grade.
Two other Hall of Famers have their rookie cards in the set. Monte Irvin is featured on card #198 and Nellie Fox graces card #232.
A set featuring Mantle and Mays could probably stand on its own. But when you add in the rest of the star power that permeates this set, you can see why it's one of the most popular issues of all time.
Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider, Warren Spahn and Ted Williams are just a few of the names that kids were saving their pennies and hoping to find when they were busting open packs. But finding Phil Rizzuto, Bob Feller, Johnny Mize, Bob Lemon, Enos Slaughter, Robin Roberts, Larry Doby, Richie Ashburn, Bill Dickey, Al Lopez or even Casey Stengel would be a satisfying consolation.
Missing in Action
Unfortunately, the 1951 Bowman Baseball Set omitted a few players that would have added greatly to the issue. Jackie Robinson, who was included in the 1949 and 1950 Bowman releases, was not included. Stan Musial and Ralph Kiner, who had appeared in all of the previous Bowman sets, were also absent.
Bowman was also unable to include Joe DiMaggio, who was in his final season with the Yankees. Surprisingly, DiMaggio never appeared on a Bowman issue.
As of December 2018, the PSA Pop report shows that they have graded more than 90,000 1951 Bowman baseball cards. Of those, there has been just one PSA 10 Gem Mint Mickey Mantle and zero PSA 10 Gem Mint Willie Mays cards. That's out of over 2,000 Mantles and 1,675 Mays cards that have been graded.
1951 Bowman Baseball Collections That We've Purchased
More Bowman Collection Stories
Looking to sell your 1951 Bowman baseball collection? Use our free vintage sports card appraisal form.Return to See More Just Collect Sets