1948 Bowman Basketball Cards

In 1886, Old Judge created the first Baseball card set. In 1895 Mayo’s Cut Plugs created the first Football card set. It took until 1948 for Bowman to create the first full set of Basketball cards!

What most don’t realize is that in 1948, the NBA was very new. In fact, it was founded in 1946. It’s safe to assume that the card companies didn’t think basketball would be that big, and it shows because the next full set of basketball cards were not produced until the 1957 Topps set. It’s crazy to think that basketball cards weren’t produced for a 9 year period after its inception, and now they are one of the most popular sports for card collectors.

Please be aware that even though the 1948 Bowman Basketball set has color, it was not produced in 1949 like the baseball set was (The 1949 Bowman baseball set has color whereas 1948 was black and white). These cards measure 2 1/16 by 2 ½ inches and don’t contain any written information on the front.

On the back, the 48 Bowman cards have the card number, vital stats (not basketball stats), and a written bio about the player. The backs also contain a redemption ad for pencils. This ad and the card number are the only two details that are printed in red.



One unique aspect of this set is the “Basketball Play” cards. These depicted different strategies that teams used to score in the early NBA games. There are 12 different plays in the 1948 Bowman set and 72 total cards. This  means only 60 player cards were featured in this inaugural set.

The set is composed of two different series which are comprised of 36 cards each. The second series is rarer than the first and that is where the most valuable card in the set is: the George Mikan rookie card.

1948 Bowman Most Valuable Cards:

1948 Bowman George Mikan #69

George Mikan was the first dominant basketball player in NBA history. He was a Center who played for the Minneapolis Lakers. While his career was only seven seasons long, Mikan averaged about 23 points and 13 rebounds per game; Which led him to be a 5x NBA champion and 3x scoring champ.

This is considered his rookie card and definitely his most valuable card. In 2021, a PSA 9 of this card sold for over $400,000!

Mikan also has another rookie card which comes from the 1948 Kellogg’s set. It has a much smaller size and isn’t as desirable as his Bowman.

With a population of about 350, There are not many sales of The George Mikan rookie card throughout the year. However, The PSA 2 picture above has two sales ranging from the $6-9k range.  One interesting aspect of tracking rare cards like this is that you might need to look solely at auction prices. This is due to the absence of true comps. The George Mikan rookie card is pretty elusive, so make sure you do your research before you decide to buy.

This data was grabbed from Market Movers. Get your first month for $1 using code BREAKOUT

1948 Bowman Carl Braun #72

Braun is a Hall of Famer who played for the New York Knicks for the majority of his career which spanned three decades ranging from the 1940s to the 1960s. He won his only championship during his last season with the Boston Celtics. 

Braun’s rookie is the last card in the set which means it’s difficult to find in nice condition. Often with many vintage releases, there is a premium for the first and last cards as they were often damaged in storage boxes or with rubber bands.

1948 Bowman Jim Pollard #66

Jim Pollard played on the Lakers with George Mikan. Although he was not as good as Mikan, Pollard was an essential piece that helped the Lakers franchise win 5 championships. He was a small forward who averaged about 13 points and 7 assists per game.

1948 Bowman Basketball Checklist

1 Ernie Calverley

2 Ralph Hamilton

3 Gale Bishop

4 Fred Lewis

5 Basketball Play

6 Bob Feerick

7 John Logan

8 Mel Riebe

9 Andy Phillip

10 Bob Davies

11 Basketball Play

12 Kenny Sailors

13 Paul Armstrong

14 Howard Dallmar

15 Bruce Hale

16 Sid Hertzberg

17 Basketball Play

18 Red Rocha

19 Eddie Ehlers

20 Gene Vance

21 Fuzzy Levane

22 Earl Shannon

23 Basketball Play

24 Leo Crystal Klier

25 George Senesky

26 Price Brookfield

27 John Norlander

28 Don Putman 

29 Basketball Play

30 Jack Garfinkel 

31 Chuck Gilmur 

32 Red Holzman 

33 Jack Smiley 

34 Joe Fulks

35 Basketball Play

36 Hal Tidrick 

37 Don Carlson

38 Buddy Jeannette

39 Ray Kuka

40 Stan Miasek 

41 Basketball Play

42 George Nostrand 

43 Chuck Halbert

44 Arnie Johnson

45 Bob Doll

46 Bones McKinney

47 Basketball Play

48 Ed Sadowski

49 Bob Kinney

50 Charlie Black

51 Jack Dwan

52 Connie Simmons 

53 Basketball Play

54 Bud Palmer 

55 Max Zaslofsky 

56 Lee Roy Robbins 

57 Arthur Spector 

58 Arnie Risen 

59 Basketball Play

60 Ariel Maughan 

61 Dick O’Keefe 

62 Herman Schaefer 

63 John Mahnken 

64 Tommy Byrnes 

65 Basketball Play

66 Jim Pollard 

67 Lee Mogus

68 Lee Knorek 

69 George Mikan 

70 Walter Budko 

71 Basketball Play

72 Carl Braun 

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