1952 Bowman Large Football Cards

1952 Bowman Large Football Cards

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When Topps entered the ring to fight against Bowman in the sports card business in 1952, there were some immediate changes. One of those involved Bowman increasing the size of its cards, and the 1952 Bowman football set was issued in two different formats as a result.

At first, the 144-card set was issued in a similar format as the 1951 set: cards measured 2 1/16 inches by 3 1/8 inches and were divided into four 36-card printing sheets. At some point, the company decided to make the cards bigger (2 ½ inches by 3 ¾ inches) and printed up the same 144 cards on larger - but still 36-card - printing sheets. The larger size seems to have resulted in certain cards getting caught up in the machinery at the factory and withdrawn, since several cards are notoriously short-printed.

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Other than the size, the cards in the small and large sets are exactly the same. Card fronts feature painted picture of a player or coach. A pennant contains his name and a team logo appears either above or below it. A white border surrounds the picture. Card backs feature a written biography and a first for Bowman: lines of statistics from the previous seasons, except for linemen and coaches. At the top, a card number appears in the left corner, just below the name. The team and position appear to the right of the number, with a few vital statistics over to the right. At the bottom of the card, a line above the copyright states College to Pro, as way of pointing out that some of the players are shown with their college teams.

On the surface, there are several new features for 1952. First, all teams are represented by their coach. This offers a way for collectors to pick up cards of legendary coaches like Paul Brown, George Halas and Steve Owen who otherwise wouldn't have had many mainstream cards. Secondly, there were college logos shown on the card fronts for rookie players (their pro teams were listed on the back, however). Finally, the appearance of statistics showed that Topps's success with their 1952 baseball card set had definitely caught them off-guard.

Collectors overlook all of those things due to the fact that the cards were made larger and issued as the same set. In effect, Bowman was preparing to make its 1953 baseball set, which used the larger size. Due to the troubles getting the larger cards through the process of printing and cutting, it has been said that several of the cards on an outer edge of every sheet were damaged and withdrawn right at the factory. There are several cards in the Large set that are short-printed, with #144 Jim Lansford being the toughest to find in any condition. Card #72 of John Schweder is also tough. Both cards would have been on the lower right corner of their printing sheet.

Key rookies from the set aside from coaches like Paul Brown and George Halas include Frank Gifford, Art Donovan, Gino Marchetti, Ollie Matson, Hugh McElhenny, Jack Christiansen and Yale Lary. In both sets, cards numbered 73-144 are considered to be slightly more scarce than the earlier series, but the short-printed cards in the larger set are even scarcer. However, the short-printed cards from the large set do not correspond to any scarcity in the smaller issue.

Key 1952 Bowman Large Football Cards:

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Chris is an avid vintage sports card collector who is The Cardboard Connection's resident expert of all things vintage.

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