I recently purchased of a Bowman 1953 reprint Cubs set, and I'll show it off next week. It got me thinking about Topps’ entry into the baseball card world in 1951.
In the late 1940’s and early 1950’s Bowman was the king of cards. They were the main player in nationally distributed baseball cards.
This is what the 1951 cards look like.They features paintings of the players on the front and a written biography on the back. The size of the cards is on the small side, 2 1/16” x 2 ½”.
Topps first cards in 1951 were nothing like the Bowman’s. They were really small and had only a design on the back. Bowman must have felt pretty comfortable in their role as card king, because they didn’t make any big design changes from 1951 to 1952. Here is the 1952 front and back
Bowman didn't change much, but Topps sure did! The 1952 Topps set, like Upper Deck’s first release in 1989, was revolutionary. The cards were on thicker cardboard. They were huge, measuring 2 5/8” x 3 ¾”. And the backs didn’t feature a boring written bio, they had stats!
I wonder what the people at Bowman thought when they first saw the Topps cards? Probably the same thing that the Topps execs thought in 1989 with their first look at Upper Deck. Uh oh!!
After getting over their initial shock, the Bowman people did what any company does when the competition puts out a better product—they copied.
Here is the 1953 Bowman front. No more paintings; now its real color photographs. Of course, there are no names or team names on the front, but you can’t rush into the redesign process.
Now take a look at the back
How about that…stats! It gets even better when you compare the back of a Topps ’52 with a Bowman ’53. Look familiar??
In my mind, copying the competition is the sign of a desperate company. And a desperate company won’t stick around very long. For Bowman, it was only two more years. Their last release was in 1955. Topps bought them out before the 1956 season, and their 25 year stranglehold on the baseball cards business began.