Released just a couple of years after the NBA was founded, 1948 Bowman Basketball was the first time the company produced a set of cards for the sport that were distributed nationally in the United States.
The NBA began life as the Basketball Association of America (BAA) in 1946. They played under that moniker for 3 years before merging with the National Basketball League in 1949.
A vintage set that is packed full of players from the BAA, it was issued in two series of 36 cards each, with the latter being much harder to locate.
Cards are uniquely understated, with a colored-in black-and-white player picture with a solid background. There are no names or team logos, focusing solely on the earliest NBA stars.
Here’s a rundown with ten of the best 1948 Bowman Basketball cards, featuring rookies and Hall of Famers alike.
The Best 1948 Bowman Basketball Cards
As a set released during the 1940’s, many have been ruined or lost over the past 70 years.
This means that the best 1948 Bowman Basketball cards are often wrapped in a graded slab, which also helps to avoid any of the fakes and forgeries that have made their way onto the market.
10. 1948 Bowman Basketball Jack Dwan #51 (eBay)
We begin with Jack Dwan, who played two seasons (1947–49) in the National Basketball League and Basketball Association of America as a member of the Minneapolis Lakers.
The precursor for the LA Lakers, Dwan won a NBL championship in 1948 and a BAA championship in 1949.
His card features a simple blue background, and doesn’t come up for sale too often.
9. 1948 Bowman Basketball Ernie Calverley RC #1 (eBay)
Ernie Calverley led in assists per game in the BAA’s first and second years while playing for his home state team, the Providence Steamrollers. In his rookie season, Calverley was selected to the All-BAA Second Team.
A clear step up from the likes of Dwan in terms of pure values, the 1944 NCAA Division I scoring leader is always going to be a popular choice for vintage card collectors. His card is wrapped with a deep blue background.
8. 1948 Bowman Basketball Herman Schaefer #62 (eBay)
Herm Schaefer played in the National Basketball League and NBA from 1941 to 1950 as a member of the Fort Wayne Pistons, Indianapolis Kautskys, and Minneapolis Lakers respectively.
The reverse lists his many scoring achievements, while he went on to become the coach of the Indianapolis Olympians. Ungraded versions should be some of the more affordable options from the set.
- NBA champion (1950)
- BAA champion (1949)
- NBL champion (1948)
7. 1948 Bowman Basketball Joe Fulks RC #34 (eBay)
Joe Fulks set the BAA/NBA single game scoring record four different times, and is considered by many to be the father of the modern game. His NBA profile notes;
So prolific a scorer and revolutionary a player was Fulks that he was called “the Babe Ruth of basketball.”
Of course, this means that many early collectors held onto their copies, so it’s not the most expensive card from the set when looking at lower grades. It’s still a real piece of sporting history.
6. 1948 Bowman Basketball George Mikan #69 (eBay)
Despite playing in spectacles, George Mikan is seen as one of the greatest players of all time, as well as one of the pioneers of professional basketball.
Mikan had a successful playing career, winning seven NBL, BAA, and NBA championships, an NBA All-Star Game MVP trophy, and three scoring titles. He was a member of the first four NBA All-Star games, and the first six All-BAA and All-NBA Teams.
In fact, they redefined the rules as Mikan was so dominant, so it’s no surprise that his card is one of the most valuable if it’s wrapped in a graded slab. If money is no object, this is arguably the best 1948 Bowman Basketball card overall.
5. 1948 Bowman Basketball Carl Braun RC #72 (eBay)
Carl Braun was a former All-Star guard for the Knicks and one of the finest shooters in the first decade of the National Basketball Association. He spent 13 seasons in the NBA, all but the last with the New York Knicks.
His RC is the subject of a lot of attention, especially as he was only elected into the Hall of
Fame in 2019. It’s another card from the set which could set records in the future.
4. 1948 Bowman Basketball Andrew Levane #21 (eBay)
Player-coach Andrew Levane spent three years in the NBA and its predecessor league. He played for the Rochester Royals, the Syracuse Nationals and the Milwaukee Hawks respectively.
His card makes the list despite a disappointing price tag as it’s one of the more affordable pieces from the set. (A PSA 5 can often be found for under $50, while a PSA 7 sold for $113 in October 2021.)
It’s also a great way to get a proper look and feel for the cards if you’re planning to look at ungraded copies of other players.
3. 1948 Bowman Basketball Red Holzman RC #32 (eBay)
Red Holzman was a Hall of Fame coach who led the New York Knicks to their only two National Basketball Association championships. He’s pictured in his playing days for the Rochester Royals.
He was included in the first set of cards to be released in 1948 Bowman Basketball (1-36), and they’re more abundant than the latter half. This means that low grades can often be found on the market, although pristine copies are still popular.
Remember, you can never go wrong with a Hall of Famer if you’re looking for the best baseball investment options.
2. 1948 Bowman Basketball Double Post #29 (eBay)
The #29 card from the set is a weird one, in that it doesn’t feature a player at all. Instead it features the double post system, explained within a diagram.
As Rookie Road explains;
“The double post is an offensive system in basketball where the coach plays two big players like centers and power forwards, players who can post up around the paint. The double post is not a play, but rather a system in which several different plays can be executed.”
It’s certainly a niche option, but we still think that it’s highly collectible. (After all, we’re unlikely to see anything similar today.)
1. 1948 Bowman Basketball Jim Pollard RC #66 (eBay)
The top spot goes to Jim Pollard. A five-time NBA champion and four-time NBA All-Star, Pollard spent his entire eight-year professional career with the Minneapolis Lakers. (The team is also displayed clearly on his jersey.)
This card is seen as one of the keys to the set. It is found in the rarer second half of the collection. Pollard was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1978, so it’s another strong option from the set.
1948 Bowman Basketball Cards: Buyers Guide
Here’s a buyer’s guide if you’re tempted by a vintage set that benefits from the technological advancements of a postwar United States.
We’ve added a mix of players to the list above, so there’s something to suit almost every budget. That is, unless you’re looking at the likes of Mikan, who is by far the most expensive.
Of course, many cards only come up for sale every so often, especially if they’re included in the rarer second release.
There are a couple of Hall of Fame players included in the 1948 Bowman Basketball collection. We’d go for Mikan if we could only have one. They had to change the rules to accommodate his size and intelligence, and he helped to usher in a new era for the sport.
The only reason he’s not higher on the list is the price tag, which is often eye-watering.
1948 Bowman Basketball: Buying/Selling Advice
One of the oldest basketball sets ever produced, many of the players included in 1948 Bowman Basketball predate the NBA itself.
That’s not an issue for fans of the sport. The collection has real historical value, and it contains a variety of big names from the era.
We think that the Hall of Famers are a strong addition to any portfolio. There’s good scope for profit over the next decade or so.