Whether collectors realized it at the time or not, 1954 Bowman baseball cards had the weight of the world on their shoulders.

See …

After a four-year run from 1948 through 1951 with just a trickle of competition from Leaf and then Topps, Bowman must have been feeling pretty good about their cardboard lot in life.

But then, in 1952, Topps changed the game completely with a big, bold issue that featured full-color photography and a massive 407-card checklist.

Bowman, meanwhile, carried on with another illustrated set that was substantively identical to their 1951 issue, even if the tiny details had changed.

In response to the new challenge, Bowman tried out two formats in 1953 — a smaller black-and-white set, and a large-format color set.

Meanwhile, Topps stuck with large cards but introduced the artwork of painter Gerry Dvorak to grace card fronts.

1954 Bowman baseball cards unopened wax pack

Evidently, color and size won the day, because Bowman was back with full-color photos in 1954, augmented by (ugly?) colored rectangles at the bottom of card fronts that featured facsimile player autographs.

So, were the 1954s successful in pulling Bowman back from the brink of extinction at the hand of their on-rushing competitor?

Maybe, but only for a year at the most. Because, by 1956, Bowman was gone (bought by Topps).

But that doesn’t mean collectors haven’t loved Bowman cards over the years … we definitely have!

And that goes double for these, the most valuable of all 1954 Bowman baseball cards (based on graded NM listings in the PSA Sports Market Report Price Guide).

1954 Bowman Mickey Mantle (#65)

1954 Bowman Mickey  Mantle

Mickey Mantle is going to appear at the top of the value chart for just about every set he’s in, but the 1954 Bowman has a little something extra going for it.

In particular, after two years of Mantle cards that would become hobby legends (that would be 1952 and 1953), Topps whiffed on the Commerce Comet in 1954.

So, if you wanted a ’54 Mickey Mantle baseball card, Bowman was the only game in town.

Today, this is a $2200 card in PSA 7 condition.

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1954 Bowman Willie Mays (#89)

1954 Bowman Willie  Mays

For the first time in their baseball card careers, Willie Mays’ path diverged from Mantle’s — Mays appeared in both Bowman and Topps issues.

Not that the extra choice has hurt the value of Willie’s ’54 Bowman at all, because it checks in here at $500+ in graded NM condition.

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1954 Bowman Yogi Berra (#161)

1954 Bowman Yogi  Berra

After winning the American League Most Valuable Player award in 1951, Berra slid all the way to fourth and second in the balloting in 1952 and 1953, respectively

Never fear, though, because the Yankees’ Hall of Fame catcher was back on the MVP trail as collectors were pulling this card from their wax packs in 1954.

Berra won the award in both 1954 and 1955, and his ’54 Bowman is all the better for it today at close to $200 in PSA 7 condition.

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1954 Bowman Phil Rizzuto (#1)

1954 Bowman Phil  Rizzuto

Ho, hum! Another Yankee in Cooperstown, another expensive 1954 Bowman card.

Though shortstop Phil Rizzuto never put up the kinds of offensive numbers that Mantle and Berra did, he was an indispensable part of that 1950s Yankees dynasty.

Today, this card of the Scooter brings in around $150 in PSA 7 condition.

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1954 Bowman Duke Snider (#170)

1954 Bowman Duke  Snider

So, which New York centerfielder did you prefer … Willie, Mickey, or The Duke?

While Snider ended up on the short side of history when compared to his crosstown rivals when it came to both championships and personal statistics, he was a mainstay of a decade’s worth of great Brooklyn Dodgers teams.

And, if you’re going to finish third at something, sliding in behind Mantle and Mays is not any sort of knock at all.

The 1954 Bowman Snider is a $150 card in PSA 7.

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1954 Bowman Roy Campanella (#90)

1954 Bowman Roy  Campanella

Speaking of crosstown rivals, Campy was pretty much the National League equivalent of Yogi Berra.

Both catchers paced their teams while the defense was on the field, and both carried a huge chunk of the offensive load, too.

And, Campanella won NL MVP awards in 1951, 1953, and 1955 (Hey, does Bret Saberhagen have some of Campy’s bloodline in him?)

For all that, Roy’s 1954 Bowman card pushes $150 in slabbed NM condition.

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1954 Bowman Whitey Ford (#177)

1954 Bowman Whitey Ford

Thanks to a couple of years spent in military service, Ford had only played parts of two seasons when this card was issued.

They were good ones, though, as he combined to go 27-7 with a 2.93 ERA in 1950 and 1953 combined.

There were plenty of good-to-great campaigns ahead, too, and Ford still owns a good chunk of World Series pitching records.

Today, his ’54 Bowman card sells for around $120 in PSA 7.

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1954 Bowman Bob Feller (#132)

1954 Bowman Bob Feller

Feller, on the other hand, had only a few years left when this card was issued.

He made the most of his 1954 campaign, though, posting a 13-3 record with a 3.09 ERA to help the Cleveland Indians get to the World Series.

Alas, Mays and his “The Catch” would prevent Feller and the Tribe from tasting full glory, but Rapid Robert had little trouble gaining Hall of Fame election in 1962.

His ’54 Bowman is a $120 buy in PSA 7.

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1954 Bowman Pee Wee Reese (#58)

1954 Bowman Pee Wee Reese

Tired of the Yankees-Dodgers parallels yet?

Well, that’s too bad, because I have another one …

Reese was basically the National League version of Rizzuto — good hitter, excellent fielder, glue stick for a championship team.

The Dodgers legend lines up here at about $100 in PSA 7.

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1954 Bowman Eddie Mathews (#64)

1954 Bowman Eddie Mathews

Bowman may have gotten the exclusive on Mantle in 1954, but they missed a big (BIG) rookie in Hank Aaron (not to mention Al Kaline and Ernie Banks).

You gotta think that oversight had something to do with their ultimate demise … right?

At least Bowman issued a card of The Hammer’s slugging Braves teammate, third baseman Eddie Mathews.

Though Mathews fell well short of Aaron’s status in the game, he still mashed more than 500 home runs, and his ’54 Bowman sells for close to $100 today (PSA 7).

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1954 Bowman Don Larsen Rookie Card (#101)

1954 Bowman Don Larsen

Remember how Don Larsen pitched a perfect game for the Baltimore Orioles in the 1956 World Series?

Oh, right … that didn’t happen. Because the O’s traded Larsen to the Yanks in November of 1954.

Never mind that, though, because Larsen pitched his perfecto for the ’56 champion NYY, and cemented his place in history — and the hobby.

Larsen’s ’54 Bowman rookie is a $75 card in PSA 7.

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1954 Bowman Richie Ashburn (#15)

1954 Bowman Richie Ashburn

Ashburn picked up a lot of hits in his 15-year career, without a lot of power.

That lifetime batting average of .308 with just 29 home runs was anathema for centerfielders, then and now, and probably contributed to his long wait for Cooperstown enshrinement (1995).

Ashburn’s 1954 Bowman card is a $70 buy in PSA 7.

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BONUS!! 1954 Bowman Ted Williams (#66)

1954 Bowman Ted Williams

You can’t really talk about 1954 Bowman without talking about Ted Williams.

Because, Williams appeared — briefly — on card #66 in this set … but was soon replaced by Red Sox teammate Jimmy Piersall.

But Piersall was already in the set, at #210. Same card … two numbers. Weird.

Theories abound on why Williams was pulled from the set. OK, they don’t abound — there are, like, two.

One says that something went wrong in the printing process, necessitating the change.

The other says that the Bowman Williams card violated some contractual language with Topps, who finally landed Teddy Ballgame in 1954, giving him the first and last cards in their set.

That’s the theory I’m going with. The one that makes the most sense.

Either way, the #66 card that features Ted Williams has long been touted as one of the scarcest in the hobby. When I started collecting in the 1980s, in fact, this Williams slid right in behind the T206 Honus Wagner and the 1933 Goudey Nap Lajoie as the rarest of the super rare.

Recent sales and a wider, better connected network of hobbysits here in this modern electronic age of ours indicate the Williams’ scarcity may have been slightly overblown.

But not by all that much.

And not enough to keep it out of the $2500 range in PSA 7.

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1954 Bowman # 65 MICKEY MANTLE (HOF) New York Yankees - RP

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1954 Bowman #38 Orestes Minnie Minoso .963/.963 graded PSA 6

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1954 Bowman #33 Vic Raschi VG/VGEX Yankees 117934

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