Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Feds reported 1951-54 Bowman baseball sales

To get the full benefit of this posting, you really should go back to my May 12 entry for the background on where these figures were unearthed.

That being said, let me preface this installment by saying that the Bowman wholesale sales numbers found in the 1965 Federal Trade Commission decision on anti-trust allegations against Topps were nowhere near as comprehensive as the Topps figures. And that's a shame.

The Bowman sales figures in the FTC report covered only the years 1951-1954, and they included only Total Sales and Baseball Card Gum.

I'm assuming that Bowman's Total Sales figures for those years included not only baseball cards, but also football and non-sports cards, as well as its popular Blony brand bubblegum that was sold as a stand-alone product. If the numbers in the FTC report are accurate, it is noteworthy how large of a percentage of Bowman's total sales that baseball cards represented.  

What immediately caught my attention as a collector -- as both a boy and a man -- was how precipitously Bowman's baseball card sales dropped in 1953. That iconic card set sold only 41 percent as well as the last of the "small" Bowman baseball cards in 1952. 

If I had to cite a single cause for such a decline, my money would be on the fact that Topps began to dominate the market by 1953, feeding off the success of its much larger -- both in format and in number of cards -- set of 1952. I'd still be at a loss, however, to figure out why Bowman baseball card sales rebounded so well for 1954.

To allow easier comparison, in the chart presented here, I've added a column for Topps baseball card sales for 1951-1954.

Within the FTC findings, besides the Bowman sales numbers, there was a fair amount of information about the sale of Bowman to Topps. Among the things I did not know heretofore were . . .

  • On Jan. 20, 1956, Topps actually bought Connelly Containers, Inc., the company formerly known as Bowman Gum and Haelan Laboratories, for $200,000. Topps bought all of the company's gum-producing assets and all of its contracts with ballplayers. In addition, Bowman agreed to a five-year non-compete clause.
  • Bowman signed baseball players to contracts for $10. If the player was on a Major League roster on Opening Day and for the next 31 days, he was paid an additional $100. 
  • In the ongoing litigation between Topps and Bowman over the legitimacy of each company's player contracts, Bowman spent as much as $110,000 a year in legal expenses, and Topps "only slightly less."

As I said on May 12, the FTC document offers a great deal of insight into the legal wranglings between Topps and its competitors, but that's not really an area in which I have great interest, so I'm leaving it to others to analyze and present that information to the hobby. 

In my next presentation, we'll look at the sales numbers that the feds found for Goudey baseball cards in the years 1933-1942.

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