Andy Robustelli, Rams and Giants Hall of Fame Defensive End

May 31st, 2011  |  Published in Player Deaths

Andy Robustelli 1952 Bowman Small rookie football cardAndy Robustelli, a defensive end from 1951 to 1964 for the Los Angeles Rams and New York Giants, passed away this morning. The Connecticut Post’s web site has a report of his death, including numerous photos. Robustelli was a seven-time Pro Bowler, and he played on NFL Championship teams with the Rams in 1951 and the Giants in 1956. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971.

The card shown here is one of Robustelli’s rookie cards, a 1952 Bowman Small. His other rookie card is a 1952 Bowman Large, which is identical except for its size.

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Frank Ziegler, Philadelphia Eagles Halfback

March 7th, 2011  |  Published in Player Deaths

Frank Ziegler 1952 Bowman Small football cardFrank Ziegler, who played halfback for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1949 to 1953, passed away on March 6. According to his page at, Ziegler finished second in the NFL in rushing in 1950. He was a member of the 1949 Eagles team that finished 11-1 and won the NFL Championship.

The card pictured here is Ziegler’s 1952 Bowman Small football card. He also appeared on a 1952 Bowman Large card and a 1953 Bowman card. Bowman used the same image for all three cards.

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Valentine’s Day (Football) Cards

February 14th, 2011  |  Published in Silly Stuff

Stan Flowers 1960 Fleer football cardKeith Flowers 1952 Bowman Small football cardFor Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d give you a bunch of Flowers. As always, you can click on any image to get more details.

First is Keith Flowers, on a 1952 Bowman Small card. Flowers had a short NFL career, playing nine games in 1952 for the Dallas Texans and Detroit Lions. Bowman issued two sets of football cards in 1952, identical except for their size, so Flowers appeared on a 1952 Bowman Large card, as well. Not bad for a few games.

Next is Stan Flowers, who appeared on a 1960 Fleer card with the Patriots but never saw playing time. (I’m inferring this because he does not have a page at Fleer apparently chose the players for their 1960 set well before the season started, because I’d guess that a third of the players in the set never actually played in the AFL.

Richmond Flowers 1973 Topps football cardCharlie Flowers 1961 Golden Tulip Chargers football cardCharlie Flowers is also in the 1960 Fleer set, and he did see playing time: two seasons at fullback with the Chargers, and one with the New York Titans. He appeared on several cards with the Chargers, one being the tough 1961 Golden Tulip Chargers card shown here.

Unlike the guys above, Richmond Flowers actually played awhile before he appeared on a card. He was a defensive back and kick returner for the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants from 1969 to 1973, and he made his debut on a 1973 Topps card. In 1973, Topps increased the size of their football card set from 351 to 528, so they were able to include many players who had not appeared on cards earlier.

Tom Flores 1961 Topps rookie football cardFinally, we have Tom Flores, a longtime quarterback and coach for the Oakland Raiders. (He also played a couple of years for the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs.) This is one of his rookie cards, a 1961 Topps; the other is a 1961 Fleer. Flores appeared on a bunch of other colorful 1960s cards, as well.

That’s it! If you haven’t gotten your sweetie something yet, maybe you can dig through your collection and find a couple of these guys. But first I’d see if Hallmark is still open.

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2011 Pro Football Hall of Fame Senior Candidates

August 27th, 2010  |  Published in Halls of Fame

1952 Bowman Small Les Richter rookie football cardEarlier this week, Les Richter and Chris Hanburger were named the 2011 senior finalists for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. You can read the announcement and see the players’ biographies on the Hall of Fame site.

Richter’s two rookie cards are a 1952 Bowman Large and a 1952 Bowman Small, issued the year he graduated from the University of California. (The 1952 Bowman Small is pictured here.) He served in the Army for two years after graduating, and he joined the Rams in 1954. Richter played for the Rams from 1954 to 1962, and he appeared on at least one football card in each year of his career–unusual for a defensive player. He passed away earlier this year.

1967 Philadelphia Chris Hanburger rookie football cardHanburger’s rookie card is a 1967 Philadelphia, issued in the third year of his career. After that, he appeared on at least one card or stamp each year until he retired after the 1976 season.

Judging by recent history, it is likely that at least one of the two senior nominees will be elected to the Hall. The Hall of Fame’s senior nominees page shows that at least one senior candidate has been elected each year since 1998. Since 2004, when the senior committee began nominating two players per year, 11 of the 14 nominees have been elected. One nominee, Bob Hayes, was not elected in 2004, but he was nominated again in 2009 and elected that year.

You can see all of Les Richter’s cards and all of Chris Hanburger’s cards in the Vintage Football Card Gallery.

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Dom Moselle, Browns, Packers, and Eagles Back

August 20th, 2010  |  Published in Player Deaths

1952 Bowman Small Dom Moselle football cardDom Moselle, who played halfback and defensive back from 1950 to 1954 for the Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, and Philadelphia Eagles, passed away yesterday. He was a rookie on the Browns team that won the NFL Championship in 1950, their first year in the league. Moselle also spent one season, 1955, with the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL.

Moselle is pictured here on his 1952 Bowman Small card. He also appeared on a 1952 Bowman Large card, identical except for its size.

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Mr. Irrelevant

August 13th, 2010  |  Published in Silly Stuff

Since 1976, the last player selected in the NFL draft has been dubbed Mr. Irrelevant and invited to a celebration called Irrelevant Week. The event, which was started by Paul Salata, a former receiver for the San Francisco 49ers and original Baltimore Colts, raises money for Orange County charities. You can read about the this year’s Mr. Irrelevant and the 2010 festivities at

The Vintage Football Card Gallery has pictures of cards only up to 1976, so it includes only one card of an official Mister Irrelevant. It also, however, includes a few cards of players who would have been named Mr. Irrelevant if the title had been awarded earlier. Most of these players turned out to be relevant, after all, or they would not have made it onto football cards. Here are all of players in the Gallery who were chosen last in the NFL draft:

Bill Fischer, 1948

1950 Bowman Bill Fischer rookie football cardBill Fischer was the final player chosen in the 1948 draft; the Chicago Cardinals picked him in the 32nd round. Unfortunately, according to an article on, Fischer was ineligible for the NFL in 1948–perhaps because he was only a junior? So the Cardinals drafted him again in 1949, this time in the first round. Fischer played five seasons for the Cardinals and went to three Pro Bowls.

This is his rookie card, a 1950 Bowman. He also appeared on Bowman cards in 1951 and 1952.

John Schweder, 1949

1952 Bowman Small John Schweder rookie football cardJohn “Bull” Schweder was the 251st and last player chosen in the 1949 draft. The Philadelphia Eagles picked him, but he apparently did not make their roster in 1949. In 1950 he joined the Baltimore Colts, but the Colts folded after the season, and the team’s players were made available in the 1951 draft. In 1951, Schweder was again drafted, this time at pick number 103, by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He played for the Steelers from 1951 to 1955.

Pictured here is one of Schweder’s rookie cards, a 1952 Bowman Small. He also appeared on several other 1950s Bowman cards.

Sisto Averno, 1951

1953 Bowman Sisto Averno football cardSisto Averno was another member of the 1950 Baltimore Colts team who ended up in the draft when the team disbanded. Averno was the last player chosen in 1951, by the Cleveland Browns in the 30th round. He played for the New York Yanks in 1951, and the Yanks folded at the end of that season. The NFL gave the remnants of the Yanks to a new franchise in Dallas in 1952, and–guess what?–that franchise also folded at the end of the season. In 1953, the league awarded the remains of the Dallas team to another Baltimore Colts franchise, and Averno spent two years with the new Baltimore team before calling it a career. (See Bob Carroll’s article at for a detailed description of the churn in the NFL in the early 1950s.)

Averno appeared on one card, this 1953 Bowman.

Jacque MacKinnon, 1961

1964 Topps Jacque MacKinnon rookie football cardJacque MacKinnon was the last player chosen in the 1961 NFL draft. The Philadelphia Eagles chose him with the 280th overall pick. He instead went to the AFL’s San Diego Chargers, and in nine years with the Chargers, he made the Pro Bowl twice.

The card pictured here is MacKinnon’s rookie card, a short print in the 1964 Topps set. He also appeared on several other Topps cards in the late 1960s. (On his 1969 Topps card, he looks like Emilio Estevez!)

Stan Hegener, 1975

1973 Nebraska Playing Card of Stan HegenerStan Hegener was the last player chosen in the 1975 NFL draft. The Pittsburgh Steelers chose him with the 442nd overall pick, but he apparently did not make the team. The card pictured here is a 1973 Nebraska playing card, from his college days. He also appeared on a 1974 Nebraska playing card.

Jim Kelleher, 1977

Jim Kelleher 1974 Colorado Playing CardJim Kelleher is the only official Mr. Irrelevant in the Gallery. The Mr. Irrelevant title was first awarded in 1976, and Kelleher was the last player chosen in the 1977 NFL draft. The Minnesota Vikings chose Kelleher with the 335th overall pick, but he did not see playing time in the NFL. The card here pictures Kelleher on his 1974 University of Colorado playing card.

The Mr. Irrelevant page on Wikipedia lists all of the players chosen last in the NFL draft, before and after 1976.

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Steve Romanik, Bears and Cardinals Quarterback

September 17th, 2009  |  Published in Player Deaths

Steve Romanik, who quarterbacked for the Chicago Bears and Chicago Cardinals from 1950 to 1954, died on September 16. He was the Bears’ leading passer in 1952, sharing duties with George Blanda and Bob Williams.

Pictured here is Romanik’s 1952 Bowman Large card, one of the divisible-by-9 short prints. (See B is for Bowman.) He also appeared on a 1952 Bowman Small card, identical except for its size.

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B is for Bowman

August 7th, 2009  |  Published in ABCs of Vintage Football Cards, General Collecting Info

The Bowman Gum Company printed football cards in 1948 and from 1950 to 1955. On the whole, they are my favorite vintage football cards, and if I were to start my collection over, I would focus on collecting these early Bowmans. Except for the 1953 issue, the cards are attractive, varied, and interesting, and eight sets to me is about the right number to work on.

1948 Bowman

1948 Bowman John Mastrangelo football cardThe 1948 Bowman cards are small, nearly square, and black-and-white. The cards picture the current players of the time, and since no one had printed football cards since National Chicle in 1935, every card in the 1948 Bowman set is a rookie card. The cards have no printing on the front, only on the back, a format I really like. Every third card–that is, each card with a number divisible by three–is considered a short print. This, says my old Beckett catalog, is because the sheet they were printed on was “printed in much lesser quantities” than the other two sheets. Judging by PSA’s population report, the “lesser” is accurate, but the “much” is not: PSA has graded about third fewer of the short prints, not enough to justify the 4x to 5x premium that Beckett assigns to them.

1950 Bowman

1950 Bowman Tank Younger football cardThe 1950 Bowmans are the same size as the 1948 cards, and they look like little oil paintings. Like the 1948 cards, they have printing only on the back. 1950 was the year that the All-American Football Conference folded and three of its teams–the Baltimore Colts, Cleveland Browns, and San Francisco 49ers–joined the NFL. Because no major card company had printed cards of AAFC players, several of the stars from the AAFC made their football card debut in the 1950 Bowman set. Of the 10 Hall of Fame players whose rookie cards appear in the 1950 Bowman set, 6 came from the AAFC, and 4 of those 6 played for the Browns.

The Los Angeles Rams were the first team to put a logo on their helmets, and this might be why most of the Rams are wearing helmets on their 1950 Bowman cards. The artist who colored the cards took liberties with the colors, however. On the cards the Rams’ horns appear white in the front and yellow in back, but on the actual helmets the horns did not change color somewhere in the middle.

1951 Bowman

1951 Bowman Joe Watson football cardIn 1951, Bowman enlarged the cards and put the player’s name and team logo on the front. The logos overwhelm the cards a bit, but logos were more intricate back then, and they needed to be large to show the detail. (See the Lions and Giants logos, for example.) Though attractive, the 1951 set seems to be less popular than the 1950 and 1952 sets, perhaps because it has fewer rookie cards of prominent players.

1952 Bowman Large

1952 Bowman Large George Halas football cardIn 1952, Bowman released two sets of football cards, identical except for their size. An article in the PSA Library provides a detailed description of the 1952 Large set. In addition to the rookie cards of several Hall of Fame players, the set includes the rookie cards of three Hall of Fame coaches: George Halas, Paul Brown, and Steve Owen. Some cards in the set are challenging to find in high grades: cards with numbers divisible by 9 and the cards immediately following them (i.e., 10, 19, 28, …) are reportedly short prints, and PSA’s population report indicates that some of the other cards (#70, Gene Schroeder, for example) are actually as scarce as the designated short prints.

The PSA article says that the most valuable card in the set is #144, Jim Lansford. The article is correct: the price guides list the card at 2-to-5 times the value of the next most valuable card. Why? Well, the price guides say, not only is the Lansford a short print, but it’s the dreaded last card in the set! This to me is another example of where the guides are off base, since numerous other cards in the set are at least as scarce as the Lansford. (For more “last card” silliness, see my 1959 Topps virtual uncut sheet.)

1952 Bowman Small

1952 Bowman Small Norm Van Brocklin football cardThe 1952 Bowman Small cards, except for their size, are identical to the Large cards. The PSA library also has an article on this set. It appears that Bowman printed fewer Smalls than Larges, but collectors evidently prefer the large format, because the Larges, in general, command higher prices. Because they fit differently on the sheet, the Smalls do not have the same distribution as the Larges, and no Smalls are designated short prints.

1953 Bowman

1953 Bowman Lynn Chandnois football cardBowman’s follow-up to their classic 1952 sets was the disappointing 1953 Bowman set. In a previous article, I wrote about the ugly white football on the front of the cards, but that’s not the only problem. Outside of the white football, the cards are dark–often too dark to get a good scan–and there is not a single significant rookie card in the set. The card distribution is strange, too: there are 96 cards in the set, and only two of them are Packers.

1954 Bowman

1954 Bowman Art Hunter football card1954 Bowman football cards are the plainest of the old Bowmans, but they are colorful, clear, and attractive. Cards 65-96 were clearly printed in smaller numbers, but my old Beckett has them priced five times higher than the other cards, which is excessive. My favorite is Jim Dooley, in his College All-Star uniform. There is a Whizzer White in the set, but he’s not the Supreme Court justice. There’s an old thread about the Whizzers on the Collectors Universe message board.

1955 Bowman

1955 Bowman Andy Robustelli football cardFinally, there are the 1955 Bowmans. Bowman got experimental again with this set, putting each player on a colored background and giving him an aura. All of the players on a given team have the same colored background: the background for the Packers is yellow, for example, and the background for the Giants is green. I like the uniformity that the background brings to this set. In 1953 and 1954, Bowman put some players on solid color backgrounds, some on geometric backgrounds, and some in front of trees and shrubs.

In 1956, Topps bought Bowman Gum, and Bowman’s run of football cards ended. Now that I think of it, don’t 1956 Topps football cards look like a hybrid of 1955 Bowman and 1955 Topps cards? The 1956 Topps cards have the player on a colored background, with a bit of an aura, and the logo box looks just like the one on the 1955 Topps All-Americans.

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