One of the Toughest Post-War Football Cards – The 1960 Bell Brand Rams #2 Gene Selawski Card

The 1960 Bell Brand Los Angeles Rams football card set is a scarce regional oddball issued in Southern California. The set is distinctive for its yellow borders, colorful player photos, and high-gloss finish. A lot of collectors consider it one of the best post-war oddball football card sets. However, set collectors inevitably run into a major stumbling block when trying to complete the 39-card set, and that’s card #2, Gene Selawski. The card was reportedly pulled from the set’s distribution but made available directly from the company. PSA and SGC have only graded five copies, making a card of a lineman who played only three years of pro football one of the toughest post-war football cards.

In this article, I’ll highlight Selawski’s career with a particular focus on his transition from the Rams to the Browns. I’ll also give a quick overview of the 1960 Bell Brand Los Angeles Rams set, share details of Selawski’s 1960 and 1959 Bell Brand cards, and provide details of the only two public sales I could find of the card (and it was the same one!) before wrapping things up.

Gene Selawski’s Biography

Eugene Frank Selawski was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, and then joined Purdue’s football team as a tackle. He played for the Boilermakers from 1956 to 1958. Wikipedia shares that he was a Football Writers Association of America first-team tackle in 1958. However, he was a third-team tackle by the AP.

AP All-America For 1958

He would go on to be drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the 9th round of the 1958 NFL Draft (104th pick), the first four rounds of which were held on December 2, 1957, and the last 26 rounds on January 28, 1958. You can see in the following images from the Rams’ 1959 Yearbook that he measured in at 6’4″ and 252 lbs.

1959 Rams Yearbook – Cover
1959 Rams Yearbook – 1959 Los Angeles Rams Roster

Selawski would play in all 12 games for the Rams in 1959, starting five. So he figured to play a prominent role in his second year with the team. In the Pre-Season Scouting Report in the 1960 Rams Yearbook, an analyst indicated that Selawski finished out the 1959 campaign at left tackle when Bob Fry moved to guard, and with Fry moving to the new Dallas Franchise, they expected Selawski, who was 20 pounds heavier to be better equipped for the position. 

1960 Rams Yearbook – Cover
1960 Rams Yearbook – 1960 Los Angeles Rams Roster and Pre-Season Scouting Report
1960 Rams Yearbook – Pre-Season Scouting Report Offensive Tackle

This part of the timeline will be significant when we discuss the 1960 Bell Brand Selawski card; Selawski wasn’t on the Rams’ 1960 regular-season roster. 

He was traded from the Rams to the Browns on August 31, 1960, right after a Rams vs. Browns preseason game on August 27! Here’s the Rams/Browns Official program for that August 27, 1960 preseason game. Selawski is on the Rams’ roster. 

Rams Vs. Browns August 27th, 1960 Official Program
Rams Vs. Browns August 27th, 1960 Official Program Rosters

And here is a clipping from the Evening Star on September 1, 1960, explaining that the Browns traded a high draft choice for Selawski. This Cleveland Browns draft history page shows the Rams got the Browns’ 1961 3rd Round pick for Selawski.

Evening Star – September 1st, 1960 – Browns Get Tackle

The Rams then played a preseason game against San Francisco on September 9, 1960, and you can see that Selawski isn’t on the roster.

Rams Vs. 49ers September 9, 1960, Official Program
Rams Vs. 49ers September 9, 1960, Official Program Los Angeles Rams Roster
Rams Vs. 49ers September 9, 1960, Official Program Los Angeles Rams Roster and Starters

Selawski played in all 12 games for the Browns in 1960 but didn’t start any of them. Here’s his name on this Brown’s program for their October 2, 1960 game against the Steelers.

Browns Vs. Steelers October 2, 1960, Official Program
Browns Vs. Steelers October 2, 1960, Official Program Browns’ Roster

For completeness, I read a January 27, 1961, Evening Star article that said the Minnesota Vikings had purchased Gene Selawski from Cleveland. Then a September 15, 1961, Evening Star article said the Vikings released Selawski to make room for rookie Rip Hawkins who was returning from the injured list. Gene would then sign and play eight games in the AFL for the San Diego Chargers, his last professional football season.

In the end, Selawski played 32 professional football games in three seasons, for three different teams, with a stopover on a fourth, hardly the background you would expect for a vintage football card that sells for thousands of dollars.

The 1960 Bell Brand Los Angeles Rams Football Card Set

I did a detailed overview of the 1960 Bell Brand Rams set on the Oddball Archive, but the basics are that it was a 39-card set distributed specially marked bags of Bell Brand potato and corn chips. Each card was in its own cello pack wrapper but was still prone to grease stains and creasing. 

The cards were nearly identical in format to the 1959 Bell Brand Rams set, with the significant difference of having yellow rather than white borders. The front had a player photo with the player’s name, position, and the team below it. The backs were horizontally split, with the player’s basic stats, a short bio, and an ad for the cards on the left. And an advertisement for LA Rams Signature Merchandise on the right. 

1960 Bell Brand Rams #39 – Bob Waterfield

Cards 19-39 are far scarcer than 1-18 with two minor exceptions; the first is Gene Selawski’s short print, and the second is Charley Bradshaw’s card #30, which could’ve replaced Selawski in a dual-series release or both products if the split in cards 19-39 and 1-18 were a potato vs. corn chip bag distribution thing.

Comparing the 1959 and 1960 Bell Brand Gene Selawski Cards

Gene Selawski had a card in the previous year’s Bell Brand set. The 1959 Bell Brand Rams #24 Gene Selawski card features him in a blocking pose on the front of the white-bordered card. The back highlights the same vitals from the Rams’ yearbooks and programs and discusses his All-American accolades at Purdue.

1959 Bell Brand Rams #24 Gene Selawski

PSA has graded 13 copies of the card, and SGC has slabbed three, which is typical across all the cards in the set. A PSA 8 copy sold for $395 in August 2022, and the pictured PSA 7 sold for $99.99 in April 2018. A raw copy, advertised as Nm-Mt (but pretty miscut/off-center), is available on eBay for $115.50 as of the time of writing (July 2023).

Selawski’s 1960 Bell Brand card, the hobby rarity, shares the same front as the 1959 copy, but as mentioned before, with yellow rather than white borders.

1960 Bell Brand Rams #2 Gene Selawski – Front

The back, however, has a few notable differences.

1960 Bell Brand Rams #2 Gene Selawski – Reverse

First, the card number, of course. But, also notice the use of blue rather than black ink, updated vitals, and a slightly different advertisement on the right side of the card. However, the main thing to note is Selawski’s biography. It’s similar to what the preview in the 1960 Rams Yearbook wrote, explaining that he made the starting lineup the previous season when Bob Fry was moved to guard but that now, in his second season, he would need to hold rather than seek, the starting job. The biography implies the cards were designed and printed before the season started, so it follows that Bell would have been able to pull it from distribution when he was traded during the pre-season. They presumably still had them on hand after printing copies, and if they didn’t throw them away, it makes sense that they would have sent them to collectors who requested them directly or let employees walk out with a few. In either circumstance, direct mailing or through employees, not including them in packaging significantly limited the cards’ distribution. 

PSA has only graded four 1960 Bell Brand Rams #2 Gene Selawski cards. Their Pop Report shows a single 1, a single 1.5, a single 4, and a single 6). SGC has graded one copy as well, a 1.5, and I’m unsure if there are any cross-overs between the two companies.

From a population perspective, all the other 1960 Bell Brand Rams cards in the lower series, 1-18, have between 14 and 22 copies in PSA’s Pop Report. Most of the higher series cards have around five graded copies, besides Bradshaw’s card #30, which has 15 (in line with the lower series cards). Also, given the scarcity, if you had a 1960 Selawski card, you would definitely get it graded; that’s not really true for all the other cards in the set. So, as many folks in the hobby say, the Pop Report CAN be a bit misleading, the Selawski card is significantly rarer, and that manifests itself in the pair of sales I’ve found of the card.

1960 Bell Brand Rams #2 Gene Selawski Card Sales

Kevin Savage Cards sold the PSA-4 graded 1960 Bell Brand Rams #2 Gene Selawski card for $2193 in October 2013. It was one of only two that PSA had graded at the time. They noted the other copy was a PSA 2, which isn’t in the Pop Report today. 

Robert Edwards Auctions then sold a complete set of 1960 Bell Brand Rams cards, including that same PSA-4 graded Selawski in their Fall 2022 catalog for $4800. And the majority of that selling price can be attributed to the Selawski because a few years earlier, in 2018, REA sold a partial set (38/39) without the Selawski for just $960.

1960 Bell Brand Rams Set – Robert Edward Auctions

Wrapping Up

I don’t want to diminish Selawski’s accomplishments; just making it to the professional ranks, no matter the era, is impressive. But he doesn’t have the biography that would lead a collector to suspect that he has one of the toughest post-war football cards in the hobby. However, it’s a short print of a player in a gorgeous regional set from a major market. The next time a copy comes to market, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it sell for between $3-5k. 

If this article tickled your hobby history curiosity, you might also be interested in reading these other items here on PostWarCards: 

Happy Collecting!

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