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The 1953 Bowman Color #33 Pee Wee Reese Action Card

Have you ever seen a baseball card that was so awesome, you had to buy it immediately? That’s how a lot of people feel about the 1953 Bowman Color #33 Pee Wee Reese card. The card’s one of the most beautiful baseball cards ever made in one of the most gorgeous sets of cards in our hobby.

1953 Bowman Color #33 Pee Wee Reese
1953 Bowman Color #33 Pee Wee Reese Reverse

1953 Bowman Color was the first major set to use actual color photographs. Bowman almost went bankrupt because color photography was pretty rare at the time due to its expense.

New York-based photographers took the photos used for most cards in the set before the 1952 season finished.  A few shots of veteran players (Bob Feller, Enos Slaughter, and Pee Wee Reese) were taken during spring training.

However, the 1953 Bowman Color #33 Pee Wee Reese card is clearly not a photograph, but rather a painted over black & white photo. It doesn’t have the same soft look as the flexichrome process used for the 1953 Topps or 1950-52 Bowman sets.

1953 Bowman Color #33 Pee Wee Reese

Someone is believed to have taken the photo during spring training of Reese jumping over a base runner sliding to break up a double play. I have found a few images from Getty Images of the Dodgers spring training facilities in Vero Beach, Florida. The scenery looks similar, but the Bowman card shows an outfield wall that doesn’t appear in the press images. The fence could have been painted to cover the background homes, or someone snapped the photo at another location. Unfortunately, I have not found the original image used for the card.

(Original Caption) Dodger’s Training. Photo shows Pee Wee Reese going up into the air to get off the D.P. ball as Shuba slides into second. Robinson made the play to second.
VERO BEACH, FLORIDA – MARCH, 1950. Brooklyn Dodger shortstop Pee Wee Reese takes a throw at second base during a workout at the team’s spring training site at Vero Beach, Florida in March of 1950. (Photo by Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics, Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Spring Training. Pee Wee Reese of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
VERO BEACH, FL – 1950’s: Shortstop Pee Wee Reese #1 of the Brooklyn Dodgers takes batting practice during Spring Training circa 1950’s at Vero Beach, Florida. Reese played his entire career with the Dodgers from 1940-1958. (Photo by Kidwiler Collection/Diamond Images/Getty Images)

So what makes the 1953 Bowman Color Pee Wee Reese a hobby classic? I think it’s a few things. First, the card is genuinely artistic and visually striking. Second, it features a Hall-of-Famer from a baseball city and a popular team. Third, the set is popular. Fourth the horizontal image adds to the artistry. Fifth, it’s one of the coolest action shots ever captured, and frankly, the first real action shot on a card. Plus, the spring training look makes the picture feel like a place any of us may have grown up playing baseball. It’s very nostalgic. Lastly, the card is coveted because it’s tough to find well centered.

PSA has graded 1460 1953 Bowman Color Reese cards. Only one has graded PSA 10, 18 as PSA 9s (one with a Qualifier), and 135 8s (18 with Qualifiers).

The popularity means this card doesn’t come cheap. PSA 3s sell for around $250 these days, PSA 5s are starting to push $600, and PSA 8s are ~$2000.

There are many iconic baseball cards, and the 1953 Bowman Color #33 Pee Wee Reese is one of the most nostalgic, artistic, and unique among them. Please contact me if you have seen the original photo for the card and don’t forget to follow PostWarCards on Twitter.

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