The Rise of Topps: The Acquisition of Bowman and Its Impact on the Sports Collectibles Industry

1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle Rookie & 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle Rookie
1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle Rookie & 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle Rookie

The Topps Company is a leading producer of sports and entertainment collectibles, including trading cards and stickers. One of its key acquisitions was the purchase of Bowman, a rival card manufacturer, in 1956. This acquisition marked a turning point in the history of the collectibles industry and solidified Topps’ position as a leader in the market.

Bowman was founded in 1938 by Jacob Warren Bowman as a manufacturer of chewing gum. Over the years, the company expanded its product line to include trading cards, which became wildly popular among fans of baseball and other sports. By the 1950s, Bowman had established itself as one of the top manufacturers of sports cards in the country.

In 1956, Topps acquired Bowman in a move that was seen as a bold step forward for the company. Topps, which was then primarily known for its production of chewing gum, saw the acquisition as a way to expand its offerings and reach a wider audience. The purchase also gave Topps access to Bowman’s extensive library of player images and statistics, which would prove valuable in the years to come.

Warren Bowman was a serial entrepreneur and built a successful bubblegum and trading card empire. He had been involved in various businesses since the start of World War I and by 1952, he was 57 years old and ready for a change. In April of that year, he sold his company to Haelan Laboratories, another Philadelphia-based company. Although Haelan was purchasing the market leader in baseball cards at the time, Topps quickly overtook them by the end of 1952 and outsold Bowman nearly 3 to 1 in 1953, despite Bowman releasing a notable set that year.

In 1955, John Connelly, a board member of Haelan Laboratories and founder of Connelly Container, a Philadelphia-based box company, facilitated the acquisition of Haelan Laboratories by Connelly Container. However, Connelly Container viewed the gum and trading card business as a low-profit and low-margin venture and sought to divest it as swiftly and with minimal legal complications. As a result, Connelly Container sold Bowman Gum to Topps for a sum of $200,000 on January 20, 1956, along with a five-year non-compete agreement.

The acquisition of Bowman allowed Topps to gain a dominant position in the sports collectibles market. The company continued to produce trading cards and other collectibles under the Bowman name, and the Bowman brand became synonymous with high-quality sports cards. Topps also used the Bowman brand to launch new lines of collectibles, including stickers and other memorabilia.

Today, the Topps Company remains one of the leading producers of sports and entertainment collectibles, and the acquisition of Bowman continues to play a key role in its success. The Bowman brand continues to be a popular and respected name in the industry, and Topps remains committed to producing high-quality products for collectors and fans alike.