Extremely Rare 1948 Leaf #50 Rocky Graziano (PSA VG/EX 4) – Less Than 10 Known Examples!
One of the hobby's most incredible cardboard rarities is the ultra-elusive 1948 Leaf #50 Rocky Graziano subject, with this near-impossible PSA 4 offering residing as one of the sparse 8 known specimens! Dubbed by many enthusiasts as boxing's version of the "Holy Grail" T206 Wagner", the 1948 Leaf Graziano is one of the most sought after cardboard collectibles extant, with the combined PSA and SGC populations reports listing only a meager 9 examples (there are actually only 8 total examples since one of the three listed PSA 5's is a "double count" – there are only two PSA 5's). Indeed, synonymous with other iconic hobby scarcities such as the T206 "Holy Grail" Wagner, T206 Doyle variation, T206 Ty Cobb w/a Cobb ad back, T206 Plank, 1932 U.S. Caramel Freddie Lindstrom and 1933 Goudy Lajoie (just to mention a few), there are an abundance of speculative stories as to what was the true driving force behind Graziano's extreme rarity. Like many of the aforementioned issues, the sheer existence of '48 Leaf Graziano is shrouded in mystery, with one of the highly-suspected theoretical notions suggesting the following.
Graziano was the ultra-popular World Middleweight Champion at the time (having beaten Tony Zale for the title on July 16, 1947) and had immense marketing/promotional power. The assumption here is that the Leaf Gum Company was not offering any money or a minimal fee at best with Graziano and/or his agent declining such a nominal payment and requesting that his subject be eliminated from production (also substantiated by Graziano being likewise excluded from the popular 1951 Topps Ringside set). Assuming that the Leaf Company was running several test runs, the notion here is that a few "test run" sheets were manufactured BEFORE the #50 Graziano card was officially pulled from the 49-subject checklist, leaving a handful of Graziano cards that eventually found their way into the hands of the general public. Hobby speculation also notes that the Graziano card was positioned in the lower right-hand corner of the test run sheet, thus explaining why a majority of the few existing examples depict off-centered images (many cards located near the edge of a sheet are susceptible to mis-cuts, negatively impacting the image positioning). While another theory suggests the Graziano may have been part of a salesman's sample distribution (possibly in New York), many hobby experts have concluded that the aforementioned "test run" notion is the more acceptable theory, further adding that Graziano's #50 card was ultimately replaced on the sheet by #8 subject Arturo Godoy.
While Rocky Graziano's remarkable 1948 Leaf subject unquestionably resides as the set's major story, similar to other 1948 Leaf productions, there are other interesting concepts to this world-class compilation starting with its abnormal checklist numbering. Synonymous with how the 1933 Goudey Company withheld the #106 Lajoie subject in order to lure set collectors into continuously buy their gum packs with the hopes of finding the Lajoie card, the 1948 Leaf Gum Company took this misleading practice to a whole other level. All three of their prestigious baseball, football & boxing issues listed their highest checklist subject at a number far surpassing the total cards in the sets (baseball-98 cards but numbered to 168; football-49 cards but numbered to 150), with the '48 Leaf Boxing compilation only including 49 subjects and numbered to 102. It doesn't take a Harvard graduate to figure out that the Leaf Company was surely leaving gaping holes in their checklist series with the hopes of enticing their young fan base to continuously buy packs with the hopes of filling those impossible missing checklist numbers.
Regarding the 1948 Leaf Boxing set, it is now accepted practice that a complete set constitutes only 49 subjects, dismissing the near-impossible Graziano #50 marvel as a required component. Yet, as we have seen so many times among the hobby's most advanced collectors, they will relentlessly pursue every possible existing card, including the Graziano to call their hallowed compilations complete (similar to high-end T206 enthusiasts pursuing the "Big 4" (Wagner, Doyle variation, Plank & Magie error). If you are one of those persistent enthusiasts, then now is your golden opportunity to capture this brilliant PSA 4 offering that stands as one of the meager eight known examples. Measuring approximately 2-3/8" x 2-7/8", the card exhibits extraordinary aesthetics, highlighted by a brilliantly hued Graziano half-body/shirtless boxing pose that appears almost 3-D in nature due to the robust orange/red background. As previously stated, the image reveals a modest off-centering most likely due to its assumed position on the lower right edge of the test production sheet.
Dazzling white borders, no glaring surface flaws on either side, moderate/even corner wear consistent with the grade and a relatively clean verso that includes Graziano's brief "bio" complete this 72-year old masterpiece that emanates solid mid-grade aesthetics. One of boxing's most celebrated champions, Graziano was known for his superior punching power that resulted in an incredible 52 knockouts in his 67 professional victories (against only 10 losses). The Brooklyn born Italian-American bruiser with an official name of Thomas Rocco Barbella is generally considered one of the greatest "single punch" knockout artists in boxing history, claiming the middle-weight title in 1947 and eventually retiring in 1952. From a card collecting perspective, his legacy is enormously solidified by the folklore of his '48 Leaf gem that realizes staggering pricing points in public sales. Some of those past prices include $87K for a PSA 6; $72K for a PSA 5; $39K for an SGC 4; and most remarkably, $30K for an SGC "Authentic". Courtesy of Memory Lane, another rare opportunity is now presented to the most sophisticated enthusiasts to capture this amazing Graziano cardboard icon that comparable to the majestic T206 Honus Wagner, irrefutably stands as Boxing's unparalleled "Holy Grail"!
MIN BID $10,000