by Rich Klein
It is difficult to believe Bowman made its debut more than 60 years ago. 1948 was such a different time in the collecting world, as there was a loosely-knit collecting fraternity who did trade amongst themselves but in many cases, never met in person. The concept of shows were a long way away and who would have thought then that the primary means of communication would be through means such as electronic mail and phone texts that were probably undreamt of then except for some really forward thinking science fiction writers. Generally, baseball cards were a kids product anyway.
Topps purchased the Bowman name in 1956 and kept it under wraps for more than 30 years until the 1989 Bowman product was released. Now more than 20 years after that initial re-release, Bowman is firmly entrenched as the go-to product mix of active stars and up and coming prospects. The first autographed cards of the game’s top prospects make their debut under the Bowman brand. It’s a complete brand makeover from the early days when collectors chased Stan Musial and Jackie Robinson but really just wanted a stick of gum.
In many ways, Bowman is the product that shows the advantage Topps has had in producing baseball cards since this product came back in 1989. Topps had been given a grandfather clause which enabled them to produce cards of anyone they had under contract in a major league uniform. Other companies of the time, Upper Deck, any of the versions of Donruss/Leaf/Playoff/Pinnacle/Score, etc., Pacific and Fleer all had to wait to produce cards until those players were on the 40-man roster. That is why Mariano Rivera has a 1992 Bowman RC and a few other Topps cards through 1995 but no other company produced a major league card of him on a regular basis until 1995.
So, each year the collecting populace waits with great expectations to get the new Bowman product and 2011 has been no exception. The biggest selling point has been the inclusion of uber prospect Bryce Harper, including some signed cards. Harper, who is doing very well in his first full year in professional ball, may even be a hotter prospect in some circles then the previous year’s Bowman poster boy, Stephen Strasburg.
To find out how the product is moving, I first went to Nick’s Baseball Cards near my home in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. The store is still doing well after 22 years in business and Nick and Debbie Redwine must be doing many things right to have survived and thrived in this business for all those years. They have gone through approximately three cases of this product at $89.95 per box There have been two Harper autographs pulled that they know of, with one of those cards getting a BGS 9.5 grade. Among the other hits in the boxes from their store was an Alexei Ramirez 1/1 parallel card.
In addition, I did check with Triple Cards in Plano since it is so close to where I live and they blew through 9 cases at $75 per box before having to raise their price to $110 per box. The Harper 1/1 card which sold on EBay for approximately $3500 was pulled from one the boxes at that store.
The current online “retail” prices for this product range from $75-85.
These hobby boxes consist of 24 packs with 10 cards per pack and each pack is supposed to contain two Bowman Chrome Cards and one Bowman Chrome Autograph card in each box. We tore into the box and had perfect collation–no duplicates whatsoever.
Here’s how it all stacked up:
Base Set: 95 of 220
Bowman Gold: Adrian Beltre; Ryan Braun, Trevor Cahill, Matt Cain, Starlin Castro, Nelson Cruz, Gavin Floyd, Freddie Freeman, Franklin Gutierrez, J.A. Happ, Torii Hunter, Desmond Jennings, Chipper Jones, Ian Kinsler, Evan Longaria, Victor Martinez, Jake McGee, Roy Oswalt, Gaby Sanchez, Jonathan Sanchez, Grady Sizemore, Brandon Snyder, Ichiro Suzuki, Jayson Werth,
Bowman International: Adam Wainwright, Traivs Wood
Bowman Prospects: 48 of 110.
Bowman Chrome Prospects: 43 of 110
Bowman Prospects Blue: #d to 500 Austin Hyatt
Bowman Chrome Blue #d to 350: Oswaldo Arcia
Topps 100: Rex Brothers, Alex Colome, Freddie Freeman, Adeiny Hechaverria, Jason Kipnis, Rudy Owens, Jarrod Parker, Drew Pomeranz
Topps of the Class: Paul Goldschmidt, Brandon Laird, Tim Pahuta
Finest Futures: Ryan Braun, Madison Bumgardner, Andrew McCutchen, Austin Jackson, Carlos Santana, Justin Upton
Bowman’s Brightest: Lonnie Chisenhall, Eury Perez, Rich Poythress
Bowman’s Best: Mike Stanton, Ichiro Suzuki
Bowman’s Best Prospects: Brett Jackson, Justin Turner
Bowman Orange Parallel (#d to 250): Dustin Pedroia
Autograph Card: I know this is the big pull, but I messed up the scratch off so I can’t tell you which player I’ll be getting via the redemption. Sorry about that. Harper autos were bringing nice returns early on, but have since settled in price as collectors anticipate more signed cards in other Topps products.
This was a highly anticipated issue and if Harper becomes the player most believe he can be, 2011 Bowman should have staying power. The low number parallels are again among the featured attractions but it’s tough to find a truly rare card there. Judging from sales in stores and online, collectors still love the Bowman line.
Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]