From the very beginning of the company's rich history, Bowman Baseball has been, as they were officially termed years later, the home of the rookie card.
The very first offering in 1948 boasts RCs of legends Stan Musial, Yogi Berra and Warren Spahn. You need to only go one year later to 1949 for the iconic Jackie Robinson rookie, and just two years later for the only true rookie cards of two of the most iconic players in baseball history in Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle.
Bowman took a multi-decade hiatus, last printing cards in the mid 1950’s and reappearing in 1989 right in my youthful collecting wheelhouse. From the early 1990s through the early 2000s Bowman still had the market cornered on rookie cards and the first carboard appearances for baseball players.
A product that was "Home of the Rookie Card" has now transformed into the home of the prospect card. And in many instances, the hobby has come to the point where a player's 1st Bowman and 1st Bowman Chrome carry more weight than the cards with the official RC tag.
There's no debate that the 1st Bowman Chrome Auto card has become a wildly popular and incredibly significant early release for baseball prospects across the board.
The Bowman name is synonymous with baseball cards and is still an eagerly anticipated release each season.
The newest iteration, 2021 Bowman Baseball, made its way to hobby shops and your favorite online sellers on April 28.
The two hobby formats include the standard Hobby box with 10 cards per pack and a 24-pack box that offers one autograph per box. The HTA Jumbo box weighs in at a hefty 32 cards per pack in a 12-pack box, boasting three autographs per big boy box.
This is the first of a now classic three-layer release which will include Bowman Chrome and Bowman Draft offerings at a later date.
As in past years, 2021 Bowman Baseball consists of 100 base cards of veterans and rookies. The main draw for most collectors is the prospect lineup, especially the wide variety of 1st Bowman options. This includes 150 paper editions for the next crop of possible superstars.
The Prospector’s Special Variation card is a new addition this season. They offer a die-cut card with a gold nugget in the background and come in numbered to just 49 copies.
Inserts in 2021 Bowman Baseball supply collectors with a mix of old and new, including returning Bowman Scout's Top 100 (1:4 packs), Rookie of the Year (ROY) Favorites (1:8 packs) and Talent Pipeline (1:12 packs). Brand-new inserts can be found with the throwback to the 1991 Bowman card (1:8 packs) and Futurist (1:6 packs). Positional Promise (1:24 packs) highlights top-ranked names at every position.
The inserts also add multiple Refractor parallels: Atomic (#/150), Aqua (#/125), Green (#/99 - Retail), Gold (#/50), Orange (#/25 - Hobby), Red (#/5) and Super Fractor (1/1).
Many prospectors are digging for the aforementioned Chrome Prospect Autograph offerings. The main release features a large roster of 2021 Bowman Chrome Autographs.
Beyond the expected prospects, fans can look forward to the latest class of rookies in Chrome Rookie Autographs. As you might imagine, there are several parallels for the prospects and rookies.
Let’s take a deep breath and go down the checklist.
Base Refractor - #/499, Speckle Refractor - #/299, Purple Refractor - #/250, Blue Refractor - #/150, Atomic Refractor - #/100, Green Refractor - #/99 (Retail), Green Shimmer - #/99 (Retail), Yellow Refractor - #/75, Gold Refractor - #/50, Gold Shimmer - #/50, Orange Refractor - #/25 (Hobby), Orange Shimmer - #/25 (Hobby), Red Refractor - #/5, Red Shimmer - #/5, Super Fractor - 1/1, Printing Plates - 1/1, Chrome Rookie Autographs, Base Refractor - #/499, Blue Refractor - #/150, Atomic Refractor - #/100, Green Refractor - #/99 (Retail), Yellow Refractor - #/75, Gold Refractor - #/50, Orange Refractor - #/25 (Hobby), Red Refractor - #/5, Super Fractor - 1/1 and Printing Plates - 1/1
After much anticipation, I had the pleasure of opening a hobby box at my LCS. Straight out of the batter's box, let me just say that in today’s current climate, it's great to open an actual box of cards with actual packs in it.
Not only are you opening packs with actual cards, the potential for nearly every card is a worthwhile venture.
Nothing against established stars and veterans but it was great seeing so many RC cards, 1st Bowmans and other prospect cards as I was cracking open the box.
Early on, we had a very nice Cracked Ice-esque 1st Bowman Chrome of Yankees prospect catcher Antonio Gomez. Speaking of Yankees, we also pulled a nice 1st Bowman Chrome of another Yankees prospect in outfielder Kelvin Alcantara.
The color started flowing as we hit a Neon Green Border of Padres future star shortstop CJ Abrams numbered to 399.
Our first chrome color hit when we pulled a 1st Bowman Chrome Purple Refractor of Cardinals third base prospect Elehuris Montero numbered to 250.
There was a nice mix of paper Bowman rookies, including some of the biggest stars in the set in Braves standout Christian Pache, Pirates starter Ke'Bryan Hayes and Phillies slugger Alec Bohm.
As cards and wrappers kept flying, we scored four of the Bowman Scout’s Top 100 with nobody to really write home about.
The Futurist insert set is a pretty cool, well, futuristic looking new offering of which we pulled some big names, including Royals stud Bobby Witt Jr., CJ Abrams and Giants prospect Marco Luciano.
We were down to the final four packs and we still had not hit the guaranteed autograph when in the next-to-last pack we struck gold in pulling Giants pitching prospect Luis Frias 1st Bowman Chrome on-card Auto Gold Refractor numbered out of 50.
That made for a strong finish for a strong box. All in all, the product is still one of the hottest and most revered in the hobby each season.
— Tony Reid spent more than a decade covering combat sports and has written about sports collectibles for such publications as Beckett and Sports Collectors Daily. He works full time at a sports card shop in Central Pennsylvania and collects RCs of star players in baseball, basketball and football. If you want to talk about the greatness of Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson or Ken Griffey Jr., you can reach him at @reidrattlecage on all social media platforms.