Behind The Wax: Kris Bryant's 1st Bowman Isn’t (But Should Be)

Kris Bryant – 2013 Bowman Draft Auto

Behind The Wax: Kris Bryant’s 1st Bowman Isn’t (But Should Be) – Full disclosure: I collect Kris Bryant.  However, like many collectors I can’t afford to buy more than one or two of his cards a year, let alone autographs.  So I was surprised in July when a friend texted me and told me to check out Kris Bryant 2013 Bowman Draft autos on eBay.  My jaw dropped when I saw their price – the last one had sold for $900!

Seeing this price, I immediately searched for the 2014 Bowman Chrome Kris Bryant autograph, his first on-card autograph in a Cubs’ team jersey, often considered the holy grail of cards to have for a modern baseball card player collector.

My jaw dropped even further when I saw – available for $409.00 with FAST ‘N FREE shipping!

Surely these were anomalies; I begin scrolling thru listings, flipping back and forth between my search results trying to find where eBay would correct itself.  Nope, the difference was clear.  Across the board the 2013 Kris Bryant Bowman Draft Auto was higher than the RELEASED FIRST 2014 Kris Bryant Bowman Chrome Auto.

2014-bowman-chrome-prospect-autographs-kris-bryant-212x300

Kris Bryant – 2014 Bowman Chrome Prospect Auto

I couldn’t wrap my head around it.  Why would the card that came out later, that was available in searchable retail blasters of Bowman Platinum, be going for more than double the price of the greatest Kris Bryant card ever?

Now for those of you who don’t know the full story of Kris Bryant’s Bowman Autographs – in the fall of 2013, Bryant sent a tweet showing a picture of an unsigned Superfractor.  When 2013 Bowman Draft came out though, the card did not appear in the set as a base card or as an autograph, leading collectors to speculate that the cards were never returned and thus didn’t make the set.

Fast forward to Spring 2014, when it was well known Bryant would have his debut on-card autograph in Bowman.  That card made a gigantic splash in the collector marketplace, driving sales of 2014 Bowman Baseball even today (I bought two jumbo boxes myself from Blowout Cards at this year’s National Sports Collectors Convention in Atlantic City).

Then, 2014 Bowman Inception arrived and, without warning, collectors began finding randomly inserted 2013 Bowman Draft Kris Bryant autographs. As the year and the Bowman products continued, Refractors /500, Colored Parallels, and even the tweeted Superfractor were all found.

Enough has been written on Topps’ supposed motivations, intentions, and plans that I won’t go into it here.  Suffice it to say, for most of 2015, the prices held steady between the two cards.  Some collectors favored the first in-pack Bryant Cubs autograph, others favored the first produced 2013 card.  Casually following values, I didn’t notice a sharp divide until that text from my friend showed me all the crazy that had happened.

I asked some collectors for their thoughts on the issue, and heard from some that they considered the 2013 Bryant “rarer.”  I then asked multiple breakers who had gone thru cases and cases of 2014 product and they all agreed the 2014 Bryant’s and the 2013 Bryant’s seemed to have the same amount signed, especially as the 2014 Bryant continued to be seen as SP.  One breaker actually pulled MORE 2013 Bowman Draft Bryant’s from Bowman Chrome than 2014 Bowman Chrome Bryant’s!

Kris Bryant - 2013 Bowman Chrome Superfractor

Kris Bryant – 2013 Bowman Chrome Superfractor

I began to consider other factors.  Could it be because of the publicity the 2013 Bowman Draft Superfractor garnered from being on the market multiple times, including having a re-pack product built around it last year?  The card is now owned by LiveCaseBreak and available for a cool $74,999 with FREE shipping. The 2014 Superfractor seems to have only exchanged hands once, privately, without high five-figure eBay listings or being plastered on an exclusive breaker product.

Could it also be that the Cubs’ astronomical success is itself a factor?  I’ve had more casual fan-friends ask me about baseball cards this year than any other year since I became an adult.  If these casual fans decide they want a Kris Bryant rookie auto are they going to read the timeline I wrote above?  Or are they simply going to search eBay and grab the one LISTED as the earlier year?  (And if you are getting upset about me saying “rookie auto” about a Bowman Prospect auto, you are only proving my point about the confusion a casual fan faces!)

I know I have next-to-no desire for a 2015 Bowman Chrome Kris Bryant autograph.  Likewise, most collectors don’t consider Kris Bryant’s 2013 Bowman AFLAC autograph, produced in 2009 and inserted into 2013 Bowman Draft, to be an iconic card even though it was in Bowman first AND produced first.

Again, Topps has already gotten enough complaints from collectors about the rollout of Kris Bryant Bowman autographs.  Even they could have had no clue just how quickly Kris Bryant would become as big of a name as Trout, Harper, and Ichiro.

Bryant’s electric rise, the Cubs success as early as last season, and the precedent set by inserting cards of a previously released into a later year product, makes this sneak roll-out loom as large a chapter in sports card history as Upper Deck deciding to make Ken Griffey Jr. card no. 1.

At the end of the day, if collectors want to overvalue the 2013, I guess that makes it more possible for me to one day get more than simply one of the treasured 2014 “1st Bowman” Kris Bryant’s for my own collection.

What do you think?  Am I crazy for thinking the first card that started the Bryant frenzy should be revered?  Are you chasing that AFLAC auto? Give me a shout on Twitter, @WatchTheBreaks, and let me know what you think the most sought after Bryant card should be and why you think so.

Behind The Wax: Kris Bryant’s 1st Bowman Isn’t (But Should Be)

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