Collector’s Guide to Bowman Draft Baseball – Since it’s inception in 2000 as Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects, this annual release from Topps has served as one of the cornerstone products in the company’s portfolio of baseball card sets.
For hobby participants, Bowman Draft Baseball has been the foundation for numerous collecting activities. For player and team collectors, Bowman Draft is the starting point for adding the first baseball cards of newly drafted players pictured in their major league uniforms.
For prospectors, those that speculate on the future value of a player’s cards, Bowman Draft is one of the products whose cards are often treated as stock. Some “investors” go so far as to “take a position” by attempting to “corner the market” of cards of specific players.
Such was the case in 2011 when multiple people went “all in” on Bryce Harper. The resulting activity saw his 2011 Bowman Draft Autograph trade for several hundred dollars. Even today, that card sells routinely in the $250-$300 range. What fueled this frenzy was the handful of people that paid huge sums of money for Harper’s first autograph card. Released the previous year, Harper was the subject of one of the always popular Aflac All-American autographs in 2010 Bowman Draft.
The results on the secondary market in 2011 saw a rush on not only hobby boxes but retail configurations as well. People were able to sell pre-priced blaster boxes, which are normally $19.95 for more than double that amount just for the chance of pulling a Harper autograph.
This one example, perfectly illustrates the importance of the Bowman Draft brand to the hobby as a whole. It creates buzz among collectors, garners interest from mainstream media, piques the curiosity of potential new and returning collectors and even gets the player’s themselves talking about their own baseball cards.
For shop owners, the health of Bowman Draft contributes to the product’s long shelf-life and increased profit margins. Current selling prices for hobby boxes of 2011 Bowman Draft are between $120-$140. Compare that to the current prices of Topps Series 1 Baseball from the same year at $35 and you can understand how Bowman Draft compares in terms of long-term value and future demand.
A similar value differential can also be found in both products from 2010. The gambling factor of having the chance to pull one of the Bryce Harper Aflac All-American Autographs has held prices of Bowman Draft steady in the $115 range. In contrast, prices for Topps Series 1 are considerably less.
Through the years, there has always seemed to be at least one card from Bowman Draft that has universal appeal among baseball card collectors regardless of player or team affiliation and/or preference. As we have discussed, in 2010 and 2011 it was cards of Bryce Harper.
Prior to that is a long and healthy list of iconic cards that each carry a special place in the hobby. They often mark a moment in time as a potential future Hall of Famer debuts or the next great star is born. A look back at cards from past releases of Bowman Draft provides not only a nostalgic but comprehensive look at the impact of the Bowman Draft brand on the hobby.
Collector’s Guide to Bowman Draft Baseball – Bowman Draft Through the Years
2000 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects
The debut year of the set contains a checklist of 60 autographs. It is loaded with top tier talent and includes autographs from a trio of pitchers in Barry Zito, Mark Mulder and John Lackey. In addition, the set also contains cards from Pat Burrel, Rafael Furcal and Grady Sizemore.
2001 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects
The size of the autograph checklist was comparably smaller in the brand’s sophomore release, at just 37 cards. However, it does contain a key autograph card of future All-Star, Roy Oswalt. Additional highlights include autographs from Austin Kearns and Brandon Phillips.
2002 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects
This was the year that Topps worked out the winning formula from which all future Bowman Draft products would be built. By incorporating a Chrome parallel set into the product more value was created by adding an additional chase element.
However, Topps didn’t stop there. They had the foresight to include a limited number of autographed versions of the set’s Chrome parallels. In doing so, the product development team struck gold. The chase was on for these short-printed, ON-CARD, Chrome autographs. Unfortunately, the 11-card checklist was a bit lacking on star power with the primary draws that year being Khalil Greene and Jeff Francis.
An additional collectible element was also built into that year’s product. Further capitalizing on the popularity of prospect autographs was the creation of an insert set titled Signs of the Future. It is comprised of 21 players but what it lacks in size it makes up for in quality with autographs of Morgan Ensberg and Justin Morneau.
2003 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects
Chrome Draft Pick autographs returned in 2003 as they would in all future releases of the product. A noticeable upgrade was made to the 11-card checklist in terms of top prospects and as a result, 2003 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects features the first autographed cards of Nick Markakis, Rickie Weeks and Delmon Young.
Signs of the Future also returned in 2003 but with an almost non-existent autograph checklist. Consisting of just five players but it does include one of the most important cards of a future Cy Young Award winner in Zack Greinke.
2004 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects
Many of the top draft picks from 2004 simply didn’t pan out in the long run. Of course there was obviously no way of knowing that at the time. In that regard, Topps still deserves credit for getting autographs of Phil Hughes, Gio Gonzalez and Homer Bailey in the 10-card checklist.
In 2004, Topps partnered with the insurance company AFLAC, who was the sponsor of prep baseball’s marquee event, the All-American Game. This allowed Topps to provide collectors with the first autographed cards of highly-touted prospects, while they were still in high school.
This marketing alliance changed the prospecting game forever as now even high school aged kids were on collector’s radar. The 2004 AFLAC Autograph Refractor checklist consists of just five cards. But again, what the set lacks in size, it makes up for in quality with autographs of Pittsburgh Pirate’s All-Star, Andrew McCutchen and accomplished big leaguer, Justin Upton.
2005 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects
The 2005 checklist showcases some heavy hitters including: Jacoby Ellsbury, Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Drew, Colby Rasmus, Jered Weaver and Ryan Braun. A significant increase in the number of refractor parallels is noticeable in the product’s configuration. This additional chase element caused even more fevered bidding and pack ripping as collectors cashed in on super short-printed versions of cards from these top prospects.
Collector’s Guide to Bowman Draft Baseball – Enter the Rookie Card Logo
As most collector’s know, Bowman has used the tag line “Home of the Rookie Card” for several years and continues in some capacity to do so to this day. However, everything changed in 2006 when Major League Baseball and its Player’s Association instituted new rules defining a player’s rookie eligibility.
The new rules state that, a player is designated as a rookie and becomes eligible for their first officially licensed baseball card(s) when making a MLB team’s 25-man roster. Players making late season call-ups to the 40-man roster are not eligible for the official rookie card designation.
These policies were instituted as a means of clarifying confusion for fans and collectors. However, due to grand-fathered contracts with the MLBPA, Topps was able to continue including prospects in their products. This allowed the Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects product to continue unabated.
So even though Major League Baseball has a specific rule and a corresponding, specially designated rookie card logo, it has had little effect regarding the rules’ intended purpose. As a result, collectors and the marketplace have continued to determine that a player’s first appearance on a baseball card is their most valuable card, regardless of official designation or lack-there-of. (Pictured to the left is the first version of MLB’s official rookie card logo.)
Because collector’s have spoken, Bowman Draft, in particular, remains and will always be “Home of the Rookie Card”.
2006 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects
The autograph checklist was significantly expanded in 2006 and includes 35 total cards. It contains two primary standouts in Evan Longoria and Clayton Kershaw. Both of these players were highly touted prospects and demand was high for their individual autographed cards and the product as a whole.
Unopened boxes are becoming a precious commodity and range in price from $70-$100. Kershaw’s three Cy Young Awards (2011, 2013, 2014) and post season appearance has caused renewed interest in this product the last couple of years.
2007 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects
2007 was a perfect example of how important having a talented draft class is to the overall health and sustainability of the Bowman Draft product. The 39-card autograph checklist contains absolutely no one of any interest and was a complete bust as a draft class.
Unfortunately for collectors, several major players included on the base set checklist didn’t make it into the autograph set. We’re talking major talent in David Price, Mike Moustakas and Madison Baumgarner and are left with a classic case of “what might have been”.
2008 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects
Topps messed with a proven formula in 2008 and really confused collectors. Now, in addition to Chrome Prospect autographs and Aflac autographs, the base, paper version of the set also has autograph versions.
As a result, the overall product checklist is peppered with key autographs of several top tier players including: Buster Posey, Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward, Madison Baumgarner and new, Rookie designated, autographs of Clayton Kershaw and Evan Longoria.
2009 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects
2009 introduced collectors to the World Baseball Classic (WBC). While there are not any autographed versions of those cards, there are plenty of short-printed refractors which have proved to be highly collectible. The World Baseball Classic continues to be played today so the cards are still relevant.
With regards to the autographs, Base Prospects, Chrome Prospects and AFLAC All-American sets, each have an autographed component to the lineup. The Chrome Prospects autograph checklist is comprised of 20 cards and includes such notable standouts as Zach Wheeler and . . . Mike Trout! Wheeler also has an autographed card in the AFLAC set and is the only player of note on that checklist.
Interestingly enough, for whatever reason, Mike Moustakas and Buster Posey again have autographs in the Base, paper version. Unfortunately, the autographs are of the sticker variety, which are, thankfully, an anomaly in the Bowman Draft brand.
Because of Mike Trout’s inclusion in the product, good luck finding any unopened hobby boxes. When you do, expect to pay an exorbitant sum. The few boxes currently listed run between $600-$700. A retail box was listed for an astronomical $260!
2010 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects
At this point, interest in the USA Baseball National Team had been growing for some time. Looking to capitalize on the popularity while at the same time looking to create an additional collectible component, Topps included autographed cards of Team USA members.
Most notably, of the 20 players on the checklist is Alex Bregman. He was selected in the first round of the 2015 MLB Draft as the second overall pick by the Houston Astros. Surprisingly, he will not have an autographed card in 2015 Bowman Draft Baseball releasing on December 9th.
These cards are included in addition to the now customary, AFLAC autographs and Chrome Prospect autographs. 2010 Bowman Draft also saw the inclusion of a Chrome Rookie autographed version for the much hyped, Stephen Strasburg.
However, the big standout in the 2010 product, is Strasburg’s fellow Washington National’s teammate, Bryce Harper. He is included on the AFLAC Autograph checklist and the card is serial numbered to just 230 copies. Other notable players include Tim Beckham and Matt Harvey.
The Chrome Prospects autograph checklist is one of the strongest of all-time. It consists of 31 total cards and includes: Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jameson Taillon, Manny Machdo, Delino DeShields and Chris Sale.
2011 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects
As mentioned previously, 2011 was all about Bryce Harper. In addition to his Chrome Prospect card a limited edition green bordered card was also made. Taking things one step further, 2011 Bowman Draft also includes autographed relic cards of the National’s All-Star.
However, Harper is far from being the only draw in the product. Dylan Bundy, Francisco Lindor and Blake Swihart are included in the AFLAC autographed set checklist and Austin Meadows’ first autographed card can be found in the USA 16U set.
Other notable players on the Chrome Prospects autograph checklist include: Javier Baez, Bubba Starling, Francisco Lindor, Blake Swihart, Daniel Vogelbach, Dylan Bundy and Kolten Wong.
2012 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects
As if the previous year’s various autograph offerings weren’t enough, Topps once again upped the ante for collectors adding two new collectible components to the product’s configuration.
The Perfect Game Showcase and it’s signature game, the All-American Classic, is a marquee event for scouts to gather in a central location and watch top prep athletes from around the country, showcase their skills. In 2012, Topps secured a licensing agreement with the event organizers and added this as another autograph set to the already loaded Bowman Draft product. The 9-card checklist includes autographs of future stars, Carlos Correa, Addison Russell and Joey Gallo.
Additionally a rare, 10-card insert set, titled Top 10 Prospects, paired a variety of former top ten draft picks. Each card is serial numbered to just 25 copies. Some of the pairings include: Josh Hamilton/Bryce Harper, Matt Cain/Mike Trout and Gavin Cecchini/Jay Bruce, just to name a few.
The Chrome Prospects autograph checklist in 2012, consists of 40 total cards. Notable names include: Michael Wacha, Mike Zunino, Joey Gallo, Gavin Cecchini and Addison Russell.
2013 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects
2013 Bowman Draft Picks has numerous autographed insert sets. However, the product development team was careful to avoid redundancy of the checklists, making each unique. Autographs of top prospects can be found in the following sets: Scouts, Scout Breakouts, Draft Night, Dual Draftees, AFLAC, Under Armour All-American and of course Chrome Prospects.
The most extensive of the checklists is obviously the Chrome Prospects at 47 total cards, with the most notable names being those of Clint Frazier and Austin Meadows . . . and one conspicuous absence (more on that later.)
The Dual Draftees set contains some interesting pairings including those of Mark Appel/Jonathan Gray, Kris Bryant/Colin Moran and Austin Meadows/Clint Frazier to name a few.
One of the key autographed cards in the entire product however, is from the AFLAC Autographs set. It would be the collecting world’s first introduction to, a Topps manufactured card of, Mr. Kris Bryant.
However, the real story with 2013 Bowman Draft Picks isn’t in the cards on the checklist, but instead, of the one left off of it. In mid-year releases of 2014 Topps baseball products, collectors were surprised to find 2013 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects Kris Bryant Chrome Prospect Autographs.
According to Topps, the company did not receive the cards back in time to have them be included in 2013 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects. It was decided that instead of destroying the cards (which would normally be the case) that they would insert them sporadically within various 2014 Topps baseball products.
There is no doubt, not being able to include a player of Kris Bryant’s caliber on the final autograph checklist may have initially hurt sales of that year’s Bowman Draft product, but thankfully for Topps and collectors, his autographs in AFLAC and Dual Draftees serve as a decent consolation prize. It also added to the mystique of the brand and created a collecting story that will be confusing future collectors for years to come.
2014 Bowman Draft
2014 ushered in a new era and simpler name for the brand in Bowman Draft. Many of the same autograph insert sets found in the 2013 release saw their return including Dual Draftees which has proven to be a highly desirable chase element with collectors.
However, realizing that the core component of the product, has been and will always be, the Chrome Prospect Autographs, 2014 saw a sizable increase in the number of the players appearing on the checklist, with 71 in total.
The key standout on the checklist is Chicago Cubs’ slugger, Kyle Schwarber, who saw his career fast-tracked in time for a stellar rookie year in 2015. The rest of the checklist is loaded with top round draft picks including: Kodi Medeiros, Jake Stinnett, Trea Turner and Tyler Kolek to name a few.
Once again however, a significant name was left off of the cherished Chrome Prospect Autograph checklist. No one made much notice of it at the time. However, the following season, the New York Met’s Michael Conforto got his big league call-up and stuck with the team through their 2015 post-season run to the World Series.
The exposure caused collectors to take to social media wondering “why doesn’t this guy have a Bowman Draft Chrome Prospects Autograph?” The answer was a simple one.
Topps announced, that Conforto, along with St. Louis Cardinals pitching prospect Ronnie Williams, didn’t get their 2014 cards returned in time for inclusion in 2014 Bowman Draft. Once again, the decision was made to distribute the cards in a future product. In this case that product turned out to be 2015 Bowman Chrome.
Collector’s Guide to Bowman Draft Baseball – 2015 Bowman Draft
2015 Bowman Draft releases on Wednesday December 9th, 2015. The complete checklist is live and can be downloaded here: 2015 Bowman Draft Baseball Checklist. As would be expected, the next big stars of Major League Baseball, dominate the Chrome Prospects Autograph checklist. Several highly touted players highlight the 60-card checklist including: Ian Happ, Carson Fulmer, Dansby Swanson, Donnie Dewees, Dillon Tate and many more.
This collector’s guide to Bowman Draft Baseball may be updated periodically as new information and additional images become available. Please feel free to check back often.
Look for in-depth player profiles and an overall guide to collecting the 2015 Bowman Draft Chrome Prospect Autographs, in the coming weeks as well as interactive polls, photo contests and more!
Also, stay tuned for a GTS exclusive interview with Bowman Brand Manager, Zvee Geffen!!
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For complete details about 2015 Bowman Draft Baseball (hobby), please visit the product page.
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The GTS Distribution Collector’s Guide to Bowman Draft Baseball – December, 2015