Bowman is one of the premier brands in the collectible baseball card industry. The Bowman brand was founded in 1949 by the Topps Chewing Gum Company. Bowman cards were initially sold in wax packs with bubble gum as the original issue baseball cards. The very first Bowman set released in 1949 featured many of the game’s greatest players from that era such as Jackie Robinson, Stan Musial, Ted Williams and Bob Feller.

Bowman has been producing high quality baseball cards for over 70 years and is considered among the most popular and historic brands in the hobby. What makes Bowman cards so desirable to collectors is that they have always featured prospects, rookies and young stars on the rise in addition to established big leaguers. By focusing on minor leaguers and recent draft picks, Bowman gives collectors an early opportunity to acquire cards of future Hall of Famers and superstars before they reach the majors. Some iconic rookie cards released in Bowman sets over the decades include Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Albert Pujols and Mariano Rivera.


In addition to standard base sets, Bowman produces several specialized annual products that highlight top prospects and recent draft picks. The Bowman Draft set is released each June shortly after the MLB amateur draft and features first-year cards of the newly drafted players. The Bowman Chrome and Bowman Sterling sets use foiled and hyper-detailed chromographic printing techniques to give cards an extra premium look. Bowman also releases autographed and memorabilia cards through its Platinum and Black labels with swatches of game-used uniforms and signed rookie cards. These higher-end Bowman releases can be quite valuable additions to a collection, with rare autographed rookie cards often selling for thousands of dollars raw or graded.


Some key things to know about the history of Bowman baseball cards:

Bowman released annual sets consistently from 1949 through 1992, a run only interrupted when Topps gained the MLB player licensing rights in 1955 and Bowman went dormant for a few decades.

The company rebranded as Fleer after being purchased in the early 1990s. Fleer/SkyBox produced baseball cards until 2007 when Upper Deck took over the MLB license.

In 2008, The Topps Company repurchased the Bowman brand name and relaunched sets starting that year. They have continued producing Bowman as their high-end prospect brand adjacent to their standard Topps flagship releases.

Some iconic pre-rookie cards featured in early Bowman sets include Joe DiMaggio’s 1934 minor league card, Mickey Mantle’s 1951 prospect card, and Tom Seaver’s 1966 first Bowman issue.


Notable subsets and promotional inserts over the decades included Bowman All-Stars, Action Posters, Glossy All-Stars, Traded sets and Team Logo patches.

The crown jewel of most Bowman collections are the pre-rookie cards, which were released one to two years before a player’s MLB debut. These are extremely rare for stars since print runs were much smaller prior to players making it big.

As the longest-running brand dedicated to baseball’s rising stars, Bowman cards have grown to represent the earliest possible moment to collect iconic players. The thrill of acquiring an early card of a budding superstar keeps collectors coming back to each new year’s Bowman releases. While demanding high prices for its most coveted vintage and modern rookie cards, Bowman remains the go-to product for tracking prospects’ developments all the way to Cooperstown.

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