Editor note: This article was originally published in IBWAA’s Here’s the Pitch newsletter on 12/24/21. Some information has been added/updated since then.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Plenty of new baseball cards are here or on their way soon.
For those of you who may not know, what we affectionately call #thehobby in the card-collecting arena has exploded during the last couple years, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic hit us in early 2020. You used to be able to go into Target or Walmart and find endless amounts of cards on the shelves, from single $2-3 packs, to $20 blaster boxes, to more expensive hobby boxes and sealed sets. A lot has changed! Many Targets stopped carrying MLB, NBA and NFL cards altogether, instituted a limit per consumer if they had any, and several Walmarts put their stock behind customer service desks or under lock and key. Some of these stores are just now stocking product again, and if you’re lucky, you might be able to find some cards on your next visit.
I want to run through some of the just-released or soon-to-be-released baseball card products. Many of these feature the ever-popular 1st Bowman prospect cards and/or the flagship rookie cards (RC). These are two of the most desirable cards for players. The 1st Bowman is a prospect’s first licensed card in his MLB team’s uniform. Today’s Rookie Card appears in products (usually) after the player has made his MLB debut, and the Topps RC (in Series 1, Series 2 or Update) is the tried-and-true card that most people want. Although, RCs can now show up across the spectrum in all different brands and products.
2021 Bowman Inception
After a five-year hiatus, Bowman Inception returns! Just released December 17, this sleek, colorful, higher-end product features prospects on thicker cards with autographs galore. Inception carried a Bowman prospect brand in 2014-2016, but then moved the product over to Topps for veterans and rookies over the last few years. If you’re looking for cards that hold great value or have a shot at increasing greatly in value, you may want to pass on this one. Inception historically doesn’t compare to what sellers might yield from 1st Bowmans and Topps rookie cards. If you’re interested in a cool concept and artistic cards, Inception might impress. Some players that made their Bowman debut in 2021 are treated to the “Initiation” logo. Boxes only have 7 cards each, but 2 are guaranteed autos and sometimes, if you get lucky, there are 3 autographs in a box.
2021 Bowman Draft (including 1st Edition)
Topps’ main brand for prospects, Bowman, has its 3rd main product of the year arriving December 31 (originally scheduled for 12/29). As this column goes to press 12/28, boxes started arriving early to some dealers/breakers and 2021 Bowman Draft cards are already being seen on social media and being sold on ebay as of Monday 12/27. Draft annually features the first cards of players selected in the most recent MLB Draft. The Bowman 1sts in this product are only 2021 draftees. If you want the 1st Bowman cards of #1 overall pick Henry Davis, or other top selections like Jordan Lawlar, Marcelo Mayer and Jackson Jobe, this is for you. Bowman does release a “Draft 1st Edition” product which in essence is the same checklist, but out earlier, has a 1st Edition stamp on each card, and no chrome cards. The full Draft product includes an entire set of prospects, with chrome and autographed versions of their cards. Draft is found in 3 configurations: LITE box (with 5 exclusive Black & White RayWave Refractor Parallels), Jumbo Hobby box (with 3 prospect autographs) and Super Jumbo (with 5 prospect autographs).
Bowman Draft 1st Edition 24-pack boxes were distributed to select distributors and breakers last month, and then some 50-pack boxes went on sale to the public on Topps’ website just before Thanksgiving. There have been production delays on the public product (which cost $750 plus tax and shipping) and those still have not shipped, leaving many of Topps’ customers irritated, impatient and with a lot of money out of pocket. Why Topps doesn’t release a public statement, update, or solution and timeline about this 1st Edition product is inexplicable. It certainly looks like the full Bowman Draft product is coming out on 12/31 while the 1st Edition 50-pack boxes are still delayed.
2021 Panini Elite Extra Edition
Just released December 24, this is a fun product to open each year. Panini does not carry the MLB licensing, so all player cards cannot feature the MLB team name or logo. For example, a Guardians prospect card will say Cleveland, not the team name. EEE features prospect cards of affiliated players, recently signed international players, Dominican Prospect League players and even USA Baseball team autos and relics. We even get some Kumar Rocker cards! Some players actually get their first cards in EEE a year or more before their 1st Bowman card arrives. Yankees stud prospect Jasson Dominguez was featured in 2019 Elite Extra Edition, with several cards including parallels, relics and autographs, and then we found his 1st Bowman cards in 2020. There are usually two versions of EEE available: blaster box with 2 hits, and the hobby box with 10 hits (8 autos and 2 relics).
2021 Bowman’s Best
This is a fun product. Veterans, rookie cards and prospects are featured, many with on-card autographs as well. The idea of Best is that the back of the card features one of the player’s “best” moments in the game, as opposed to the standard card back with lines of statistics. A hobby box of Bowman’s Best features 2 mini boxes, each with a guaranteed auto. Best is also scheduled to be released on December 31, but with the delay in Draft, only Topps knows if this will be pushed back into January.
2022 Topps Series 1
This is Topps’ flagship product, and 2022 will be its 71st year since the inaugural (and legendary) 1952 product. Split into three series each year, Series 1 comes out in February and the base set includes 330 cards, many of which are players’ Rookie Cards and feature the RC logo on their cards for the first time. Series 2 is released over the summer with another 330 cards, and then their Update set comes out in the Fall, with another 330 card base set. The big highlight and chase for 2022 S1 is definitely going to be Tampa Bay Rays Wander Franco’s rookie card and all the different parallel versions, inserts, and autographs.
Feel free to hit me up on Twitter @Scotty_Ballgame if you have any hobby-related questions. I’m often running baseball card group breaks too! Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!
President of Prospects1500. Commissioner of Diamond Duos dynasty fantasy baseball leagues. Founder of MLB Fantasy Playoffs Parlay. Participant in more than a dozen other dynasty/fantasy baseball leagues. Account Manager for Reminder Publishing in real life. Huge Bruce Springsteen and pro wrestling fan. Along with his wife and two boys, lives in Longmeadow, MA. Follow on Twitter at @Scotty_Ballgame.