By Scott Greene
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.
We 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 seven cards each, but two are guaranteed autos and sometimes, if you get lucky, there are three autographs in a box.
2021 Bowman Draft (including 1st Edition)
Topps’ main brand for prospects, Bowman, has its third main product of the year arriving December 31 (originally scheduled for 12/29).
Draft annually features the first cards of players selected in the most recent MLB Draft but 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.
First Edition was distributed to select distributors and breakers last month and some went on sale to the public on Topps’ website just before Thanksgiving, but there have been delays and it hasn’t shipped yet. Questions loom as to if Draft will still come out on 12/31 and how long these 1st Editions will be delayed.
Draft is found in three configurations: LITE box (with five exclusive Black & White RayWave Refractor Parallels), Jumbo Hobby box (with three prospect autographs) and Super Jumbo (with five prospect autographs).
2021 Panini Elite Extra Edition
Due out December 24, this is a fun product to open each year. Panini does not carry 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 may even see a Kumar Rocker card.
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 two hits, and the hobby box with 10 hits (eight autos and two 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 two 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 the 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!