I'm about to do something I don't think I've ever done in the history of this blog, and that's devote an entire post to Bowman.
Bowman fascinates me for all the wrong reasons - it's become a historic brand while also producing decades and decades of entirely forgettable baseball cards. How forgettable, exactly? Enough that I had to do an internet search to remember what 2022 Bowman looked like. That's how little the cards stick in my memory.
When we're talking about post-revival Bowman (1989-present), we're talking about cards that really aren't meant for me. There's a desultory group of known stars alongside a gluttony of rookies, of whom only a small fraction will ever crack a big-league roster.
The latter, however, are what most people buy Bowman for - the hope that a Single-A unknown will become The Next Big Thing.
Modern Bowman began under a bad moon - I've often declared '89 Bowman to be The Worst Set of All-Time.
I don't know if I still believe that these days - I've found other sets I hate more than this - but I think most of us can agree that '89 Bowman is just plain dull. Not to mention the weird oversized thing that triggers my OCD every time I look at one of these in my binder. Just an incredibly bottom-tier group of baseball cards.
People are justified in believing crazy sets like '95 Fleer are worse than this (not me, of course!), but if nothing else I would have to imagine those people would at least admit that '95 Fleer is interesting - not one of us can say the same for '89 Bowman.
Bowman was never destined to be a set we were supposed to collect or even discuss, really - it's pretty much about the prospects and that's it.
No one is buying a pack of Bowman because they fancy themselves as a connoisseur and want to appreciate the design. Most of what Bowman puts out there barely qualifies as a design. It's like Stadium Club but infinitely less fun for collectors like myself. I suppose I don't fault anyone for wanting to get the jump on the next hot thing, but that's just not the way I collect - I struggle to understand how that can be called "collecting" at all.
But whether you want to call it branding or whatever else, even I'll admit there's something special about having a guy's first Bowman card - although do me a favor and don't tell anyone I found this Trout rookie in a dime box back in 2011, or, perhaps even more egregiously, that I wouldn't have bought it at all if he wasn't wearing a throwback jersey!
While I sat and tried for a good few minutes trying to think of what random Bowman sets looked like without consulting the internet.
1996 Bowman? 2002 Bowman? 2007 Bowman? I couldn't remember a single one. And when I finally broke down and looked, the reaction wasn't Oh yeah, that's right! as much as it was Oh, I can see why I forgot that. I'm in the minority, in that the only cards I even remotely care about in today's Bowman are the veterans - on the rare occasion I open a pack of the stuff, the prospects feel like filler to me. And even then I forget what the cards look like two seconds after I put them in my binder.
So that begs the question: are there any Bowman designs I actually like?
The answer: in the 34 years of Modern Bowman (1989-2022), there are exactly two sets I can honestly say I like.
The first is 1992, probably the most universally adored Bowman set among card collectors. The prospect lovers get their fill with some of the most famous rookies of the generation (Piazza, Rivera, Hoffman, etc.), but it's also just a darn good-looking set of baseball cards. I don't own as many as I'd like - they didn't seem to be mass-produced like most cards of the era - but the ones I do have are excellent. (Even the weird fashion-show rookies are memorable in their own way.)
In Bowman's long string of apathy, '92 is really the only time I can say they hit on something classic.
Perhaps as a result, I think most people sleep on what Bowman did the very next year.
There's a Jeter in '93 Bowman, but it's not one of his more famous rookie cards, and outside of that I'm not sure this set has any other notable prospects. As a whole, though, I'd argue this is one of the most unjustly ignored offerings of the '90s. While not as timeless as '92, I've always thought '93 Bowman was a solid set, with a few cool photos mixed in for good measure (something you can't say about Bowman very often). It doesn't deserve to be lumped into the rest of Bowman's long and generally unspectacular history.
In the end, I suppose what I find most interesting about Bowman is that I hear both everything and nothing about it - people talk about this prospect and that prospect, but no one ever seems to care anything about the cards themselves.