2012 BOWMAN TAYLOR WHITENTON
Bowman issued its first baseball card set in 1948.
At the time, they had the national market for this novelty pretty much to themselves– the last major card set (“Play Ball”) had been released by Gum, Inc. in 1941, right before paper drives and wartime austerity made such frivolities temporarily obsolete.
The 1948 Bowman set was a pretty drab affair: 48 small, anonymous black-and-white photos with gray narrative backs.
The following year’s outing marked a tentative step forward. Bowman produced a 240-card set with color-tinted photos, and the higher-number cards even had nameplates on front identifying the pictured players.
The 1950 set saw Bowman introduce a full-color painted design, with eye-catching results. The company followed this basic model for the next three years.
But in that third year, things changed.
Specifically, Topps entered the baseball-card fray in earnest.
And the 1952 Topps set was a landmark– big, colorful cards with movie-marquee fronts and stat-laden backs. The 1952 Bowman set could not hold a candle to these cards.
Bowman struck back in 1953 by increasing the size of its cards to match, and utilizing striking Kodachrome player images.
While Topps and Bowman fought these design wars, they also battled for exclusivity with the star players of the day. Each company signed contracts that barred key players from appearing in the other company’s sets, which is why there is no 1952 Topps Ted Williams, no 1953 Bowman Willie Mays, no 1954 Topps Mickey Mantle…
However, following the 1955 season, the Topps/Bowman wars were over. Topps bought the Bowman name, buried it, and embarked on a 25-year monopoly, challenged occasionally but not joined in the market until 1981.
Come 1989, the baseball-card business had exploded. Investors were buying 100-card bricks of Gregg Jefferies rookie cards and assuming that they were equivalent to a college fund. Five major card makers fed a seemingly insatiable appetite for new product.
Topps figured that the time was right to reintroduce the Bowman name. But the first three releases under the brand banner were fairly nondescript, and were met with middling enthusiasm.
However, the 1992 set established an identity for the new Bowman line. The set emphasized rookies and young, unestablished players, and while this was anathema to many of the more traditional collectors, it was manna for the new breed.
Bowman and its various offshoots have plowed this row ever since, to the point where their current sets now include rookie cards, draft-pick cards, and even something called 1st Bowman cards.
There is no doubt a Bowman fetus-card prototype tacked up on a board somewhere in the Topps corridors of power…
Pictured here is a 2012 1st Bowman card of Taylor Whitenton, along with its chrome counterpart. Both of these cards came from the same pack, a collation scenario that I imagine would be palatable only to Ma/Pa Whitenton.
Taylor was a 39th round pick in the 2009 draft, and he is currently toeing the rubber for St Lucie.
I wish him well, but I don’t expect that a brick of his cards will ever put my kids through college…