Hobby Hotspot | Tracking the Hobby’s Monthly Trends

April 2024 Hobby Trends

Date: May 2, 2024
Author: Greg Bates, Senior Writer
Topics: Hobby Hotspot, How To Collect
Length: 1276 Words
Reading Time: ~7 Minutes

Welcome to the latest column from RIPPED senior writer Greg Bates. Each month, he examines The Hobby’s current and emerging trends and offers expert opinions on all things collecting.

Bowman Baseball was just making a comeback when I was collecting as a youngster.

In 1989, Topps revived the Bowman brand and released its first major baseball set since 1955. One of the founders of The Hobby returned.

The ’89 Bowman set ushered in a new age of cards. That year, it set itself apart with oversized cards—measuring 2 ½” by 3 ¾” instead of the standard 2 ½” by 3 ½”. I have to admit, that extra quarter of an inch on the top of the card made it more difficult to fit into my 5,000-count boxes.

Looking back through my collection, apparently, I didn’t hand-collate a Bowman set that year. I’m not sure why not. But I remember ripping Bowman packs that year in search of a prodigy player — before he was actually The Kid. It was the first Ken Griffey Jr. card in a Topps product. Later that year, Griffey would have his first Flagship card in the 1989 Topps Update set.

That first Griffey Bowman is a special card. The 19-year-old, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1987 MLB Draft, is shown most likely on the Mariners’ photo day during spring training in ’89. With one knee on the ground, while resting his hands on a raised knee, Griffey gives off a serious look. The desert in the background screams spring training in the Arizona heat.

The only thing missing from the card is the “1st Bowman” indicator. Can you imagine if Griffey would have been Bowman’s first 1st Bowman card ever? Wow. That would be iconic.

Chasing 1st Bowman Cards

In the 1990s, there were a lot of great Bowman cards to chase. Frank Thomas was the big card in the 1990 set; the following year featured rookies of future greats Chipper Jones and Ivan Rodriguez. Some standout cards in the ’92 release that still stick in my mind are rookies of Mike Piazza and Mariano Rivera. Boy, the greatest closer of all time looks extremely intimidating in khakis pants! It’s like a GapKids ad. In ’93, a young shortstop from Kalamazoo, Michigan, came on the scene and donned pinstripes. Derek Jeter’s rookie is another card that would have looked sweet with the 1st Bowman designation.

These days, a player isn’t a true prospect until he lands his 1st Bowman card. Some big-time players have that 1st Bowman indicator in this year’s product that drops on May 8. The two of the most highly sought-after names are Minnesota Twins outfielder Walker Jenkins and Washington Nationals outfielder Dylan Crews. Both guys were part of the loaded 2023 MLB Draft, where any of the top five selections could have gone No. 1. Crews went second — behind college teammate Paul Skenes — and Jenkins was taken fifth.

Growing up in Minnesota and being a Twins fan, I’m excited to see if Jenkins can live up to the hype. The 19-year-old is ranked No. 10 in MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects for this year. The last time the Twins had a prospect rated that high was Royce Lewis, who climbed to No. 5 in 2019. The top pick of the 2017 MLB Draft started showing last season how dynamic of a player he is when he’s healthy.

Searching for a Twins Prospect

I got into prospecting in 2013 when Byron Buxton was becoming a big name. The Twins drafted the high schooler with the second overall pick in 2012. Expectations were sky-high as Buxton ascended to the No. 1 prospect spot by MLB Pipeline for 2014 and ’15. I remember after Buxton’s first Bowman card was released — although it doesn’t have the 1st Bowman indicator — in 2013, I wanted to get my hands on that first official piece of cardboard.  

While visiting my parents in Minnesota that summer, my wife and I visited the Albertville Premium Outlets. Upon finding a card shop, I asked about Buxton cards. The guy working the counter said the store had been slammed for requests, and anything Buxton-related was flying off the shelves. However, the shop had one Buxton Bowman Chrome base card left in its showcase. Ten bucks for the raw card seemed a little steep, but Buxton was a hot commodity. I took out a sawbuck and some loose change. My first Buxton was in hand. Ungraded, this card sells for just over $1 these days. But I don’t have any regrets. I needed a card of the Twins’ top prospect, and I needed it right then. I’m sure all of you collectors can relate.

So, here we are 11 years later, nearly on the eve of 2024 Bowman Drop Day, and excitement couldn’t be higher. Collectors are antsy to pull their favorite up-and-coming players, and hobby shops are ready to accommodate their prospect-hungry clients. Alluding earlier to Jenkins — the Twins’ top prospect — one shop is going all out when his first Bowman card is released. Ignition Sports Cards in Wilmington, North Carolina, is hosting a rip party on May 8. Jenkins grew up in nearby Southport, which is about 25 miles down the road from the card shop. Local collectors had been asking about Jenkins’ 1st Bowman for quite some time. So, Ignition Sports Cards owner Dustin Ankrom wanted to organize a special event for the occasion.

It’s pretty cool to see a community rally around one of its local sports heroes when he makes it big with a 1st Bowman card. That’s what The Hobby is all about.

From the Mailbag

Thanks to everyone who reached out to me via email to share stories and provide some feedback. Let’s dive into some of the messages.

“Group breaking and live streaming! This is a great way of sharing the cost of expensive breaks and allows everyone to celebrate the wins when someone hits big!” – B. Simon

This collector’s favorite new hobby trend involves the community aspect of breaking and being able to watch the event—whether they have a stake in the break or are just spectators. Picking the right breaker to follow is important. The right breaker will make it fun. Community and fun are the lifeblood of keeping The Hobby going strong.

“My question for you is to whom could you refer me in order to ask about making a first-ever Topps card of a baseball pioneer, Abner Powell? Perhaps in the Allen & Ginter issue. Plenty (of) cards of pioneers have been produced by Topps, and I’m proposing a card of Powell.” – G. Gomes

Abner Powell sounds like he was an interesting guy on and off the field. He had a two-year career in the big leagues in the mid-1880s, and then he went on to become a part owner of the New Orleans Pelicans. Powell is credited with coming up with the concept of rainchecks for baseball. Fans could attend a future contest if a game was postponed due to weather. The first Allen & Ginter cards were produced in 1887, just one year after Powell’s playing days had ended. He would be a solid choice to earn an Allen & Ginter card posthumously.

Drop me a line at gbates@collectfanatics.com and let me know who you are collecting out of this year’s Bowman release. I’d love to share some collectors’ thoughts in my column next month.

Fanatics Collectibles senior writer Greg Bates writes a monthly column exploring the trends of The Hobby. Before joining Fanatics, Bates was a freelance writer for 10 years for Sports Collectors Digest.

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