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  1. #1

    Demystifying "the rookie card" for new/returning hobbyists, using Bryce Harper

    There seems to be a lot of confusion about the difference between a "First Card" and a "Rookie Card" by people that are new to, or have just recently returned to the baseball card hobby. I personally have been asked, as a Bowman/Bowman Chrome collector, about which cards are the most sought after. So, I have decided to create a reference of sorts, and I'd ask for input from other forum members as needed.

    For this topic, I'm going to use Bryce Harper as the example. Last year's National League Rookie of the Year has been on the radar for a while, and is just beginning what could be a sensational career. And I'm going to stick to his regular issue Bowman family of cards. These are:


    • Bowman Baseball
    • Bowman Chrome
    • Bowman DP&P, (or Draft Picks and Prospects).


    First of all, it's important to understand how Bowman releases their card sets throughout the year. I use Sports Card Radio as my source for release dates, but this information can be found in other places as well.


    • Bowman Baseball, comes out in the spring, just after the MLB season begins. In 2012, Bowman Baseball came out on May 9th. This series includes the regular card stock "Bowman" (these are for established MLB veterans, numbered on the back) and "Bowman Prospect" cards (BP#), Bowman Prospect autos (BPA#), and the first Bowman Chrome cards of the year, "Bowman Chrome Prospect" (BCP#). Obviously, the Bowman Chrome cards are thicker, and have a special glossy surface. In 2012, the Bowman Chrome Prospect cards were numbered BCP1 to BCP110. There are two different kinds of BCP, base, and on card autos. The on card autos will be stamped on the front "Topps Certified Autograph Issue" (prior years handled this differently, with a gold stamp).


    In the fall, the next release comes out:

    • Bowman Chrome baseball. In 2012, Bowman Chrome baseball came out on October 17th. These are released, of course, after the regular season has finished. The Bowman Chrome cards are numbered on the back (again, these are for veteran MLB players). Additionally, this set includes the second series of the Bowman Chrome Prospect cards (BCP#. It picks up where Bowman Baseball left off, with BCP#111 to 220), and Bowman Chrome autographed cards (BCA). The autographs are on card. Instead of numbers after the BCA, the player's initials will appear. For example, Billy Hamilton's 2012 Bowman Chrome auto is BCA-BH. When a player has autographed their rookie card, the designation on the back will be (RA) followed by the player's initials. For example, Trevor Bauer's 2012 Bowman Chrome rookie auto is RA-TB.


    The third and final release of the year for Bowman's flagship line comes out later in the year:

    • Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects. In 2012, Bowman DP&P was released on November 28th. The numbered cards in this set are for players that have become rookies. They will have the rookie card logo on the front. Further rookie cards that are autographed will adopt the RA card numbering, with the player's initials. RA-BH for Bryce Harper, as an example. For players that have been drafted, the card numbering will be designated as BDPP. And drafted rookie on-card autos will adopt the BCA prefix, with the player's initials. Joey Gallo's auto card would be BCA-JG.


    Major League Baseball came out with a set of rules in 2006 that dictated when their "official rookie card" logo could appear on a player's card. Without going into a lot of detail, it is important to note that this "rookie card", per MLB, is rarely a player's "first card". Bowman has long specialized in prospects, players that have not yet appeared in the majors. They release cards for players that have been drafted by Major League Teams, as well as players in high school that have been members of the USA Baseball team. It's possible to see a player's "first card" several years before they even sniff the Major Leagues. So while prospect cards might be the most collectible (especially if those cards also have certified autographs), it does not mean that subsequent, or rookie cards, are not collectible. This is obvious when looking up the various Bryce Harper cards listed below on Ebay. Between the first cards, and rookie cards, there are multiple autographs, and parallels (colored refractors) to choose from.

    Knowing this, let's look at the card history of Bryce Harper. There have been several releases, and it can be highly confusing for somebody that is trying to determine what to buy.

    Again, excluding other card lines that Topps/Bowman makes (such as Bowman Platinum, Bowman Sterling, Topps, Topps Chrome, etc), or cards from other manufacturers (Panini, Upper Deck), this is how Harper's cards were released in the main Bowman line.

    Harper's first major Bowman release came in 2010. Released on May 12, 2010, Harper appeared in the USA Baseball subset.


    2010 Bowman Chrome Bryce Harper USA18-BC8-Note the designation of "1st Bowman Chrome Card" on the front. Variants include refractor /777, blue refractor /250, gold refractor /50, orange refractor /25, red refractor /5, and a superfractor /1.

    At some point after this card was first released, Bowman released a limited run of buyback autograph cards. The card is identical in appearance except for Harper's autograph. There are 100 total in existence. I would strongly recommend against buying one of these cards raw (stick with Beckett slabbed), as they have been faked (if you buy raw, make sure to check the back, as these are serialized /100). This will be one of the most sought after Harper cards of all, and commands $1,500 and higher on Ebay.

    His second card of 2010 was released in that year's Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects. The AFLAC Harper, an on card auto, was limited to 230 cards, and the serial number appears on the front.


    2010 Bowman Bryce Harper AFLAC-BH-there are no other variations of this card, only 230 serialized base cards.


    In 2011, the onslaught of Harper cards began, creating headaches for new hobbyists the world around.

    With the release of 2011 Bowman Baseball, there were three main Harper cards (other subsets were included in the set, including Top 100, Bowman's Best, and Bowman's Brightest). A base card (BP1), a base chrome card (BCP1), and an on card autograph (BP1). Initially, the owner received a redemption card for the auto card, which was then later mailed to the owner after redeemed at the Topps website. Harper had not yet autographed these cards as of the release of Bowman Baseball).

    Here are the three above referenced cards:


    2011 Bowman Bryce Harper BP1-variations include blue /500, green /450, orange /250 and red /1. Also unnumbered international and purple variants.


    2011 Bowman Chrome Bryce Harper BCP1-variations include refractor /799, purple refractor /700, blue refractor /250, gold refractor /50, orange refractor /25, red refractor /5, and a superfractor /1.

    Lastly, the Harper Bowman Auto from 2011 Bowman Baseball:


    2011 Bowman Baseball Bryce Harper BP1 autograph-variants include /blue 250, purple /55, orange /25, red /1. Note: it is difficult to find this card with a clean autograph. High grade cards with 10 autos command a premium.

    With the release of Bowman Chrome baseball, Harper's first non-buyback chrome auto became available. Released October 19, 2011, Harper had not yet played in the Major Leagues, so there is no rookie logo on front. And of course, as this is not his first Bowman Chrome card, that designation does not appear, either. There are of course, the base non-autographed card, and several autographed variants.


    2011 Bowman Chrome Bryce Harper BCP111-variants include purple refractor /799. refractor /500, blue refractor /150, gold refractor /50, orange refractor /25, red refractor /5, and a super refractor /1. There is also an unserialized green xfractor.


    2011 Bowman Chrome Bryce Harper BCP111 auto-notice that the picture is different from the base card. Variants include refractor /500, blue refractor /150, gold refractor /50, orange refractor /25, red refractor /5, and a superfractor /1.

    With Bowman's third and final release of their flagship line in 2011, Bowman Draft Picks and Prospects, they again wheeled out Harper.


    2011 Bowman DP&P Bryce Harper BPA-BH-just one main release, the green border /350.

    In 2012, Bowman started the whole process again, making sure to include Harper throughout the year.

    The first release, Bowman Baseball, included prospect and Chrome prospect cards, as well as a prospect Harper auto. First released May 4, 2012, Harper had not yet played enough games to reach rookie status, so as of yet, no RC logo.


    2012 Bowman Bryce Harper BP10-variants include blue /500, orange /250, silver ice red /25, and red /1. Also unserialized international, purple, and silver ice variants.


    2012 Bowman Chrome Bryce Harper BCP10-variants include refractor /500, blue refractor /250, purple refractor /199, gold refractor /50, red wave refractor /25, orange refractor /25, red refractor /5, superfractor /1. Also, an unserialized blue wave refractor.


    2012 Bowman Bryce Harper auto BPA-BH-variants include a blue prospect auto /35

    Released on October 17, 2012, Bowman Chrome baseball again included Bryce Harper cards. For the first time, Harper's cards included the rookie card logo, as Harper had just finished his first full season in the Majors.


    2012 Bowman Chrome Bryce Harper #214-variants include a blue refractor /250, purple refractor /199, gold refractor /50, orange refractor /25, red refractor /5, and a superfractor /1. Also, unserialized refractor, green refractors and xfractors.


    2012 Bowman Chrome Bryce Harper RA-BH (note, this is a purple refractor). Variants include/will include blue refractor /250, gold refractor /50, orange refractor /25, purple /10, red refractors /5, and a superfractor /1. These are exchanges, so redemptions will be mailed from Topps.
    Last edited by the 'stache; 03-12-2013 at 06:41 PM.
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  2. #2
    The final release of 2012, Bowman DP&P, was released on November 28, 2012. There are three Harpers, plus variants:

    The last of the releases for 2012, Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects, came out November 28, 2012.


    2012 Bowman DP&P #12-variants include blue /500, orange /250, and red /1.


    2012 Bowman Chrome DP&P Bryce Harper #12- variants include refractor /300, blue refractor /250, gold refractor /50, orange refractor /25, red ice /25, purple ice /10, red refractor /5, superfractor /1. Also, non serialized silver ice parallel.


    2012 Bowman DP&P Bryce Harper RA-BH-I have not seen one of these on Ebay as of yet. Blue refractor /150, gold refractor /50, orange refractor /25, purple refractor /10, red refractor /5, superfractor /1. As with the Chrome autos, it appears these are exchange only.
    Last edited by the 'stache; 03-12-2013 at 02:41 AM.
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  3. #3
    nice info for all members here-thx!

  4. #4

  5. #5
    Could you imagine trying to super collect Harper? Good God, between all the parallels, and autos...I'd go crazy.
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    I will treat all SCF members with respect. I ask that you please do the same.

  6. #6
    We've come a long way since the days of a rookie card basically just being the players' first card in a mainstream base set.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by lambeausouth View Post
    Could you imagine trying to super collect Harper? Good God, between all the parallels, and autos...I'd go crazy.
    He has 791 different cards out there already, according to Beckett's, and he's only been appearing on cards for 5 years. That's an average of over 150 different cards per year. Wow.

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  8. #8


    Clemson2012's Avatar

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    Great info and super collecting Harper would be a headache I believe and quite expensive to say the least.
    I am an avid Atlanta Braves Auto collector. I am in the process of updating all my autos to a spreadsheet and organizing them. I am always looking for Atlanta Braves RCs Autos and also nice veteran autos.
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  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by DaClyde View Post
    We've come a long way since the days of a rookie card basically just being the players' first card in a mainstream base set.
    Agreed, DaClyde, though I'm not certain coming a long way means we've progressed. With all the different releases, I think it's a little bit of overkill.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by lambeausouth View Post
    Agreed, DaClyde, though I'm not certain coming a long way means we've progressed. With all the different releases, I think it's a little bit of overkill.
    I couldn't agree more!
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