Bowman University brings Bowman Football back to life, focusing on college athletes. Much like the recent review we wrote for Topps Chrome OTE basketball, this product is full of many unknowns but could potentially be an excellent investment. In our 2021-22 Bowman University review, we’ll explore the details of Bowman University. Most importantly, we ask if it’s a rip, flip or pass.
Bowman has always been a brand focused on top recruits and upcoming talent. The baseball cards are usually the first cards of any future star. With that in mind, making the leap into college athletes with Bowman cards feels logical. That’s a big win for an experimental new brand.
The product last appeared in 2015. Its renewed launch has been made possible by the new NIL rules that allow college athletes to profit off their name, image, and likeness. The result? A door of opportunity for card companies to delve into the college market.
One major drawback is how collectors typically push back against college uniform products. Will that plague Bowman U? We’ll have to see.
The cards look very similar to the 2015 Bowman set, picking up exactly where the company left off. However, there’s a deeper refractor checklist and many awesome inserts to commemorate popular Bowman sets from previous years.
Not all the 2021-22 cards feature players eligible for the 2022 draft. For example, Bryce Young is in this set. Just think of the 100-card checklist highlighting the brightest players from the 2021-22 college season.
Also, football collectors have another reason to be excited. The inclusion of stated odds! As with all Topps products, this set has stated odds on many of its cards and inserts.
These cards are not rookie cards since the players have yet to be drafted. Therefore, they are marked with the famous Bowman 1st stamp and a Bowman U logo. This is better than the “RC” mark on the Chrome OTE basketball cards considering none of those players had been drafted.
The 2020-21 checklist feels a lot like Bowman products of the past – or Bowman Baseball.
Straight from Topps, here’s the list of refractors you can be on the hunt for.
Each hobby box will include 2 autographs, 4 2000 Bowman inserts, 2 Bowman Invicta, 3 Golden Bow Cards, 1 Shimmer Refractor, and 4 other refractors.
The autographs carry the same design as the base set but come with an on-card autograph. Again, much like the base cards, they have similar parallels.
You can also look for Prime Chrome Signatures, the insert autograph. The “base” versions are numbered to 50, with other short prints that count down to even a 1/1.
Of the inserts, here’s what to expect:
With a product as experimental as this one, it can be difficult to estimate future value. There’s no NFL license, but there’s also a total self-awareness that there is no license. In other words, Topps is saying, “let’s go all-in on a college card.”
Let’s look at the different ways this could play out:
Bowman U changes the way we think of collecting and is embraced the same way Bowman Baseball has been accepted. No longer do collectors only hunt NFL cards, but this college-themed set extends the quest to find the best NFL stars in their college careers. In the future, a Bryce Young Bowman U autograph will sell for thousands of dollars and makes collectors go all-in on this product.
Bowman U never can get out from under the shadow of the NFL licensed products. Therefore, it fizzles out after a few years of unsuccessful marketing campaigns. Also, with no NCAA license to use the college logos on these cards, the all-photoshopped college uniforms don’t stick. Worst still, this is a Topps product, which Fanatics owns, and it will compete against their NFL licensed products when Panini’s license expires. Knowing this, Fanatics will table the Bowman U line by 2025.
Again, it’s tough to say, but I guess this product’s trajectory lands in the middle of best and worst cases. So here’s the future I’d foresee:
Bowman U connects with a niche market of collectors who like the feeling of getting in early on the big-time names. These consumers are willing to sacrifice card style (logos, jerseys, etc.) to do this. After all, Bowman baseball’s clear advantage over this product is team logos and uniforms. Without that license, these cards look bare.
Still, it’s an interesting enough concept that pulls from mainstream athletes (again, unlike Topps Chrome OTE) that these cards could be around for longer than anybody might expect.
We can’t be sure what the future holds for this product. However, it could be an investment with a high ceiling to make it worth the $250 for a box.
If you’re looking to rip the product, you get a lot of cards and some considerable autograph potential, so it’s not an awful idea at the $250 price point. While I don’t want to rain on the parade of the 2022 draft class, let’s be honest – a Bryce Young autograph is more desirable than any rookie auto from 2022. That alone vaults this product pretty high up the “rip” ladder.
It could also be a hold, too. If you buy this box and don’t open it, and if it changes the way we think of collecting – as described in the best case above – then there’s a good chance it could be worth well over the $250. At worst, I’d guess this product might slide down to $200/box while it could propel as high as $500 a box.
Or, if college cards aren’t your thing – no worries. We get it. Pass on this one and focus on NFL licensed products. With such an experimental product, a pass is the safest thing you can do.