Taking the Pepsi Challenge with Bowman’s Best

We as collectors love nostalgia. For every thousand Ohtani fans spending millions on every Bowman box on the planet, there are collectors like me who don’t watch baseball anymore and only collect a player/s from their youth. For me, my goal is to catch up on what I missed rather than invest time, money, and space into something that I don’t feel truly passionate about.

As a collector, to me the greatest year in baseball cards came in 1997 but to be perfectly honest, 1996 and 1998 were also amazing years. This is no joke but I have reoccurring dreams of teenage me walking into my local card shop in 1997 with thousands of dollars and taking home boxes and packs of Chrome, Finest, and Donruss Signature, a product which I passed on in 1997 and still regret it twenty years later.

Although 1996 Bowman’s Best wasn’t my favorite year (it’s a draw between ’95 & ’97), I can certainly appreciate Topps giving collectors a throwback of the brand that is now old enough to drive, vote, and even have little baby Bowman’s Best.  Bowman’s Best from 1996 is sort of forgotten today due to lack of autographs and super-rare parallels but it was still light years above Bowman.

Below is the 1996 Bowman’s Best Jose Canseco Atomic Refractor which were seeded at 1:48 in Hobby packs. It’s a beautiful card which if you look closely, resembles a Topps Superfractor. The picture used is excellent and the card back (not pictured) featured another great photograph with lots of important information and stats. There is actually a Hobby box on eBay right now for under $50 dollars. BUY IT.


Next to the original 1996, is Topps’ throwback version. I’ve been slowly picking these up but still have quite a few more to get with one big problem. Tanman, the #1 Canseco collector today, has the 1/1 Superfractor. Aside from that, most of these are highly-attainable and come pretty cheap. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice the small changes from the original until they were in hand.

My biggest beef with the card is the photograph, which uses a photo of Jose that makes him look fat. Yes, while with the Red Sox Jose kinda let himself go but by 1998 with the Blue Jays he was in the best shape of his career and put up career numbers. Second, you could say Topps improved the BB logo but it would have been nice to see a true throwback with the 90s logo. Finally, the font doesn’t match up.

Those are all minor nitpicks because Topps included on-card autographs, more parallels including Red and Orange Refractors which weren’t a thing in 1996, and of course, the fabled Superfractor, which also includes the autograph. If you put the ’96 Atomic next to the ’16 Atomic, the original wins out but when you compare autographs, it’s not even a close contest. It’s actually unfair.

They say everything old is new again but in this case, I’ll begrudgingly go modern.

The Superfractor

One thought on “Taking the Pepsi Challenge with Bowman’s Best

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  1. When it comes to picking up singles, I’m like you… most of my money goes towards retired, established players. However I feel like there’s a good balance within our hobby. I know a lot of guys who would much rather crack packs of 2018 Bowman in hopes of pulling an Ohtani than spend their money on 90’s parallels and inserts of Tony Gwynn and Jose Canseco.

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