1997 Bowman Chrome Baseball drew collectors’ attention right from the first inning, offering a higher end, premium look and upgraded chromium take on the standard 1997 Bowman Baseball set.
It wasn’t the first time Bowman offered a chrome style as the mid-1990s Bowman’s Best sets featured similar technology. It was also very similar to what the hobby had already seen from the Topps and Topps Chrome brands in baseball and football in 1996, followed the same year by basketball for the 1996-97 season.
With all that being said, all of those other offerings weren’t Bowman Chrome. This was different.
The prospect and star-loaded base set had 300 cards released in a single series, 141 fewer than were in the regular Bowman release.
In the late 1990s many sets had become increasingly focused on inserts but Bowman remained true to its base card and prospect roots, offering just a few options outside of the base set. Of the 300 cards there are 100 veterans (denoted by the red nameplate and border) and 200 rookies and prospect cards (blue name plate and border).
This groundbreaking first Bowman Chrome offering is very distinct, with the chromium finish and the higher per pack price point that established this new brand spinoff as a higher end alternative to the base Bowman products for decades to come.
The 1997 Bowman Chrome finish is a light gray with dark gray pinstripe style from top to bottom that almost appears to be a ribbed pattern. The standard 1997 Bowman product has a black background while the Chrome offers a sharp gray color in its place.
The card backs were done in full color, featuring a sliver of a player photo on the right hand side with the player’s name included. The left hand side at the top includes all the biographical information you would expect as well as a scouting report of the player featured broken down into three sections. The first section is entitled Resume, which listed some really on-field facts. The middle section is a Skills section which listed some of the player’s specific skills and the Up Close section listed some behind the scenes, off the field information on each player.
The Packaging and Contents
The box packaging for 1997 Bowman Chrome features a similar textured shimmer and shine as the cards with a big bursting Bowman Chrome logo at the top of the box with underlying information about the boxes contents.
Hobby boxes consisted of four cards per pack and 24 packs per box with an MSRP of $3 per pack. The individual packs were a foil pack, again, with the same information and stylings of the box itself. Today, sealed boxes typically sell for $250-$350.
There were a few parallels including International, found one in four packs, Refractors found one in 12 packs and International Refractors found 1 in 24 packs.
There were a small handful of inserts as well including Rookie of the Year Candidates, found in one in 24 packs (as Refractors were found one in 72 packs) and Scout’s Honor Roll found one in 12 packs (with Refractors found one in every 36 packs.)
The 1998 Rookie of the Year Favorites set was very sharp as a featured in the word Rookie in cursive at the top with the words ‘of the year’ in a ribbon underneath and the word favorites printed below that. The player’s name was scrolled across the bottom with the Bowman Chrome logo otherwise the cards had a similar black and gray pinstriping in the background similar to the base cards. You could find cards of future stars such as Colorado Rockies slugger Todd Helton, Chicago White Sox powerhouse Paul Konerko, Chicago Cubs star Derek Lee and others.
The Scouts Honor Roll was a card that appeared to be designed on a piece of white lined paper with an image of the player bursting through it. It features the Scouts Honor Roll logo at the bottom and gold foil as well as the players name future superstars found in the set include future Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero, Paul Konerko, Darin Erstad, Scott Rolen, Andruw Jones and Nomar Garciaparra.
The International card parallels are similar to the base version with the exception that the background behind the player photo displays a flag from the country the player was born in. The back of the card also has the feature flag as an underlying theme.
The Refractor inserts are just as you would expect identical to the base cards but feature that unmistakable refractor light shimmer and shine.
The rookie class in 1997 Bowman Chrome was, and still is, pretty deep. At the time of release, much of the focus was on Arizona Diamondbacks slugging first baseman Travis Lee and ‘the next great’ Seattle Mariners outfielder Jose Cruz, Jr. Although neither of those initial hot rookies panned out, a number of others stepped up to more than fill the void. In the classic set you will find the best rookie card of one of the best offensive third basemen to ever play the game, Adrian Beltre.
There was an amazing shortstop who was once mentioned in the same breath as Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez in his prime in Oakland A’s standout Miguel Tejada. One of the best pitchers of this generation, Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies hurler and multiple time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay was on the checklist along with Houston Astros stalwart Lance Berkman and Aramis Ramirez, who became a three-time All-Star and banged out over 2,300 hits in an 18-year career.
Eventual Washington Nationals hometown hero Jason Werth was featured, too, but you wouldn’t know it by the picture on his card. He looks far different from the player (and hair) he grew into later in his career.
Jayson Werth: 1997 Bowman Chrome/2017 Topps Allen & Ginter.
You will also find the best rookie card of Chicago Cubs prodigy pitcher Kerry Wood who was as white hot as anybody in the game during his brief heyday before his career was derailed by arm injuries.
High-grade examples of the Beltre and Halladay cards–especially the Refractors–still bring strong prices. International Refractors of the rookies and major stars are also among the most desirable and valuable cards today. You can check current prices for 1997 Bowman Chrome cards on eBay here.
The significance of the 1997 Bowman Chrome baseball set can’t really be overstated as it was the inaugural year for the Bowman Chrome brand, a product and a name that has become synonymous with rookies and prospects than any brand in the sport of baseball. The influential brand is a go-to for so many of the greatest rookie cards of the last 25 plus years and that influence grows each and every year as the line is as meaningful and as popular as ever. .
About Tony Reid
From the time he was a little kid, Tony has been a huge sports fan. If he could play sports, watch sports and talk about sports it was a great day. From as early as he was drawn to sports, Tony was drawn to collecting sports cards. Not much has changed over the years. He collects RCs of star players in baseball, basketball and football. He also has a soft spot for first autographs of MMA stars. If you want to talk to Tony about the greatness of Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson or Ken Griffey, Jr. you can reach him at @reidrattlecage on all social media platforms.