One thing Topps likes to do is revive the past. That is been a consistent path for them with Heritage and Archives. Now they are making the revival happen again by bringing back Bowman Sterling. Sterling has been on a hiatus since 2014 as a full product release. There have been inserts in certain products of Sterling cards annually but now we get the full product. The design has a high-tech look with the photo of primarily pitching and batting stances dominating the card front. The product logo, player name, position and team name are small at the bottom of the card. The design is simple not flashy.
Bowman Sterling has a smaller checklist than most sets with the base featuring only 100 cards. Although it is a lighter card count, this set will appeal specifically to two collecting groups: prospectors and “rainbow” collectors. The first half of the checklist is devoted to prospects like Wander Franco and Nolan Gorman who have yet to reach the bigs. There are some on the list though like a Yordan Alvarez or a Bo Bichette who have already made their splash. The latter half of the checklist is all about the rookies who are already up and now well-known like Alonso, Jimenez, Vlad and Tatis. Those that are all about the parallels will find a broad spectrum of color: Refractors numbered to 199, Speckle Refractors numbered to 99, Gold Refractors numbered to 50, Blue Refractors numbered to 25, Black Atomic Refractors numbered to 10, Red Refactors numbered to 5, Printing Plates (which are 1/1 but come in Black, Cyan, Magenta and Yellow) and 1/1 Superfractors.
Like I have said, if you are a prospect collector, then Sterling hits your mark. But if you are a set builder like me, this one is very tough for you due to cost. That will be the case even if you are a team set collector. You are talking on average about $200 per hobby box that has five packs with six cards per pack (each pack has an autograph card so really it is five base cards per pack). At 25 base cards, you would need four boxes with perfect collation to complete the set. This is a product perfectly suited for the breaker market eager for the hits, not so much the collector.
Favorite Parallel/Insert Set:
Besides the “rainbow” parallels I already mentioned, there is one insert set: Sterling Retrospect. The set has 20 cards and all the same parallels as the base except regular Refractors. The set has all established stars and most of the top ones but there are two oversights in my opinion: Luis Severino and Joey Votto are in the set and should be replaced by Justin Verlander and Cody Bellinger. Also know this insert set features no rookies.
Now one place Bowman Sterling shines is with autographs. Three-quarters of the base featuring Prospects and Rookies has autos. Then add in the parallels which feature all of the colors already mentioned plus Wave which are numbered to 125 and Orange numbered to 75. 21 of the Sterling Retrospect insert set features autos with all numbered to 50. Something to look for when breaking cases are the Sterling Die-Cut Autographs. This is another 21-card set that look sharp and resemble the shape of large belt buckles. Look for Blue Refractors, Red Refractors and Superfractors with these. Dual Refractor Autographs and Triple Refractor Autographs are available putting some of the top rookies or prospects together on the same card. Both sets have Refractors available as well. Be sure and look for the card that puts Vladimir Guerrero, Fernando Tatis and Eloy Jimenez together.
It is good to see Bowman Sterling return to the hobby after its time away. It has a strong list of prospects and rookies along with autographs that the hit-chasers will love to go after. Unfortunately, this is a high-end product that prices most of the collectors out of the game. Take your chances in a break in the hopes of scoring big or scour the secondary market to look for your favorite player or team.
Overall Score 3.5/5.0