Like the man himself, the 1995 Bowman’s Best Vladimir Guerrero rookie card brought a mix of old-school and new-school sensibilities that helped bridge the gap between the Junk Wax Era and today’s modern hobby.

The first blast from the past (now) jumps out at you right off the bat, and in several places on the card front:

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Did you catch it?

If not, look again, this time focusing on the top of the card … and on Guerrero’s cap … and on his sleeve … and, for heaven’s sake, even behind his head.

Yeah, all of the old, nostalgic Montreal Expos red, white, and blue is on full display from top to bottom on this card.

While Vladdy didn’t make his major league debut until 1996, his then-future team had had their last real hurrah in 1994, running up the best record in the game until The Strike killed it all.

Guerrero, of course, would stay in Montreal through 2003 before signing as a free agent with the Anaheim Angels for 2004.

Is it a coincidence that that summer — 2004 — was the team’s last in Canada before becoming the Washington Nationals?

Certainly, the baseball train was fired up and looking for an exit from Montreal before then, but The Impaler’s exit couldn’t have helped any.

But beyond all the Montreal ties, there is the card itself.

Coming out of the strike, card makers were about as unsure as everyone else associated with baseball about what the future would look like, which meant they hedged their bets … tempered their expectations … clamped down on the cardboard nozzle.

They reduced their print runs, in other words, while simultaneously focusing on fewer products.

To wit, the PSA Population Report shows that card production reached something of a local peak in 1993, with nearly 11,000 different cards spread amongst 342 sets.

By contrast, 1995 featured 323 sets offering up a total of 8011 different pieces.

Still plenty of variety, but a marked step backwards in just a couple of years.

And there seemed to be a concerted effort to produce more quality cards rather than just millions or billions of each card, with Best fitting right into that mold.

Drawing on the the Bowman formula that they had honed into a hobby staple before The Strike, Topps crafted their high-end offering to the tune of 90 veterans (with Red backgrounds and accents), 90 prospects (Blue), and 15 “Mirror” cards that paired a prospect with a (maybe) similar veteran.

The cards also featured the whiz-bang that collectors were growing to expect — thick and glossy cardstock, premium photograph, shiny foil everything, and a somewhat limited print run.

Today, unopened boxes of 1995 Bowman’s Best are pretty tough to come by and, while PSA has graded around 20,000 of the cards overall, they’re scarce enough for “perfect” PSA 10 copies of Vlad to command more than $1000.

And, as for Guerrero, he sailed into the Hall of Fame with nearly 93% of the vote in his second year on the ballot in 2018.

This, despite the fact that his sabermetrics stats (59.5 WAR/50.3 WAR) left him in the back third among Cooperstown-enshrined right fielders.

But, for those who saw him play — saw his arm, his combination of power and speed — and for those who appreciate his nearly 1500 RBI and more than 2500 career hits?

For them, the Expos star was an easy choice.

Just like his 1995 Bowman’s Best Blue is an easy choice as one of the iconic cards of the decade, old-school/new-school debates be damned.

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Vlad’s talent and joy for the game made fans happy every time he took the field … just like Ken Griffey, Jr. Of course, Junior’s cards have long been hobby royalty, a status on full display in eBay sales during the last quarter of 2021. Check out our rundown on YouTube:

1995 Bowman’s Best Refractor SP Andruw Jones RC Atlanta Braves

$63.00 (16 Bids)
End Date: Sunday 05/26/2024 20:32:01 EDT
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1995 Bowman Derek Jeter Foil #229 PSA 8 NM-MT HOF New York Yankees

$10.50 (4 Bids)
End Date: Saturday 05/25/2024 21:40:01 EDT
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1995 Bowman's Best #2 Vladimir Guerrero Montreal Expos RC HOF

$3.25 (3 Bids)
End Date: Sunday 05/26/2024 17:54:37 EDT
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