By 1992, Bowman had established its identity of the unknown, not yet played in the majors (or maybe even in the minors) players. In this year, it was decided to up the ante; the set size was increased to 704 cards in one series, the finish of the cards went from cardboard stock to gloss, and there was the new addition of one foil card per pack. It is in this instance that they sought to create the iconic rookie card of a player by both being ahead of the competition and increasing the quality of the set.
This is reflected in the player selection of 1992 Bowman. From 1st round draft picks like Manny Ramirez to late round draft picks as favors of a godfather like Mike Piazza, the player selection focused on one trait only. Are you a potential up and comer to the major league scene? Some notable players like Trevor Hoffman, Mariano Rivera, and Carlos Delgado didn't have cards until the following year or sometimes years, and the Bowman brand really milked this fact. Of course, the downside to this is that there are a lot of photos of players in Hawaiian shirts or posed in front of their high schools. Oh well, at least it wasn't factory airbrushing that will always looks fake.
These cards plus others of draft picks from 1990 and 1991 were soon sought after. There were articles in Beckett about how the "best" card was the more desirable and more valuable card than a rookie card. The best examples were Pedro Martinez, Jim Thome, and Chipper Jones 1992 Bowman cards. The rookies of Martinez and Thome were only in 1991 Upper Deck Final Edition, a set that has never been a light in collectors' eyes. So their 1992 Bowman card, with the gloss, and "rookie card aura" of the set soon outstripped their rookie card in popularity and "book value".
The other piece that made this Bowman set step to the next level was the addition of the foil card in every pack. Why? Because it had a shiny border,simple as that. Foil was the new wave of innovation (as evidenced by the popularity of ToppsGold). These weren't parallel cards and were no more rare than other base cards in the set, but they added an extra reason to pursue the set through packs. Of course, the packs were too expensive for my 10 year old budget.
1993 Bowman and 1994 Bowman followed the same format with practically the same base set size and interspersal of Bowman cards. There was one significant difference though. For the first time, starting with the 1993 set, there was pre-set hype. This led to gross inflation of pack prices until people realized that the rookie class just wasn't as strong as the previous year's and the cards were about 1000x easier to find. I bought my fair share of 1994 Bowman packs for $2.00; I think i was looking for the Rickey Bottalico (if that's even real).
In 1995, the hype of Vladimir Guerrero and Andruw Jones (especially) drove the pack prices up. There also was a perceived scarcity compared to the '93 and '94 sets. And in a move of pure gutsiness, the "Guaranteed Value" Program was instituted for the 1996 set. Collect the whole set and send it into Topps by a certain date for $100 cold, hard cash. I think everyone (see: Bowman collectors) wanted the set, but they weren;t going to send it in. Of course, it was going to increase in value just like 1995's version did. The next year, the place of the base Bowman brand among prospectors shifted dramatically.