Chaos and Kanji is the blog where I write about my adventures through Japan!
Sunday, June 12, 2011
By 2005, most card sets had an overwhelming number of rookie cards. Many boxes featured autographed cards of minor leaguers, many of whom were years away from stepping onto a major league field, and many more who would never cross the white chalk line. Major League Baseball decided to change the rules in 2006. They dropped Donruss, limited the number of sets each manufacturer could issue, and most importantly to the Bowman product line, defined who could be in a licensed release.
Bowman could no longer devote half its set to its minor league prospects, but the insert rule provided a work-around. Instead of being Bowman "rookie cards", they would be labeled as "First Bowman Cards" and be numbered separately with a prefix. Officially known as the Prospects insert set, it added a little bit of confusion to Bowman set numbering.
Of course, there's more than one Bowman issue. 2010 saw the release of Bowman, Bowman Chrome, Bowman Chrome Draft, Bowman Platinum, and Bowman Sterling. If you look close enough at each set, the prospects are numbered separately from the veterans and MLBPA-defined rookies.
The crazy numbering scheme is needed so Bowman can continue to be relevant in the hobby. Without the prospects, Bowman becomes just another set. The only thing Bowman has going for it is the rookies.
Prospectors looking for the next Pujols-like big money hit don't care about design. They care about card value. This is why (I feel) the Bowman design has changed very little since 2001. This is why there are five separate Bowman releases per year, three of which have exactly the same design.
Now that Topps has the MiLB and MLB licenses, they theoretically could release Bowman under the minor league license and eliminate the crazy numbering scheme. They could also get rid of all the veterans that most purchasers of this product don't care about. Let's face it. Most Bowman buyers are looking for Strasburg or Harper, the Prospect cards and rookie autographs. They buy the packs up, keep the prospects, and dump the red and green base set cards either at the card show or in the trash can. Team and player collectors are just about the only collectors interested in these "reject" cards. Moving five prospect-based releases from the MLB license to MiLB would allow Topps to release five additional relevant MLB sets. They could even include some veterans in their minor league uniforms as an insert or subset.
And while we're changing things, I think it's time for a change with Bowman Chrome. Bowman Chrome is just another parallel set, released in a separate pack. Topps needs to combine Chrome with the regular release, either by eliminating the regular release or (*gasp*) making Chrome a parallel released with the regular Bowman issue.
Topps released promo images of its 2011 Bowman Chrome set this week. If you want to know what the cards look like, just look at 2011 Bowman (or see the sellsheet) - the autographs will look pretty much like the Harper at the top of this post. 1994 Bowman's Best throwbacks will return, and there will be cards featuring the 2001 design. (Which, if you read yesterday's post, isn't really different from this year's design.) Bowman Futures is an insert set with parallels (what are micro-fractors? Fusion-fractors? Future fractors?). As always, expect the base and prospects sets plus colored refractors. The Team USA cards will return (the only part of the set that interests me).
Is this set necessary? Again, couldn't Chrome just be part of the regular set as a parallel? Topps, I have the answer for you. Instead of releasing Bowman, Bowman Chrome, and then Bowman Draft Picks and Prospects, just release three series. Each series can have Bowman, Chrome, and all the Refractors you feel are necessary. You can still put Team USA in the second series and all the draft picks in the third series. All the prospect hunters will still buy your boxes, because you'll be releasing new prospects in each series, just like you do now. You'll remove the confusion of numbering (and you won't have to wear out the B and P keys on your keyboard). And you'll remove the monotony of three separate "releases" all having the same design. Yes, there is a difference between three identical series of Topps flagship cards and three unique releases of Bowman with the same design.
If you want proof that Bowman purchasers/collectors don't care about design, read the thread on Bowman Chrome going on at Blowout. They're talking about player and autograph selection, print run, and repeat appearances by players like Harper and the official rookie class. Repeat appearances are generally solved if you issue your set in three series (unless you just issue a second base card like they're doing with Harper).
What are your thoughts on Bowman and its five releases?