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Monday, December 19, 2011

A Simpler, Better Bowman

Bowman confuses nearly everyone. Three issues carry the same design, under three different names, with three different sets of card numbers. Are cards from one issue part of another? Sometimes! But other times they aren't! Is one set a parallel of another? Sometimes! But other times it isn't! What do those letters on the back of the cards mean, exactly?

I'm not even going to try to explain the numbering system. It was changed a little this year to make things a bit easier, but not quite good enough. Instead, I'm going to offer up a solution for numbering. Platinum and Sterling are easy enough to distinguish from the regular releases, though I'm not sure Platinum is really necessary.
Now, the simple answer is to release three series, numbered 1-330, 331-660, and 661-990. (Why can't Topps just number "Update" as "Series 3"? I wonder if they could sell holiday complete sets of all 990 cards.) There is a problem though, as my understanding of the MLB agreement states that players can't be part of a base set until they're on the 40-man roster. This means Bowman either goes strictly minor league or they keep the prospect numbering separate.

Topps wants three releases of its flagship prospect line - Bowman, Bowman Chrome, and Bowman Draft Picks and Prospects. They can still release three series. Call the first release Bowman. Call the second release Bowman Futures, and keep the Draft Picks and Prospects name for the third release. That's fine. "Bowman Futures? What's that! Wow! It's not just Bowman in Chrome version!"
When Bowman hits the shelves in the spring, they keep most of it basically the same as it is now, with some minor differences. Cards 1-220 of "red" veteran players. Cards P1-P110 of "blue" prospects. Chrome cards 1-220 of the red veterans, and P1-P110 of blue prospects. As far as parallels go, Bowman gets gold and international, while Chrome gets the spectrum treatment (ROY G BIV). That way you can have a real, true rainbow! No regular refractors, no X-Fractors, no Atomic Refractors. That's too confusing. And if you want to have a little fun, set the numbering of the parallels to their wavelengths (only nerds would get that joke) or, 1/10/100/250/500/1000/not serial #ed.
Then, after the All-Star Game, here comes Bowman Futures. Cards #221-330 of red veterans (and rookies) and #P111-P330 of blue prospects. Again there are Chrome parallels, following the same numbering system as above. Why are we calling this Bowman Futures? It's a perfect place to put All-Star Futures Game relics and autographs - fresh from the event. It's really Bowman Series 2, but with a different name it might help it stand out.

When October rolls around, it's time for Draft Picks and Prospects. But are we going to restart the numbering, adding a bunch of Bs and Ps? Of course not! Cards #331-440 are the green rookies. Cards P331-440 are the new draft picks and prospects. Again, all the cards are paralleled in Chrome as mentioned above.
What would this mean? Set builders would only have two sets to collect for any particular version (veteran or prospect), and the sets would be complete at 440 cards, meaning they'll need to stick with the product through the year. Other collectors wouldn't really have any confusion as to which set their card comes from, because it would all be the same, and thus much easier to look up in a price guide or online to figure out the set, value, etc, or just find it for sale on eBay.

For type collectors (are there any others like me?!) and player collectors, it makes things fairly simple. Two "sets" each with 10 parallels (gold, international, Chrome, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet) plus plates. I didn't mention inserts, but that doesn't mean they can't be in there. No more worries about whether cards from one release are part of another (Bowman Chrome prospects are included in Bowman and Bowman Chrome, but Bowman Chrome veterans are only found in Bowman Chrome?!). And I won't have to deal with 279 sets in what should be a much-more-simple series of releases. And no cards numbered BDPPP43.
I wouldn't hate Bowman if those three releases made sense. 2011's design looks nice. I wouldn't build a set of it, but I'd enjoy opening packs throughout the year if they all went together! Your thoughts?


  1. What a fantastic idea. Seriously Bowman needs a redo like, three years ago. I think what it is though, is that Topps really could care less because I doubt that many people actually set collect Bowman to begin with. It seems more like a 'rip n flip' product for prospectors or people who don't really care about actually collecting baseball cards, just the resell value. Topps knows this and pretty much caters to it. Fooey on them!

  2. Right on man, I think there should be a revamping of Bowman too. I like a lot of your ideas and they are mostly in line with what I said on my blog just the other night on my latest post. I haven't gotten any comments on it though, so that's a little disconcerting considering all the thought I put into it.

  3. I honestly confused very became about half-something through this :)

    Bowman is too confusing, yes - but there just is too many versions of it period. And the design and prospecting just isn't my cup of tea, I guess.

  4. Ted: I agree. Investors buy tons of cases to bust and flip, and if the cases sell, Topps doesn't care. I know there are multiple sides to baseball cards - set, player, and team collectors, prospectors, big-hit buyers, etc. But I think Topps could meet more of those areas with a bit more thought into the design of the sets.

    Ryan H: Thanks - and you're right. Folks, if you missed his post, visit his post and compare our ideas - his came first but I didn't read his until after this post.

    lifetimetopps: The design may be "sharp" but it doesn't really change. Some of the 1990s issues were much nicer, and stand out because they were different. And having 5 prospect sets and two minor league sets seems to be a bit much.