Dear Topps Cards.
A few weeks ago I wrote a piece on this very blog entitled ‘Save the Rookie Card’, which seemed at the time to be generally well received by the one or two Hobbyists/collectors/oddballs that take time out of their day to read my inane ramblings.
In it I made a few comments regarding how the once venerable Rookie card seemed to have lost its way in recent years, with many collectors now putting the emphasis on the next big case hit, or high end patch/jersey/auto card! What I’d love to see is the Rookie card return to prominence in collector’s hearts and minds and I’ve been giving this a great deal of thought since that post was written as to how this might be achieved.
So initially I was going to post an article entitled ‘How To Fix Bowman Baseball’ – but then thought better of it as that particular title stinks of an arrogant assumption on my part that Bowman Baseball is actually broken in the first place, and in need of fixing. This wasn’t the intention of the piece that I had originally set down to write, so I thought it might be a better idea to get my thoughts down in this ‘open letter’, and put it out there for you to either read or ignore as you see fit.
My love of the Rookie card goes back to the late 90’s when I first got into collecting and appreciating Baseball cards in general, but I feel that the landscape of Rookie collecting has become muddied with the introduction of the Prospect card into the Bowman brand.
Although a great many Rookie and Prospect collectors will have their own ideas or rules as to what a ‘Rookie’ card is – whether it’s to accept the branding of the ‘RC’ logo on a players card based upon their first year playing in the Majors, or whether it’s to accept their first officially produced Baseball card as a players ‘true’ Rookie release – there are many out there who are incredibly confused by what Rookie cards are available, and what they should be classed as, based upon when they are released and the card product they are released into. eBay listings don’t help either as every early card seems to be listed as a Rookie these days… but I digress!
I’ve been mulling over a possible solution or solutions to this issue, in an attempt to simplify the Rookie card collecting process. And for me it all starts with… Bowman Baseball!!
On a personal level I think that there are too many Bowman products. I’m not counting Bowman Sterling in this as it’s classed as a high-end release, so primarily it’s Bowman, Bowman Chrome and Bowman Draft that I feel are at issue.
In an ideal world I’d have Bowman Baseball released after the World Series (May has always seemed a bit too early to me). By moving the release date back you can ensure you capture the MAJORITY of the rookie cards for players who made their MLB début (with the possible exceptions of September call-ups) in the one release… And make it a giant release!! Make it the type of release that collectors will be waiting all year long to get their hands on!!
In order to facilitate the streamlining of the Bowman product I’d suggest the following –
1. Discontinue Bowman Chrome as a separate product and combine it with the single (larger, 500 card plus) Bowman release in October/November. You’ll be able to have the standard base and Chrome base sitting side by side as with the current Bowman Draft set
2. Remove the Prospect element from the main Bowman product and make the Bowman Draft set a Prospect-exclusive release, and put this out a few months before the main Bowman release
The benefit of these changes would be two-fold.
Firstly you’ll be able to put ALL current players and Rookies in one large set. This will make it much easier for collectors to recognise which product contains a player’s ‘true’ Rookie card without the confusion of a vast amount of Prospect cards thrown into the mix. You’ll still be able to include autographed rookie cards, refractor parallels and so on, so collectors can still chase these rarer, serially numbered parallels to their hearts content, if that’s their bag!
Just think of one single release exclusively dedicated to star players and Rookies!! With the right application and set design Bowman Baseball could stand up once again and proudly declare itself to be the one true ‘Home of the Rookie Card’!
Secondly, people still love to collect Prospects… So surely a Prospect only set would make perfect sense? I envisage that Bowman Draft would be a very similar product to how it is now, and occupy the niche where Topps Heritage Minors currently sits. In fact these two products would compliment each other really well – with Heritage bringing the old school feel to up and coming young players while Bowman Draft would have a more modern slant, mirroring the design of the main Bowman set.
Releasing this smaller set ahead of the main Bowman set would act as a teaser before the main event!! The shorter film before the main feature!!
Basically, collectors deserve a stand out Rookie card!
Sure, the Bowman Rookie might not be the most expensive Rookie out there on the secondary market but, with the strength of the Bowman brand behind it, it will be THE Rookie card that everyone will want in their collection!
Obviously I don’t know the first thing about the internal business of creating, manufacturing and distributing sports cards. There may be a whole host of issues that will go against the suggestions I’ve made above, such as scheduling limitations, contractual obligations, and so on.
And then there’s the issue of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’! I concede that Bowman Baseball is incredibly popular in each of it’s different permutations so you may not even see the need to make any changes to the brand… Which is fair enough!! However, it would be interesting if there’s any way that you could take some sort of poll as to how collectors feel about the Bowman releases and the status of the beloved Rookie card in general.
So, Topps!! Inane musings aside I truly believe that the Bowman brand is in need of a bit of a refresh! Whether it’s in the form of what I’ve suggested in this ‘open letter’, or in the form of another creative shift that ends up re-defining the Rookie card for years to come, something could, nay SHOULD, be done to put the Bowman Baseball Rookie card up where it belongs!
And it would be great if Topps thought the same way too!!
Bowman deserves it! The Rookie card deserves it! Collectors deserve it!
Thanks for taking the time to read this, it’s greatly appreciated!!
Andy Bates (Baseball Rookie Card Fan)