Friday, May 25, 2018

2018 Bowman Mania is an Utterly Boring Mania... and Represents Perfectly the Modern Day Hobby

Card collectors are a bit testy these days. At least according to card twitter. The source of all this antagonism seems to be the new Bowman product. Normally a non-controversial release, this year's product features the coveted Ohtnai signed flashy whatever card. The initial offering of product at retail outlets sold very quickly, leading to a new "mega box" release that seems to be driving everyone involved in this thing we do a little crazy. 

People complain that they can't find the mega boxes. They trash Topps for this weird, unannounced release. They hoard the boxes to open or resell. They trash other collectors for hoarding the boxes to open or resell. They mock collectors for wanting the stuff so badly. They ooh and aah over "hits" from the product. Bowman Mega Box opinions have become a big part of daily life on the card twitter stream. 

I've been doing some casual reading in old issues of Baseball Card and Tuff Stuff mags while watching the Brewers the past few nights. Issues from the early 1990s, when there were dozens of releases every year from a half dozen different card makers, each of them trying to catch the collecting world's fancy... it was a weird and wild time. And then I check twitter and read all of this about retail Bowman. And something dawned on me...

The modern hobby is an utter bore. 

The Topps monopoly has drained all of the creativity out of the business. Even innovative products like Topps Now or the Living Set are executed in a cripplingly dull way. The Now set is an idea I've ripped off for my own custom set, so it's a good idea, but they take no risks with the set. It's largely the same teams and players as in the base product with a few terribly-written sentences on the back. The living set is more substantial, but the idea is less interesting. And the 1953 design again? AGAIN? 

Topps flagship is as devoid of new ideas as it has ever been. Heritage feels lifeless and lazy. Stadium Club has some stunning photos, but little else. I was just paging through my Update 2017 binder and - my god - it was so boring. 

And so this is what we are left with... arguing about Bowman. BOWMAN. When was the last time anyone gave a shit about Bowman? 

I've tried to get excited about new product, and dutifully buy my flagship boxes each year, but looking back at this stuff, I'm left with such an empty feeling. What do these cards mean to me? Not much. They're just not any... fun. 

FUN! O lord, remember FUN??? Collectors, we have been deprived of fun for so long, we've devolved. Paging through my 1991 Topps binder is a BLAST. Remember Upper Deck SP inserts? Prime Times Two? Man, that was awesome. Ted Williams Card Co? Hell, it was a new take. Pacific? It sucked, mostly, but it sucked it its own weird way. Topps MBossed? What a big, bumpy, wacky try at something new. 

2018 Bowman Rookie of the Year favorites? (crickets)

Now, I don't want to make this seem like I'm putting anyone down who is buying Bowman, or having fun ripping it. I actually tried to pick some up this past month and would have had some fun opening it up. But I feel like the furor over this far outpaces the actual enthusiasm anyone feels for this product as a whole. We have so little to get excited about, so it's a rather middling product like this that starts a firestorm. 

I have almost no interest in buying in a box of Topps series 2 this year. Sure, the completist in me WANTS one... for no good reason other than to fill another binder that will depress me some afternoon this winter. Maybe I'm done with new stuff for now. Maybe until someone issues a set that is actually worth collecting.


  1. I've felt that way for a while..
    I've never cared about Bowman.. Though I am trying to put together the 1990 set..

    I just can't get excited over a product that has 60+ parallels that look so similar people are trying to figure out what exactly they have before they throw it away because it's not the big hit they want.

  2. I agree with everything here except for the "but little else" part of "Stadium Club has some stunning photos, but little else." But then I'm clearly a photography guy so anything that's so centered around and interested in good photography will be okay by me.

    1. Fair enough. SC is pretty much the one issue that remains interesting. But I just wish that set - or ANY set - would have something interesting on the backside.

  3. You wonder why I am chasing sets from the late 90s. I prefer ripping them and adding them anyday

  4. I agree on lack of creativity, but what I can't understand is the constant griping of others (mostly on twitter). Like you said, an unannounced autograph resulted in an uproar. It's been very odd to witness.

  5. "But I just wish that set - or ANY set - would have something interesting on the backside." You show me a set that does this, a team balanced checklist, and has a decent price point, then maybe I'll build another modern day set.
    Well written and on point.

  6. 90 percent of what I see on Twitter seems to be centered around Bowman. I still can't get over how insane this whole Megabox thing has gotten, and I've never seen anything like it. Basically all this madness over a card 99.9 percent of the people who buy said Megaboxes won't even pull.

    I agree with pretty much everything you said in this post, but I'm still holding out a small amount of hope -- there's a new set coming out in a couple months called Topps Big League. Looks like packs are 99 cents a piece with an original design (unlike Opening Day) and some fun inserts/subsets. Here's hoping.

  7. I haven't been in a big box store since the Megaboxes were released because I don't care.

    I wouldn't say the modern collecting scene is boring. Sure, I've grown bored with it, but I think anyone back into the card scene for a decade tends to get bored.

  8. I returned to the hobby in 2012 to find not much had changed. Last year soured me on new product. 2018 validated those feelings. I'm not the least bit excited for Stadium Club this year knowing it too, will be overpriced and basically unobtainable on my budget. Matt, thank you for expressing this collector's thoughts!!

  9. I just can't get too into Bowman. I don't want to chase after cards of a guy who MIGHT be good in 3 years. I want cards of someone who's good NOW. I don't think I'll ever be a big prospect collector. Just not my cup of tea.

  10. I got off the new card train about a decade ago. It's such an obvious money grab and ripoff now. The overwhelming odds are that you won't get anything like your money's worth when you buy new product now. I just but what I want off the secondary market.