Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Box Break and Review: 2006 Bowman

Photo lovingly ripped off of eBay
Two Boxes of 2006 Bowman baseball (paid $68 and $65).
24 packs per box, 10 cards per pack (MSRP $2.99/pack)

The Details

Chiptoppers: One "Scouting Report" checklist.

Base Set: 231 cards
Broken Down by Short-Print Scheme:
Short Set ("Reds" and "Greens"): 220 cards
* Autographed Rookie Cards ("Greens"): 11 cards (1:82)

# Gold: 330 cards (one-per-pack)
# Blue: 330 cards (1:8/packs, numbered to 500)
# White: 330 cards (1:32, numbered to 120)
# Red: 330 cards (1:3750, one-of-one)
# Press Plates: 330 cards (1:588)
Blue Autographed Rookie Cards: 11 cards (1:225)
White Autographed Rookie Cards: 11 cards (1:1020)
Red Autographed Rookie Cards: 11 cards (1:11453. one-of-one)
Autographed Rookie Card Variation: two cards (1:1150)

Prospects ("Blues"): 124 cards (two-per-pack)
Broken Down by Short-Print Scheme:
Short Set: 110 cards
* Prospect Autographed Cards: 14 cards (1:62)

Blue Prospect Autographed Cards: 14 cards (1:170)
White Prospect Autographed Cards: 14 cards (1:750)
Red Prospect Autographed Cards: 14 cards (1:80208, one-of-one)
Prospect Chrome Cards: 110 cards (two-per-pack)
$ Prospect Chrome Refractors: 110 cards (1:36, numbered to 500)
$ Prospect Chrome X-fractors: 110 cards (1:72, numbered to 250)
$ Prospect Chrome Blue Refractors: 110 cards (1:118)
$ Prospect Chrome Gold Refractors: 110 cards (1:355)
$ Prospect Chrome Orange Refractors: 110 cards (1:710)
$ Prospect Chrome Red Refractors: 110 cards (1:3000)
$ Prospect Chrome Superfractors: 110 cards (1:15425, one-of-one)

* Odds of finding an Autographed Rookie Card or a Prospect Autographed Card: 1:24
# Parallels include all 220 base set cards and the 110 Prospects "inserts"
$ Overall odds of finding a refractor (of any flavor): 1:24

NONE (not including the autographs that are part of the base and Prospects sets)

The Pulls.

Each pack of 10 cards contains:
Four base set cards (reds and greens)
Two Prospect "inserts" (blues)
Two Bowman Chrome Prospect parallels
One Gold parallel
and either an additional parallel, autograph, or a fifth base set card.

Base Set (including variations): 114 of 231 (49.35%)
No doubles
Broken Down by Short-Print Scheme:
Short Set: 114 of 220 (51.82%)
Autographed Rookie Cards: 0 of 11

16 Gold
2 Blue (C. Delgado, L. Gonzalez)

Prospects: 49 of 124 (39.52%)
Broken Down by Short-Print Scheme:
Short Set: 47 of 110 (43.64%)
Prospect Autographed Cards: 1 of 14 (7.14%, L. Broadway)

8 Gold Prospects
1 Blue Prospect (E. Bellorin)
1 White Prospect (K. Morales)
46 Prospect Chrome Cards (One Double)
1 Prospect Chrome Refractors (J. Vanden Berg)

The Review.

So much for The Hobby's renewed commitment to set building, eh? Bowman used to be one of the only products that featured dozens of true rookie cards, all in a base set that could actually be collected. No more. Eleven base set cards, and fourteen Prospect "inserts" come only one way: autographed and short-printed.

Speaking of true rookie cards, where the hell are they? This is Bowman, the "Home of the Rookie Card," right? Looking at the checklist, there are only two players who fit The Hobby's "Rookie Card" definition (Red Sox pitcher Craig Hansen and Mariners catcher Kenji Johjima). Now, there are 29 cards in the "green" subset, and all sport the MLBPA "Rookie Card" icon. Unfortunately, they are all "parenth-RCs:" That is, they all feature players whose true rookie cards were issued in pre-2006 products. Amongst these are "(RC's)" of Hanley Ramirez, Francisco Lirano, and Adam Wainwright. Also, all eleven of the Autographed Rookie Cards, including the highly regarded Ryan Zimmerman, are parenth-RCs.

KC's saviour?  Maybe.
The draw of this set has always been the Prospects and leading the way is, of course, Alex Gordon's first rookie card, errr..., "first year player" card. As with most Bowman sets, the checklist stars dozens of minor-leaguers, whose "1st Bowman Card" will more than likely be their last. There are 124 Prospects in all, 14 of which are autographed.

I do find it curious that the Prospect "inserts" (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) and the Chrome Prospects were seeded into packs at the same rate (2:1). Which begs the question: Will collectors be willing to pay the "Chrome Premium," when the regular cards are produced in roughly the same amount? In other words, will Alex Gordon's Chrome Prospect card book the same as his regular card? Also curious: the Chrome Prospects only parallel the 110 non-autographed cards. I guess Topps is holding those 14 Autographed Prospects for the release of regular BowChro.

The Bottom Line:

What effect, if any, the MLBPA's new "Rookie Card" guidelines, and the addition of the autographs will have on the long-term viability on the Bowman brand remains to be seen. Will it continue to be the "Home of the Rookie Card?" Or is it destined to become just another set with dozens of short-prints? This reviewer fears the latter.

Now, on to the collation. I busted two boxes -- which should be all you need to build most of the base, Prospects and Chrome Prospects sets -- and each delivered as promised. Neither box, by itself, yielded any base set or Prospects doubles (although collectively they did), but I did get two Camilo Vazquez Chromes out of the first box. The first box yielded none of the "Big Three" (Hansen, Johjima, or Gordon); however in the second I pulled a Hansen and a Gordon Prospect.

The worst autograph I have ever seen on a baseball card.
Each box yielded the promised autograph with the first bearing an Autographed Prospect of White Sox 2005 first-rounder Lance Broadway. The other box had a Rookie Autograph of Scott Olsen. Olsen went 6-4 for the Marlins' AA Club, before getting a September call-up last year -- which allowed him to be included as a "Rookie." Ho-hum. By the way, Olsen has to have the worst autograph I think I have ever seen on a baseball card. Geez, and I thought I had lousy penmanship!

Each box had 16 base set and eight Prospect Gold parallels; two base and one Prospect Blue parallels; one White parallel; and a Chrome Refractor of some sort. Being that there is no game-used element to this year's Bowman, the Gold cards are back to being printed on the same stock as the regular cards. The second box had a Gold Alex Gordon (Yay!), while the first had a White card of Angels Prospect (and Cuban National Team defector) Kendry Morales -- who is probably the second best prospect in the "Prospects" subset. The two Refractors I pulled were of Phillies Catcher Jon Vanden Berg and an X-Fractor of Tigers Second Baseman Chris Maples. Vanden Berg was picked up from the Brewers in the Rule V draft and Maples hit .225 in AA year. Like I said before, "1st Bowman Card" and likely the last.

Product Rating: 2 1/2 Gumsticks (out of five)

Do I recommend this product?

Two boxes should be enough to build most of the base and Prospects short-sets. And between the base and Prospects sets, there are only 25 autographs to chase after. Of course, only is a relative term. I still don't understand why Topps decided to monkey around with a product that really didn't need to be monkeyed around with. Subtract the autographs and the Chrome cards, and 2006 Bowman would easily be a Four Gumsitck product.

Production Figures

Based on pack insertion ratios, stated production figures, and set sizes -- and assuming that all cards in a particular set were printed in equal quantities -- I have calculated the following production runs:

Base Set: 28,000 copies
Prospect Inserts: 22,500
Chrome Prospects : 22,000
Gold Parallels: 3750
Autographed Rookies and Prospect Autographs: 2065
Hansen and Johjima Autographed Variations: 540

...and another thing

Where is the "Box Sticker?" You know, that sticker that Topps used to include in each waxbox that proudly stated: "STICK THIS ON YOUR COMPLETED SET'S BOX." (or words to that effect) I guess Topps really doesn't care if you collect Bowman as a set anymore.

Gordo-mania Running Wild!

All apologies to the horse.
Well, we now know the name of the nitwit who paid $7500 for the Alex Gordon Topps card. Yep, it was Keith Olbermann.

Hey, if Olbermann wants to throw down seven-and-a-half large on the next Billy Ripken "Fuck Face" card, that's his choice. I wish I had that kind of loot. But am I the only one who finds it a little strange that this card was purchased by a guy who used to be on the Topps payroll?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that Topps and KO are in some grand conspiracy. But it is kind of strange.

Monday, May 22, 2006

What I Got at the Card Show: 5/20/06

Site: Westchester County Center; White Plains, NY.

I decided to pull a roadie to White Plains, New York this weekend for a card show. It had been almost five years since I'd been to the White Plains show, and I had nothing to do this weekend. Sounded like a good way to kill an otherwise boring Saturday afternoon.

White Plains is kind of like the Ft. Washington show, but roughly half the size. Another difference is the venue. Unlike the generic Ft. Washington Expo Center, this show is held in a beautiful WPA-era mini-arena/convention center, right off the Bronx River Parkway. Pretty neat place for a show. Thank God Expo Center is closing soon.

Many of the Ft. Washington regulars also set up here, with a few locals sprinkled in for good measure. Although I must say that there are probably more New York area dealers here, than there are Philly area dealers at Ft. Washington.

A had $200 in my wallet, and here's what I got:

A box of 2006 Bowman (Paid $65)

Man, is 2006 Bowman flying off the shelves, or what? This is my second box of '06 Bowman, and given the structure of the product, you'll have to buy two boxes to come even close to completing the short set. The dealer I bought it from said that he had already sold six-cases of Hobby in the first three days, and was well into his seventh! You can chalk up the demand to one man: Alex Gordon. Looks like Gordo-mania is running wild in The Hobby, brother.

I had already cracked open a hobby box, so I was looking for an HTA. After all, you get two autographs in each HTA box. Unfortunately, that second autograph is not from the base set, but rather from an HTA-only insert. Since there really are no other differences between hobby and HTA, do yourself a favor and stick with hobby boxes.

Albert Pujols 2001 Donruss The Rookies Rookie Diamond King ($80)

Yes, I overpaid for this card. But I needed it to complete my 2001 Donruss master set, and I just had to have it. This particular card was randomly inserted into every fifth Donruss The Rookies factory set, and because of this, you don't see many of these broken up for singles. I just couldn't help myself.

Speaking of Pujols RCs, the same dealer also had another one of his cards that I had never seen before, and on my wantlist: his 2001 Fleer Futures Update RC. He also wanted $80 for it.

Ryan Howard 2003 Donruss Elite Extra Edition ($25, # to 900)

Now my Ryan Howard RC collection is complete. I got his Diamond King Update card a couple of weeks ago for $12, and now his Donruss E3. For $5 below Beckett HI no less! Horray for me!

Ronny Cedeno 2004 Flair Class of '04 ($5, # to 699)

I found this card in the same stack as the Howard. The only reason I bought it was to fill out my set. Five bucks is probably more than this card will ever be worth anyway. I mean, come on. It's Ronny Fucking Cedeno!

Total Spent on Cards: $175
Admission and Parking: $11
Bridge and Turnpike Tolls: $15
Grand Total: $201

Friday, May 19, 2006

2006 Bowman: 1st Impressions

Just bought a box of the new Bowman (paid $68). I'm busting it tonight, and I'll have a complete box collation tomorrow.

First impressions of the new Bowman: First off, Bowman has gone the way of its Draft Pick counterpart, and is now "bundled" with Bowman Chrome. This is great if you collect both Bowman and BowChro. Unfortunately, I don't. I have never opened a pack of BowChro in my life and have no intention to. Yet, in order to collect the set I want -- and that would be regular Bowman -- one-fifth of the cards in the box I am about to crack, (three-in-ten if you include the one-per-pack "Gold" parallels) are of no use to me. Gee, thanks Topps!

We keep hearing from "The Hobby Powers That Be" of the need to revive set collecting. Set builders (and I count myself among the ranks) are the backbone of The Hobby, and will remain so. While Upper Deck has been taking the set building revival to heed -- witness the excellent, collector friendly '06 UD and Fleer sets -- Topps goes in the opposite direction with '06 Bowman.

Bowman was a rarity: a rookie-focused product without short-prints. In other words, it was product with a crap-load of rookie cards, and you can actually afford to build a complete set. Not anymore. 25 of the cards come only one way: pre-autographed, and seeded at the rate of one-per-box (two-per in HTA). It's one thing to say that you're encouraging set collecting, it's quite another to issue sets that are able to actually be collected.

With that in mind, I do not have high hopes for this box. Hopefully, I'll be pleasantly surprised. Probably not.

Gordo-mania 2!

Alex Gordon card goes for $7500 on eBay.

How much are those Billy Ripken cards worth again?


We haven't seen anything like this in The Hobby since the Billy Ripken "Fuck Face" controversy.

Look, we all know how much the Royals suck. And we all know that Gordon is going to be called up to Kansas City sometime this season. And when the inevitable happens, we can all be assured that Topps will be eager to print a legit "rookie card" for either series II or Topps Traded. Why then are people stupid enough to throw down $2550 for a card that five months from now will be worth, at most $10?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

...and this time I mean it!

Yes, I'm back. After two years, I've decided to revive Stale Gum. It will be everything you remember about the old site, and a few new wrinkles as well.

Chris Harris