Two quotes I live by in the baseball card hobby: “Collect what you like,” and “There’s a product for everyone.” But what happens when you can no longer afford to collect what you like?
Case in point: 2020 Bowman. If my collecting habits were baseball card releases, Bowman would be my flagship. Is it my favorite? No, but it’s the rock for my collection year after year. I love opening boxes, looking at the prospects that are included each year, and enjoying the “hits” when pulled.
My Personal Connection to Bowman
Bowman was the first ever hobby box I opened. It was 1998, and I had just finished my sophomore year in high school. That summer I turned 16 and acquired freedom: a drivers license. No longer was I stuck in my no stoplight hometown of 800 habitants in rural Illinois. Mom wasn’t my taxi to the “big city” that boasted a Wal-Mart and TWO McDonald’s locations.
A 30-minute drive to a local card shop became a weekly adventure in the summer of ‘98 and my love of baseball cards returned after a 5-year absence. I was also working at the local IGA grocery store earning money for gas and picking up stacks of baseball cards each week.
One day I pulled the trigger. This trip wasn’t going to be spent digging through the quarter boxes for copies of Mickey Morandini and Jeff Blauser Cubs cards. No, I was going to buy a hobby box of 1998 Bowman. I had just started an account on some new online web auction called eBay with the WebTV that was gifted to me earlier in the year.
Remember Ruben Mateo?
Rookie cards were still a thing since the last time I collected baseball cards. The new names were Ruben Mateo, Eddie Yarnall, Ryan Anderson and Darnell McDonald.
And since 1998, I’ve had a love affair with Bowman baseball cards. In 2006 or 2007 I attempted to put together the run of modern Bowman sets already having boxed sets of 1989 and 1990 Bowman. The sets were tough to build on my small market radio station income as a 24-year old.
One Card for Hundreds – Not Gonna Do It
One lesson was learned putting together those Bowman sets almost 15 years ago. Don’t trade hot cards for a stack of commons. That’s important for the One Million Cubs Project and why I typically turn down the one hot card for 500 commons trades.
In 2008, my professional life took a turn and baseball cards no longer were a hobby. I also needed some extra money, and that 2001 Upper Deck Albert Pujols rookie card would have been nice to have to flip for some extra cash. Alas, it had been traded for a stack of Bowman commons that bore names such as Dwaine Bacon, Jeff Goldbach, and Pat Cline.
Bowman became a favorite again when I returned to the hobby a few years later in 2012 or 2013. But there were some new products that really caught my eye like Allen & Ginter and Topps Archives. Still, I enjoyed opening the new packs of Bowman much like Topps flagship has a dedicated following.
Hobby Box Prices Have Exploded
By 2017 I was in the rip and flip stage of the hobby buying cases at a time. My case price for 2017 Bowman – $775. The hobby case price right now for 2020 Bowman as it’s set to be released in a couple weeks (after being delayed): $2,950.
It’s the Jasson Dominguez effect and will be interesting to see where his base 1st Bowman cards will sell during release week. Dominguez is a New York Yankees prospect from Dominican Republic, and just turned 17 in February.
But there’s a product for everyone, right? Yes, of course. That is the great thing about the hobby in 2020. Lower budget releases exist such as Topps Opening Day and Topps Big League. Topps flagship is a great buy. There are hit-based products for the high rollers. Topps literally has a release for every type of collector at every budget level.
Why Am I Upset?
So, why am I upset that I can no longer afford to collect what I like – Bowman hobby boxes? Nostalgia and human nature. Bowman takes me back to that summer of ’98. It’s a reminder of how great freedom felt getting behind the wheel of a car and leaving the house on my own. At the same time, it’s the harsh reality of capitalism. Sometimes what we want is not wanted by others. Other times what we want is now wanted by thousands upon thousands of other collectors that are willing to pay more hence driving up hobby box prices to obscene amounts.
As much as I dislike not picking up a few hobby boxes of 2020 Bowman, at least we have retail Bowman. It scratches the itch for Bowman baseball cards. A blaster box for $20…if you can find them. In my opinion, as a Bowman collector and not a prospector, I suggest buying retail Bowman over hobby boxes at the current price points. The odds are stacked against you pulling a shiny chrome autograph, but there are paper retail autographs that are available at much better odds.
Bowman hobby boxes are not worth the price tag of $250, and it upsets me they are that high. In the end, I am okay with that and you can find me opening retail blaster boxes of Bowman baseball cards later this month.