How Bowman Chrome Is Sucking My Will To Collect

Let’s get one thing straight: I hate Bowman Chrome. I think it’s done irreparable damage to “Thee Hobby” in general and, specifically, my interest in collecting baseball cards. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way but, given that the product seems to sell out every single year, I’m in the minority purchase-power wise. So let’s take a look at how this rant was born, shall we?

I feel like he just reached into my wallet and is throwing a 100MPH wad of cash.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking. “If you hate Bowman Chrome so much, why are you supporting it by buying those tempting little value packs?” The short answer: I’m a hypocrite. In fact, I bought these 3 value packs at my local Target- a store I most certainly should be boycotting due to their financial support of the continued legalization of discrimination. Secondly, I haven’t spent any time (or money) on cards in almost 2 months. Jon opened our case of Topps Chrome in my absence and I only had time to break our case of Topps Update and run out the door. Bottom line: it’s been a rough few weeks and I needed a distraction.

“So, what’s the damage?” you’re likely asking at this point. Well, $27 + absurd Chicago sale tax (highest in the country- we’re #1!) later, I ended up with the following:

Only one of these "refractors" has any element of refractorness. And no, it's not the good one. And yes, the Zawadzki is the good one.

One base refractor per value pack. Fair enough. I wish I didn’t have to flip 2 of the 3 over to figure out they were refractors, but I’ve got an open mind. I’m sure there’s a great reason for it. Just as I’m sure there’s no physical way to scan these effing cards because they buckle so hard. I should donate them to my local pizza joint to use in their pizza boxes to keep the top of the box from touching the pizza.

You guys do know what I’m talking about there, right?

Anyway, let’s get to what really matters here: prospects! So many prospects! Any one of the forthcoming youngsters could be the next Roy Halladay or Chuck McElroy! Shoot for the stars, kids!

These are even more hideous in person.

Boy, it’s hard to read those names, isn’t it? Guess what. It doesn’t matter if you can read their names. These guys are both (semi-)literally and figuritively no-names. Speaking of which…

Which of these guys will look hilariously small on his USA card when he ends up 'roid raging on the Gatorade machine in AA?

The USA card addition this year does nothing for me? Know why? Because I have some sort of memory.

“Memory, you ask? What does memory have to do with the sweet shiny futuregold that is Bowman Chrome? All I can remember is how I’ll need to remember where these cards are when it comes time to put my kids through college!”

Ah, yes. I see you have a memory too. But your memory probably looks something like this:

Gem Effing Mint. Almost.

Harvard or Yale, Billy?

Yes, I know that card isn’t worth much any more but, for a short time, it had some real value. The point is, the memory of this card and its once-high value is selective at best and insidious at worst. Because I remember more than just this sweet USA dreamboat.

I remember this.

Wishin' you were Robin Ventura?

 And how about this gem?

Wishin' you were Charles Johnson?

Are Charles Nagy and Phil Nevin total scrubs? No. They made it to the majors and had real careers as professional ballplayers. But they have no value in the collecting world. In fact, of all the USA cards ever produced, only that McGwire ever had a value in the high single digits. Sure, it was the junk wax era, but are 1999 Bowman Chrome singles worth any more than 1989 Topps singles? Maybe… if you could find a buyer. But the market size for those two sets is comparable.

What I contend, then, is that we are in the midst of The New Junk Wax Era. No, in fact, I’ll go so far as to name it creatively: The Junk Propect Era. I’m well aware that I sound like a curmudgeon pining for the good ole’ days and all that- and I’m even more aware that my sentiments are old hat for many of our fellow cardbloggers. But in the wake of the rookie rush of the junk wax era, card companies appeared to learn their lesson and stopped overproducing everything… and began overproducing rookies (and, later, non-rookie prospects). The result is not just the devaluation of particular cards but the erosion of the very term “rookie card.”

A common rebutt <pause for giggles> to this line of thinking is that it’s “not all about the money” and I couldn’t agree more. But the fact of the matter is that dropping some hard-unemploymented cash down the drain saps my interest in dropping that cash down again. I don’t “collect” worthless rookies. I collect cards I like. So the lesson I should take home here is that, with the proliferation of the junk prospect in modern wax, I should simply stop buying new wax. Of course, that’s a lesson the lack of proliferation of money in my wallet might have taught me ages ago… right now it’s full of some pretty sweet George Wasuington rookies.

Point is, this is an expensive hobby and the only way many of us can afford to partake is to resell the unwanted portions of our breaks. And the problem is that I truly want to believe. I want to believe that I’m involved in a hobby that offers a fair value for our troubles. Profit on every box? Of course not- model airplane builders don’t expect to sell their completed models for a profit. The fun is in the hunt. But that fun has a certain value to it. And when the cost of the fun exceeds the value of the fun by a laughable margin, one has to simply put the brakes on. And that’s where Bowman Chrome leaves me. Broke.

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