Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Breaking Even on Bowman Buzz

Sometimes it's not bad to sit on the sidelines and watch the action.
In the current hobby landscape you've got the group of collectors who are right on top of every new release and then there's there's the rest of us who let things like the Bowman craze pass us by.
Baseball and hockey cards compete for the top two spots in what we rip around here, but what usually pushes hockey ahead is the more level-headed approach taken when new product arrives.
Hockey doesn't have pre-rookie cards and dozens of complicated ways to determine what is a guy's best, first card.
Baseball is the only sport where a rookie this year had his best "rookie" card four years ago, which is how the prospectors thrive. That's the main reason I've never been one of the crowd who goes nuts over the annual Bowman releases or any collegiate off-brand.
When the 2010 version hit with Stephen Strasburg's latest first card, prices went insane despite long odds of pulling any worthwhile "-fractors." This year's set has Bryce Harper - Strasburg's future battery mate - in his latest first cards.
Harper has impressed many in his limited minor league action, and the Washington Nationals front office went out of its way to already say he won't see big league action in 2011. Fair enough, but collectors remain undeterred and set the pre-sell world on fire to be ready for 2011 Bowman's release.
What the heck, I decided to check out the fuss on a limited scale: Two blasters from Target on a Wednesday afternoon. At $19.99 each, they totaled out to $43.78 with tax.
Sixteen packs and no Harpers later, it was hard to tell whether I had anything impressive. So, it became time to test the buzz theory: Are prospectors/collectors really interested in these cards if the name Harper isn't on the card?
Two hours after ripping, I posted nine different auctions featuring three singles and six lots. The lots were broken down by base set, base set prospects, base gold, mixed inserts, base chrome prospects and Bowman's Best. The singles were green, blue and orange parallels.
Follow the link to see specifics of the lots.
The auctions ended today with sales on seven of nine, only the Ryan Braun blue and Thomas Layne orange parallels didn't have buyers.
The action underwhelmed me, leading to a new theory: There's so much of this product around right now that the hot and heavy prospectors can shop selectively to find deals. Perhaps that made me fortunate to sell what I did.
The big picture of investment vs. reward worked out this way:
Blaster sticker price plus tax $43.78 vs. actual sale prices $43.26.
Or, this way:
Blaster sticker price $39.98 vs. actual sale prices minus eBay fees $39.89
Or, this way:
Blaster prices plus tax $43.78 vs. actual sale prices minus eBay fees $39.89.
The third comparison is the most accurate bottom line, despite the four-dollar loss.
The real bottom line is reassurance that prospecting is not up my alley. Give me true rookies for baseball, even if they don't reach the stratosphere in value like the pre-rookies do.
Better yet, make Major League Baseball put an appearance requirement in its license the way the NHL does to definitively declare a rookie card a rookie card.

Campana's Corner is written by Dan Campana, a media consultant, former newspaper reporter and longtime collector living in the Chicago suburbs with a sports-minded 6-year-old and an understanding wife.

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