2018 Bowman & Ohtani Mania!
Since I began collecting in late 1988, there has always been a “chase” associated with sports cards. That’s part of what makes collecting exciting. Collectors flock to shops and retail stores to pick up the latest product in hopes of hitting that big prospect or star in a low numbered variation or autograph. It is an annual event that regenerates itself every year because a new player or product emerges. It’s a never ending cycle so collectors are constantly trying to scratch that itch. It almost sounds like a negative thing when typed out like this but it has been ONE of the basic foundations on which my passion for collecting was built; the never-ending, relentless, often unsuccessful chase for the white whale of the moment.
Some people don’t get bogged down or “trapped”, as they would call it, by the chase, which is another great thing about the hobby. You can collect in any manner you choose and it’s really nobody’s business. You do what makes you happy when it comes to hobbies. Those collectors often look to eBay to simply purchase the card they want instead of ripping. For me, although eBay is an easy place to find exactly what you are looking for, it can take away some of the excitement that comes with the unknown of opening packs. Each collector is different but in most cases, I am less excited about a single eBay purchase than I am when I pull a card from the depths of a pack that I purchased. I suppose it sort of feels like more of an accomplishment to pull the hit rather than buy it. But again, each collector has their own thoughts about the ongoing debate of packs vs. singles.
There is always a risk vs reward factor that has to be weighed when investing in packs, boxes, cases and breaks. That factor is weighed by considering odds, cost, retail vs. hobby, and the understanding that 75% of the cards you pull are not going to mean a lot to you from a personal perspective unless you are building sets. It is the ultimate “Catch-22” for collectors. Do I go out and spend $200 on a box of 2018 Bowman and hope to pull that Ronald Acuna autograph or for I drop $400 on eBay to guarantee picking it up. It is easy to twist in my mind that a $200 box is more economical because if I don’t pull the Acuna, I am still going to net 240 cards, 1 autograph, 1 Bowman Sterling card and 1 Prospect Atomic Refractor. And I almost never spend that kind of money for one card. So it is a $200 risk that has a 90% chance of failing. I know those are not good odds but I always justify it with the other 240 cards that I get.
As I mentioned, this has been going on since I started collecting in the late ‘80’s. Back then, we didn’t have eBay or the internet or message boards or Twitter or FaceBook groups. We had packs at Wal-Mart, K-Mart, our LCS, or wherever else we could find wax. Our options were limited to that, and the off chance that one of our friends pulled the card and we could work out some massive trade deal. That usually didn’t happen because your friends didn’t just flip chase cards to you for pennies on the dollar. We used Beckett like the Bible and you either ponied up the cash or you traded a stack of cards that were likely 150% of the value of the one you wanted. It was our first introduction into the art of business deals and speculation.
It started in 1989 with Ken Griffey Jr.’s Upper Deck Rookie. This was a chase that I went on for a total of 28 years. I didn’t have a lot of local options for Upper Deck in 1989 as Wal-Mart didn’t carry it and my LCS was 30 miles away. At 12, I couldn’t easily talk my parents into driving 30 miles to spend a whopping $1 on baseball card packs to try and find Jr. when they could take me to Wal-Mart and I could find him for .45 cents in Donruss. I lost the argument of how special that Upper Deck card was almost every time. The few times I did pick up Upper Deck, I came up empty. As I got older, and could afford full boxes, I bought them here or there off of eBay in an effort to find that elusive card. I was given a complete set by my wife several years ago but that itch to pull one never went away.
I eventually grew weary of the eBay box chase because I lost my trust in the boxes being unsearched. That set was notorious for being searchable from a collation standpoint, though I never figured out the secret. So I sat on my complete set for years waiting on the right time to try again and that time finally came this past year. My LCS picked up a case of 1989 Upper Deck and put a $99 price tag on the box. This was a good price and I knew with 100% certainty that the boxes weren’t searched based on the owner’s purchase and his integrity.
I bought that box and sat down at my kitchen table, feeling just like a kid again. I turned off all the noise and just sat their opening 1989 Upper Deck packs in search of one of the cards that had eluded me for decades. I found one copy in that box and it felt just like the Christmas morning when I finally got a Nintendo.
I had a genuine feeling of happiness and a sense of accomplishment with that card. I put it directly in a one touch and continued what equated to a moment of silence in honor of the pull. It was truly a spiritual experience for me, which may seem odd to some. But for me, I felt this movement in my heart and soul that gave me a moment where I felt hobby completeness. Those moments are hard to find and I soaked this one in.
Ultra-PRO UV One Touch Magnetic Card Holder Holds one 35 pt. card. 2-7/8 x 4-5/16″ (O.D.) Gold magnet. Diamond corners. Frosted border. 35 pt. Card Magnetic One Touch.
Other Chase Cards
Aside from the 1989 Upper Deck Griffey, there have been other “Chase” cards that haven’t had quite that significance but definitely made waves that could be felt throughout the hobby during those years.
In 1990, there was Kevin Maas. If you weren’t around during that time, I can only compare it to Aaron Judge last year. Maas didn’t have the season that Judge had but he sure started strong and turned the hobby on its side for a while. These are relatively worthless to the non-junk wax collector today.
Then in 1991, we were introduced to Phil Plantier. He had a longer career than Maas but wasn’t much more productive. These are worth even less than the Maas cards in 2018.
Also in 1991, the chase for Donruss Elite began. This lasted a few years but nothing compared to that first year. Elite cards were numbered to 10,000 but the odds of pulling one made them feel more like 1/1’s. The closest I ever came to pulling an Elite card was a Robin Yount Legend Series from that ‘91 set that I found in a box I ripped in 2008. You can find these on eBay today for an average of $25 if not graded. The high grade versions are a bit more pricey.
Upper Deck introduced collectors to autographs in the early 90’s with Ted Williams, Nolan Ryan, Reggie Jackson, Joe Montana and others. I never pulled one of these either. These Reggie’s don’t come up often but when they do, you can expect to drop at least $150.
Then there were the Finest Refractors during the mid 90’s. I bought a box of ’94 Finest just to try to find a cool refractor. These range pretty heavily in value depending on condition and player but some are in the hundreds!
Autographs were becoming more prevalent by the late 90’s and were taking over the “chase” category. Not all autographs are created equal and this Manning will cost you $4,000 or more in good condition.
Who can forget the Alex Gordon card from 2006 Topps Baseball? It reminded me of the Billy Ripken fiasco in ’89 Fleer without the obscenity. It wasn’t supposed to be in the set but a few made it out, making the card rare. In their haste to try and stop it from appearing, they also released some blank cards and cards with the image of Gordon cut completely out. What a strange chase this one was but I do remember picking up 2006 Topps at Wal-Mart on a whim just because of that card. The graded version of the full card will cost around $500 but the blank card and cut outs are also in the $50-$100 range.
Companies like Hidden Treasures capitalized on blaster box sales by advertising the chase for a 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth that I’m not sure has ever been pulled. These were $19.99 at retail stores and can still be found online for $25.
Two years ago a pair of teammates from the Dallas Cowboys made the football card market explode! These guys have stayed hot and are still $200+ in most cases.
Last year, Aaron Judge did his best Kevin Maas impersonation but carried it through the full season by breaking Mark McGwire’s rookie home run record. He cooled off a little at times but you will still shell out triple digits to get autographs of this Bronx Bomber.
Ultra-PRO Mini-Snap Case. Holds one 20 pt. card. 2-5/8 x 3-5/8 x 3/16″. Crystal-clear, no PVC, acid-free material. Snaps closed.
This brings us to 2018 and what has to be the wildest card chase of all time; Shohei Ohtani. The Japanese Superstar Hitter and Pitcher has made an unprecedented splash in the baseball card industry. We have never seen prices like these and I don’t know if we ever will again but I’m sure my dad was saying that about 1986 Jose Canseco Donruss cards. He was touted as a player that could do it all and he has shown that ability so far this year with a 3-1 record and 3.58 ERA as a pitcher while hitting .348 with 5 home runs as a hitter. If he keeps up numbers like this, his prices will only continue to be astronomical. Let’s take a look at some of the current eBay prices for Ohtani.
This 2018 Bowman recently sold for $1,125. An Atomic Refractor recently sold for $6,301, a Gold parallel for $6,256 and an Orange for $13,300. The highest sale on eBay for Ohtani so far is the Red numbered to 5 that sold for $55,400. Let that sink in!
Are you a fan of Gypsy Queen? This Black and White version sold for $1,500.
A Panini Diamond King recently sold for $400.
The RPA version of Diamond Kings sold for $268.
Yet another version from Diamond Kings sold for $535.
The Donruss Flagship autograph sold for $270.
This Leaf Pearl sold for $411.
I could go on but I think the picture is pretty clear. These numbers are staggering for a player that has pitched in 6 games so far and has 69 Major League at bats. But this is the true definition of a chase and the collector base is going nuts for it. I will not pay that kind of money to pick up a single autograph but I am buying packs and boxes whenever I can find a good deal and trying my luck. I did so with Bowman recently and while Ohtani is hot, he is not the only player that can be found in this set that is bringing major coin. I mentioned Ronald Acuna above but DJ Peters, Brendan McKay, Christian Pache, and Hunter Greene are just a few of the other players pushing big numbers. If you pull any sort of Atomic Refractor auto or low serial numbered auto, you have a pretty hot card.
Ultra-PRO UV One Touch Magnetic Card Holder. Holds one 180 pt. card. 2-7/8 x 4-5/16″ (O.D.). Crystal-clear, No PVC, acid-free material. Gold magnet. Diamond corners. Frosted border.
Bowman is being delivered in 3 main forms; Jumbo, Hobby and Retail Blasters. I have opened one Jumbo, one Hobby and multiple Blasters. The Jumbo has 3 autographs while Hobby has 1 and there are no guarantees with the Blaster. Each Blaster I have opened has had a serial number or colored parallel so they haven’t been all bad. They are really hard to find though with many of my friends on Twitter remarking that they haven’t found any at their local retailers. The set is broken down by three checklists; 1-100 being the base set, BP1-150 being the Bowman Prospects and BCP1-150 being the Bowman Chrome Prospects.
Let’s take a look at some of the more prominent cards I’ve pulled in my chase for the Ohtani or Acuna.
I found Acuna in both the Prospects set and the Chrome Prospects.
Another hot Braves Rookie is Ozzie Albies.
The hottest prospect for the Reds and the cover athlete for the set is Hunter Greene.
My favorite non-Brave prospect is Vladimir Guerrero Jr. I loved collecting his pop so I’m going to try and load up on Jr. as well.
All of the inserts are chrome and they each have a unique look. The Bowman Birthday has a real retro feel as it celebrates the year certain players were born. Each hobby box includes a Bowman Sterling like the bottom right Jeren Kendall. I give the inserts an A in this set.
Here is a green parallel numbered to 99.
The blue parallel is numbered to 499.
I really like the look of the Chrome Canary Yellow and it is numbered to 75.
Gold is numbered to 50.
Blue Shimmer is numbered to 150 and looks very nice in person.
Here is a look at one of the Atomic Refractors that are super hot in this set!
Most of the autographs are on card. Based on some of the recent problems I have seen with initials and other tiny markings that pass as autographs today, this was a refreshing pull.
My best pull so far hasn’t even been an autograph. This Ohtani Purple that is numbered to 250 has a value of about $50 right now. His cards are super hot!
While I haven’t pulled either of my white whales (is it possible to have 2) with an Ohtani or Acuna autograph, I have thoroughly enjoyed 2018 Bowman. I have typically not been a huge Bowman collector as I have a difficult time keeping up with every prospect for every team but this set has some big names that I am fully aware of. We are still very early in the baseball season and sometimes players can come out of nowhere later in the year or even 2-3 years down the road from the Bowman set. That’s the intrigue in collecting Bowman and this year feels a little different for me.
What do you think about 2018 Bowman?
Ultra-Pro® Toploader 2-3/4 x 3-7/8″ (inside). Imprinted with “Rookie Card” in Gold Foil. Holds standard sized card.