Category Archives: Ryan Howard

How Rare Is It Really?

Because it’s a nearly a four-hour drive to see my dad, I only see him a few times a year. When preparing for these visits, I frequently make it a point to bring a few of the latest acquisitions to my collection. 2012 Triple Threads LuzinskiI do this in part because although he collects model trains instead of baseball cards, he played a large role in the collection I originally built during my teen years. Just as noteworthy, he is a Phillies fan and as a collector he generally appreciates the vintage and relatively rare modern cards I choose to share with him. During such a visit at the end of 2012, I showed him my Greg Luzinski 2012 Topps Triple Threads Autograph Relics, #TTAR-161. While examining it, he couldn’t help but notice that it bore a 1/9 serial number, and he was impressed that I had something so rare in my collection. At which point, I stated, “Well, it’s not really quite as rare as Topps would like you to think.”

The fact is I don’t understand why so many people fall for the parallel shell game perpetuated by Topps and all the other major manufacturers. I’m sure that it works to the extent it does because collectors love the notion that they own something that’s incredibly rare, and incredibly small serial numbers provide concrete proof of rarity. However, when you step back, seriously consider what’s really going on, and do some simple arithmetic, many of these “rare” cards aren’t as rare as the manufacturers would like you to believe. Let’s take another look at that Luzinski card. The one I own is actually a gold parallel. If you combine the print runs of the regular insert with all the print runs, you still have only 33 cards. That strikes me as an impressively low figure — certainly nothing to scoff at in terms of rarity. However, there are two other Luzinski cards in that particular insert set. They use the same photo, apply the autograph sticker in the same spot and also bear pieces of a bat supposedly used by Luzinski in a MLB event. The only other notable differences are the text on the back of the cards and the bat shards on cards #TTAR-162 & #TTAR-163 instead respectively spell “Philly Favorite” and “The Bull.” Combine the three cards and all their respective print runs, and you get a total of 99 Luzinski 2012 Topps Triple Threads Autograph Relics.

Now, even by current 2001 UD GG LB Auto Luzinskistandards — as opposed to those from the late ’90s — that’s still fairly rare. However, it’s certainly not rare enough to justify the cost Topps charged for a pack 0f 2012 Topps Triple Threads. Hence, the need for the parallel shell game. To me, the worst part about it is that I see dealers and other collectors absolutely falling for it. Currently, one individual is asking $59.99 for a Sapphire parallel (serial numbered to 3) of #TTAR-162. Given that the last few versions of the card on eBay have sold in the $10-$20 range, regardless of its stated print run, I suspect it won’t sell for anywhere near that much. I will, however, concede that outside of his 2001 Upper Deck Gold Glove Leather Bound Autographed card it is Luzinski’s only autographed memorabilia card printed in anything even marginally resembling collector-friendly quantities. Still, given recent selling data, $60.00 is ridiculously overpriced.

The problem is that the same cannot be said for so many other cards bearing serial numbers whose sole purpose is to mask the true print run. I recently acquired the John Kruk 2013 Topps Tribute Autographs Framed Printing Plates 2013 Topps TT Auto PP KrukCyan card. This was significant for me on two counts: it’s the first “1/1” Kruk card in my collection, and it’s also the first Kruk printing plate. However, is “1/1” really a correct way to refer to the card? There are three other printing plates, the regular insert set, and seven different parallels for the card those plates were used to create. Adding them all up gives you a total of 240. Again, that’s still an nice, low number by current standards, but from that perspective this “1/1” Kruk card doesn’t feel quite as unique as it once did. Furthermore, unlike the Luzinski’s 2012 Topps Triple Threads card, there are a slew of other similar Kruk autograph cards out there. If you are a completist such as myself, you can more easily and cheaply acquire over a couple dozen different Kruk autograph cards. When viewed through such a lens, acquiring a Kruk 2013 Topps Tribute Autograph card doesn’t carry the same urgency or importance as obtaining a Luzinski Triple Threads card.

To be sure, 2009 Topps Unique TT Auto Philliesthere are some legitimately really rare cards out there, and the parallel shell game tends to obscure them. I actually own one of the five 2009 Topps Unique Triple Threat Autograph Relics cards featuring Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, and Raúl Ibañez. Topps did not produce any parallels or printing plates; thus, there literally are just five of any of these cards in existence. (I’ll let you guess as to how many other autographed relic cards featuring this trio of players were produced.) To me, this card is far more unique and rare than my “1/1” Kruk autographed printing plate — or any other printing plate for that matter. Then there’s the case of the 2005 Donruss Classics Classic Singles Curt Schilling card, #CS-15. This is a slightly more interesting example because the card exists in so many different varieties: 2005 Donruss Classics CS Relic Auto Schillingplain, relic, autograph, both relic and autograph, dual relic, and parallels of each. However, after examining the print runs for each of the variations, you discover that Donruss only issued seven Schilling cards bearing an autograph sticker. Thanks to the various memorabilia combinations (or lack thereof) and parallels Donruss employed, each of those seven bears a “1/1” serial number, but only two of those seven bear both bat and jersey relics. One can actually make the argument that by creating so many specialized “1/1” cards, Donruss inadvertently drew attention away from just how rare the autographed versions of those cards themselves actually were.

It seems that true “1/1” cards — cards which neither exist in parallel form nor have the printing plates issued as well — are actually much rarer than any of us realizes. The only cards that consistently seem to honestly bear such a serial number are cut 2013 Panini AP PC Mauchautograph cards of deceased players and managers. I’m fortunate enough to own a small handful: most notably a few of the cards from 2010 Topps Sterling Certifed Cut Signatures — an insert set that will certainly contain the only fully licensed certified autograph card for many baseball figures — as well as the Gene Mauch card from 2013 Panini America’s Pastime Pastime Cuts. (It’s incredibly likely that should I ever find someone selling the Ethan Allen card from that particular insert set I will seriously consider busting my budget in order to obtain it.) I know that parallels are here to stay, but I do wish that the hobby as a whole wouldn’t exhibit such willful ignorance as to how they’re being used to both mask true print runs and cheapen the meaning of a “1/1” serial-numbered card.

Featured Cards: 2012 Topps Triple Threads Autograph Relics Gold #TTAR-161, Greg Luzinski; 2001 Upper Deck Gold Glove Leather Bound Autographed #SLB-GL, Greg Luzinski; 2013 Topps Tribute Autographs Framed Printing Plates Cyan #TA-JK, John Kruk; 2009 Topps Unique Triple Threat Autograph Relics #TTAR-HRI, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, & Raúl Ibañez; 2005 Donruss Classics Classic Singles Signature Materials Prime #CS-15; 2013 Panini America’s Pastime Pastime Cuts #25, Gene Mauch

Notes From the eBay Trenches

Featured Cards: 2010 Topps 206 #285, Jayson Werth; 2014 Topps Upper Class #UC-26, Ryan Howard; 2010 Topps Heritage #443, Philadelphia Phillies

eBay is the great necessary evil by which I handle most of my collecting. I’d love to collect cards in the same manner I did 20 years ago — primarily via local dealers and card shows. However, changes in the hobby, many of which wrought upon it by eBay, long ago forced me to make eBay m2010 Topps 206 Werthy primary tool. That probably wouldn’t be any different even if I were living in the Philly suburbs rather than the exurbs of Northern Virginia. I’m sure nothing you’re about to read hasn’t already been said/written by someone else, but I still wanted to get them off my chest….

I appreciate sellers who take the time to carefully package their cards, but a nontrivial percentage of them really don’t seem to grasp the notion that securely packaging cards does not mean shipping them in a manner that makes it extremely difficult to extract the cards without damaging them. I swear, I sometimes think that as a collector the most valuable tool I have at my disposal is an X-Acto Knife. I am certain that without the use of one, I would likely damage approximately one card per month. It’d probably be even more valuable if I were an unscrupulous dealer/seller, but thankfully for everyone involved I have a conscious and I listen to it….

At least the ridiculously meticulous and careful sellers put in the effort. I’ve started taking it upon myself when leaving feedback to note when someone charges $2.00+ for shipping and handling and then mails the card in a top loader and plain white envelope. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a perfectly legitimate and safe way to mail a card, but 2010 Topps Heritage Philliesyou don’t get to charge that much for something that costs $0.60 (I’m being very generous with the cost of the envelope)….

Along the same lines, who are the sellers who think that $5.00 or more is an acceptable shipping and handling for just one card and don’t bother to provide a less expensive option kidding? Unless you are shipping a valuable card via Priority Mail and with insurance, there is no reason for that kind of crap….

A couple days ago, I won an eBay auction to pick any 20 cards from a list of available 2014 Topps cards. I wasn’t able to send payment immediately, or at any time during the 38 hours following the end of the2014 Topps UC Howard auction, at which point the seller sent me an email stating: “Need your payment and list of 20 cards ASAP or I will be forced to contact Ebay.” Way to go, fuck-hole — I actually needed more than 20 and was interested in the offer to select additional cards for $0.15 each. Did you really think that someone with an eBay account that is over 15 years old, and has a feedback rating of 3900+ with no negative feedback was going to renege on a $4.50 auction? I sent him payment a couple hours after his email (ironically, I really was getting ready to send payment via PayPal at the moment his email arrived but decided to wait another couple hours out of spite), but I didn’t inform him his impatience cost him an additional sale. Maybe I should have….

Card #19,400

Featured card: 2013 Topps Triple Threads Relic Combos #TTRC-HRS; Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, & Mike Schmidt

If you’ve been following this 2013 Triple Threads RH-JR-MSblog long enough, you know I have a habit of alternating between posting regularly and then disappearing for a few months. It’s never an intentional thing — it stems mostly from the fact that I have a large number of interests and projects and not enough spare time to cultivate all them equally. So, I tend to experience bursts of paying undue attention to one particular interest or project to the detriment of most of the others. The last few months was just one of those periods. There is a payoff at least — I’ve been fervently pounding away at the database project. I’ll say more about it in a post later this weekend (as well as post the newly revised Excel file), but for the moment I’ll just state that it now contains 65,500 entries, which is double what the last posted version of the file contained.

Until then, the 2013 Topps Triple Threads card above is the most recent addition to the collection, which is now at 19,400 items. When it arrived, I was suddenly struck by how jaded I am as a collector now. It wasn’t that long ago that I would’ve thought that a card bearing uniform swatches from three different Phillies MVP winners would be been a highlight to my collection. While I certainly like the card and am pleased to own it, I wasn’t excited about its arrival, and I really can’t say that it’s one of my favorite pieces in the collection. I would certainly feel differently about a a triple autograph card of the three, but no such card exists.

Odds & Ends

Featured Cards: 2012 Panini National Treasures Treasure Materials #24, Ryan Howard; 1993 Pacific #237, Stan Javier; 2012 Leaf The Living Legend: Pete Rose Autographs #AU-38

2012 National Treasures TM HowardNow that I’ve decided to start paying better attention to Panini’s offerings and ignore the lack of MLB logos or team monikers, I’ve fallen in love with their 2012 National Treasures set. I plan on making a much more detailed post about the set sometime in the next couple weeks….

It’s been a while since I did a team checklist post. I am currently rethinking how I handle those as formatting the checklist to display properly using this particular WordPress blog template is incredibly time consuming, and I would really like to reduce the amount of time I spend on such minutiae. I will be restarting them soon, in a slightly altered format….

1993 Pacific JavierThe newest version of the Phillies Database file is now online, contains over 32,500 items (0ver 5,000 more than the previous version), and is complete through 1994. I really am doing this as much for myself as I am to make the information available to other Phillies collectors — I’m continuing to find unexpected gaps in my collection as I compare my old Excel spreadsheets against the information in SCD, Beckett, TeamSets4U.com (and a few other online resources), and my own collection — yes, I am taking the time to make sure that my old checklists were in fact correctly stating what is in my collection. The most recent surprising find: there was a second series to 1993 Pacific that I completely missed back in the summer of ’93. Until I found that discrepancy, I honestly thought that I had a complete team set….

Another key reason (aside from finding discrepancies) that I am engaging in the database project for my own means: it allows me to more easily sort and extract information about my collection to my liking. For example, I don’t actually know how many autograph cards I own — I can figure out it, but that takes some time with all my checklists spread out over multiple files. Once I have this database complete, I can quickly come up with all sorts of interesting statistics on my collection. It’s still a while away, but I’m really looking forward to the day when all my collection is in just one easily sortable and manipulated file….

Now that I have decided to 2012 Living Legend Rose Autoactively add MLBPA-only licensed cards to my collection, I have started adding them to the database as well. These additions will likely take much more work, however, as Beckett doesn’t always, for completely understandable reasons, list team sets on their site. (Just as a quick aside, this means that a lot of Pete Rose cards are suddenly getting listed in the database, thanks to the Pete Rose sets issued by Leaf last year and this year.) I have also made a couple other changes to the structure of the database, and I plan on making a rather lengthy post later this week describing the methodology and decision-making that goes into the file….

I have decided, for now, to keep the W502 Clarence Mitchell card. I’ve chosen to view it in the same way I view, for example, the 2003 Donruss Classics Jim Thome card, which pictures him in an Indians uniform but denotes him as a Phillie. My rationale is that if the W502 sets had team designations, then Mitchell’s card certainly would’ve stated he was with the Philllies. It’s a flimsy rationalization, but it allows me to finally add one of his cards to my collection….

I also hope to have list a want list and trade bait section to the site fairly soon (the database makes it much easier for me to assemble a proper want list). This is actually, in the scheme of things I want to accomplish, rather low priority, so it may be another couple months before it appears online. However, I have some decent trade bait, and I’d like to see if it can get me some items I really need for the collection.

2013 Pinnacle: A Phillies Collector’s Review

Featured cards listed at end of post.

2013 Pinnacle HamelsAs I’ve stated before, I want to see Topps’s monopoly on MLB-sanctioned card broken (even if it won’t happen until 2020, at the absolute earliest), but I can’t bring myself to stop collecting their cards because of what it will do to my collection. Thus, the only way to make my displeasure known is start spreading some of my collecting budget around to the sets that only bear MLBPA approval. Yes, I’m going to have to live without MLB logos and team names, but such cards have been around for over 40 years now. In fact, some of my personal favorite oddball Phillies releases were produced by Michael Schecter Associates, the longtime, indisputable king of such sets from the ’70s through the mid ’90s.

However, the playing field has changed 2013 Pinnacle Rufsomehow since sets bearing the MSA copyright freely roamed the land. MLB is paying much closer attention than they used to. Back in the ’70s and early ’80s it wasn’t uncommon to still see the use of team monikers on such issues, even if it wasn’t completely legal. Furthermore, MLB’s legal team is making harder for the MLBPA-approved sets to bear photography that links the photograph to a facility in which MLB games are played. True, today’s digital photo manipulation technology makes it easier to perform all the tasks necessary to keep the MLB lawyers at bay, but it’s hard to escape the end result: regardless of quality, the photos in the cards just seem to lack a vibrancy found in even the blandest Topps issue. As a result, one needs to judge the MLBPA-sanctioned issues with a different set of criteria.

2013 Pinnacle Ruf BackWith that in mind, there’s quite a lot to like about Panini’s revivial of the Pinnacle brand. It works as a decent low-end set, a kind of throwback set I alluded to a couple days ago: no foil or other printing gimmicks, a limited number of parallels and no SPs. Furthermore, Panini designed the fronts to reflect the designs of the original Pinnacle releases; most notably, the all black borders, and rookie cards grouped together in a subset. Even the parallels are resurrections of the original sets’ parallels: Artist’s Proofs and Museum Collection. Unfortunately, the backs look nothing like the backs of the 1992 & 1993 sets which fronts of the 2013 edition clearly evoke. Most notable is the absence of player portraits on the back, and it would’ve been nice to see Panini make such an effort on this release. Beyond that, it just looks like a different design aesthetic altogether, which is 1993 Pinnacle Bell Backa shame given that the fronts of the 2013 set make it look like a natural predecessor to those earlier releases.

As for the Phillies player selection, the huge emphasis on rookies, which encompasses fully ¼ of the whole 200-card set, leads to Darrin Ruf and Tyler Cloyd pushing out a couple Phillies who probably should’ve been included instead — most notably, Cliff Lee. In addition, I’m not sold on the inclusion of Michael Young in the set, but clearly both Panini and Topps both felt that his presence in many sets this year was more important than the inclusion of Jimmy Rollins, whose status seems most impacted in sets hovering around this size. With just four other cards in the set, it’s hard to quibble with the remaining player choices: Chase Utley, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Ryan Howard.

2013 Pinnacle Auto CloydThere are two really notable aspects to the set’s inserts. First, we get Tyler Cloyd’s first autograph card properly showing him in “Philadelphia” attire. Topps still hasn’t issued a Cloyd autograph card — though to be fair, I think that is a borderline defensible position from Topps’s standpoint as Cloyd really is little more than a AAAA roster filler material. So, at this time this is the closest you are going to get to a true Cloyd Phillies autograph card. (His only previous autograph card, also a Panini release, shows him in either minor league or collegiate attire and looks even less like “real” Philadelphia card.) Second, Chase Utley gets a lot of insert attention in this set and is the only Phillie with multiple inserts, checking in with three. This is a refreshing change from what I’ve seen this year from Topps, who seems to have largely forgotten that even with all his injuries over the past few seasons, he’s still produced as one of the game’s elite second basemen.

However, one of 2013 Pinnacle CV Utleythose insert sets, Clear Vision, is a real puzzler. There’s no explanatory text whatsoever on any of these cards whatsoever, so without seeing the marketing material, I cannot make any sense of why players were selected for this insert. Additionally, I am unable to discern neither the rationale behind the various parallels for this set; the parallels each bear a different word on them — in the case of the pitchers, they are “Complete Game,” “No Hitter,” “Win,” “Shutout, and “Perfect Game.” Furthermore, are the parallels printed equally or in varying numbers? Once again, we have an insert set that serves no purpose whatsoever (not even a thinly applied one), other than to provide an excuse to print more cards of star players. At least thus far Panini hasn’t reused the same photo of Utley in any of its sets — though, admittedly, that’s a little easier for them since they don’t product as much product as Topps.

2013 Pinnacle HowardGiven the restraints the lack of MLB approval placed upon Panini, 2013 Pinnacle is a fairly decent set. Although it will never become a set collector’s will look fondly upon, it works well in the low-end segment of the hobby that the manufacturers really neglect since it’s not a huge money maker. Furthermore it provides an interesting glimpse into what Panini or Upper Deck, when they finally come around to issuing their first new baseball cards in three years, might produce should either of them decides to issue a comprehensive set of baseball players who play at the highest professional level in America. I, for one, am hoping such a set comes out sooner than later.

Featured Cards: 2013 Pinnacle #112, Cole Hamels; 2013 Pinnacle #161, Darin Ruf; 1993 Pinnacle #566, Juan Bell; 2013 Pinnacle Rookie Autographs #TY, Tyler Cloyd; 2013 Pinnacle Clear Vision Triple #CV50, Chase Utley; 2013 Pinnacle #139, Ryan Howard

2013 Allen & Ginter’s: A Phillies Collector’s Review

Featured cards listed at end of post.

2013 Topps AG KnightsYesterday, I reaffirmed my love for sets that reuse vintage designs; this extends to sets inspired by vintage designs. I thought that the 2005 Topps Cracker Jack was a nice update the classic Cracker Jack design and I have absolutely loved the follow-ups to Topps’s first Gypsy Queen set — I particularly hope that Topps does not stop producing those anytime soon. Yet, I have not been as big fan of Topps’s Allen & Ginter’s (A&G) brand over the years. The primary reason for this has been the inclusion of cards highlighting individuals, items and locations outside of MLB. I am fully aware that this is keeping in within the spirit of the original Allen & Ginter sets from the late 19th century, and as such I don’t fault Topps for their inclusion. Furthermore, since I primarily collect Phillies cards, this isn’t that much of a concern. However, for this very reason alone I very rarely buy packs of A&G and am even less likely to ever attempt completing a set, or even buy one already complete. That doesn’t negate, 2011 Topps AG Oswalthowever, my looking forward to how the Phillies in the set look, and I have to say that I am very pleased with the 2013 edition.

Last year’s set featured what looks like an overcorrection to a major mistake Topps made in 2011. I’m sure that creating a design to look very similar to a iconic 19th century set while simultaneously sporting a new look must be difficult, but the 2011 set just looked too modern; the solid, rounded border looked like it came straight from the 1980 Topps set, and team logos do not belong anywhere on a set harkening to the 1880s — very few teams (if any) actually had anything that could reasonably called a logo back then. It appears that Topps realized this after the fact, but the effort to make the border on the 2012 set look like it could’ve been from roughly 18872012 Topps AG Pierre was far too intricate. Furthermore, the stylized art deco font for the A&G brand name actually looked like it belonged on a movie poster from the 1920s. It was actually a decent retro design, but still too modern, for completely different reasons.

This year’s edition of A&G, now in its eighth year, finally gets it right. Everything about the set screams 19th century design. The fonts look period appropriate and the lined border manages to be decorative without becoming ornate. Furthermore, Topps even managed to avoid their mistake from the 2010 set by leaving the area around the photo predominantly white. It’s a very clean look, and is easily Topps’s best A&G base set effort since it started to create new designs that were clearly different from the ones used by the original Allen & Ginter cards.

2013 Topps AG KrukFrom a Phillies collector’s perspective, the player selection is decent given that once again, as with the Archives set, the team’s decline over the past couple seasons means a drop in the number of Phillies cards from last year’s set (only 11 Phillies this year, as opposed to 14 last). The only real omission is from the base set is Rollins, who gets a Mini Framed Relic insert card, which helps to remove the injustice of not seeing one of the most important players in franchise history in the set (regardless of how you feel about Rollins, this is an indisputable fact). The nicest thing about the base set has to be the inclusion of, for Topps, a new picture for John Kruk. It’s not completely new as Donruss used it in its 2005 Donruss Timeless Treasures Material Ink cards, but it’s still nice to see Topps finally select a new photo.

The parallels and relic insets are basically what we’ve come to expect from Topps’s A&G set over the years, so there’s little need to go over most of them. However, I would like to know how/why Topps chooses to include some relic cards in a standard-sized format while other are issued as a Framed Mini Relic 2013 Topps AG AtY Howardas I can’t discern any pattern to the process. This year’s unique, big, concept insert set is Across the Years. The thing about insert cards are they really are just flimsy excuses to make more cards of star players. However, manufacturers attempt to give a justification the existence of most insert sets — including previous, similar past A&G insert sets such as last year’s What’s in a Name in 2012 and 2o11’s Hometown Heroes — by providing information that you won’t find about the ballplayer in his base set card. This really isn’t the case with Across the Years, which lists events that occurred on the player’s birth date and the names of other celebrities who share the same birthday. Interesting idea, but with no real information about the player depicted on the front, it does drive home the fact that inserts really are nothing more than excuses to print more cards of the game’s stars (the same criticism can be leveled at the This Day in History insert set in 2010 A&G).

Now I’m up2013 Topps AG Rip Halladay to the point where I really want to rant against a particular element of A&G: the Rip Cards. Before I start, I understand that Topps shows no inclination to discontinue producing them and that they are here to stay. Nonetheless, every time I see one, I wish a pox upon the people at Topps who continue to allow the production of these cards. I hate them because they’re an extraordinarily unnecessary gimmick that requires the destruction of a card. In addition, most people just haven’t figured out that you can very carefully slice open a Rip Card using something like an X-Acto Knife and leave the back far more intact than just ripping it. As a result, most opened Rip Cards just look terrible on the back. Furthermore, each card that isn’t ripped means there’s a card that has been, for all practical purposes, produced and deliberately withheld from the hobby.

Admittedly, I can’t afford 1/1 cards in 2013 Topps AG Rip Halladay Backnearly all instances, but that’s not the point. You don’t announce the making of a 1/1 card or special extremely limited mini inserts and then leave the hobby wondering if/when it will finally emerge from its prison. I really wish Topps would just seed all the cards buried in Rip Card directly into packs and just transform the Rip Cards into a super-limited, serial-numbered insert set. Instead, this year Topps decided to double-down on the Rip Card idea and create Double Rip Cards. Now, you have a card in which the picture on both sides of the card can be ruined. At least before, the front of the card could be left intact and otherwise pristine. Not anymore. I don’t just wish a pox on the idiots who came up with and approved this concept — I wish a pox on their entire genetic line.

Sadly, I doubt that my wishing a pox upon the people behind the Double Rip Cards will work, which means that they will become another staple in the A&G line, and we will continue to see even more otherwise rare cards either desecrated or forever locked away from the hobby for no rational reason whatsoever.

2013 Topps Allen & Ginter’s Martial Mastery #MM-KN, Knights; 2011 Topps Allen & Ginter’s #108, Roy Oswalt; 2012 Topps Allen & Ginter’s #2, Juan Pierre; 2013 Topps Allen & Ginter’s #333, John Kruk; 2013 Topps Allen & Ginter’s Across the Years, #ATY-RHO, Ryan Howard; 2013 Topps Allen & GInter’s Rip Card #RIP-88, Roy Halladay

2013 Bowman: A Phillies Collector’s Review

Featured 2013 Bowman Cards: #190, Ryan Howard; #135, Cole Hamels; #130, Tyler Cloyd; #197 Delmon Young; Bowman Prospects #BP30 Willians Astudillo

2013 Bowman HowardThe fact is that ever since the edict from MLB and the MLBPA banning the use of minor league prospects from base sets, the base Bowman set has basically become the 21st century equivalent of bubble gum packaged alongside insert prospect cards that for all practical purposes are rookie cards. I’m sorry, I just refuse to buy into the fiction that it’s not a rookie card if it’s an insert card. If that was the case, no one would care a whit about any of the Bryce Harper cards produced in 2011. But, since I avoid the prospect cards until the player actually reaches the majors (for example, I didn’t own Jon Pettibone’s 2011 Bowman Chrome Prospects insert card until about a week after his MLB debut), my thoughts will focus predominantly on the base set.

First, the good. Last year’s 2013 Bowman Hamels FrontBowman set was the first since 1995 to make use of white borders, and I’m happy to see that Topps chose to do so again this year. Dark and navy blue bordered cards have their place, but the long run of such borders really got monotonous. The plain white border also happen to work well with both the relatively simple frame and, by current Topps standards, the incredibly judicious use of foil (it would’ve been nice to do without foil on the player’s name and instead just show the name in plain white as well). The base set by itself is actually fairly attractive — in fact, I might even like it better than the design for the flagship Topps product. Unfortunately, that’s about the best thing I can say about this year’s base Bowman set.

Again, this is because Topps doesn’t really care all that much for the base set — it’s just a vehicle for the prospect inserts. Hell, they don’t even properly follow the slogan for the Bowman brand: “Home of the Rookie Card.” A week ago, I pointed out that eight different Phillies made 2013 Bowman Cloydtheir MLB debut in 2012. Of those eight, only Jake Diekman was in a 2012 set, so that leaves six Phillies eligible for “official” rookie card status in 2013 (Tyson Brummett went to the Blue Jays during the off-season, thus is no longer a Phillie for this discussion). Prior to the release of 2013 Bowman, only Darin Ruf and Tyler Cloyd have received cards of their own — Steve Lerud shared his only card thus far with a prospect in the Mariners organization. That left three Phillies without a proper rookie card. Sadly, none of them have a card in 2013 Bowman, even though two of them, Freddy Galvis and Phillippe Aumont, were on the opening day roster. Yet, there’s Ruf and Cloyd again in the base set, and at the time the set went to the printer, neither of them had appeared in an MLB game in 2013. Nice job, “Home of the Rookie Card.”

So, who did we get instead? Well, 2013 Bowman Youngfor starters we get the exact same crappy airbrush job on Delmon Young that we saw in 2013 Gypsy Queen. Topps had an extra few weeks to improve on it and couldn’t be bothered. I really would have rather had an “official” Freddy Galvis rookie card than a really crappy duplicate Delmon Young photo. Thank you, MLB, for continuing Topps’ monopoly and rewarding this bad behavior. Just as bad, Ruf’s card bears the same photo as the one on his 2013 Gypsy Queen Autograph card — a photo that was clearly taken a moment or two after the photo used on his 2013 Topps card. At least his Bowman Chrome Rookie Autograph card uses a new photo, though I’m certain that it’s not the last we’ll see of that photo either. Beyond that, it’s all the Phillies players you’d probably expect to see. Michael Young and Ben Revere both appear to have photos taken during Spring Training this year, but in both cases there’s a somewhat dark outline around the players that suggests to me that these potentially could be airbrush jobs as well.

2013 Bowman Prospects Astudillo FrontAs for the Prospects inserts, as I said before, I don’t typically track them down, but the two base inserts were included with the team set I ordered. It really does astound me that Topps goes out of their way to make Prospect insert cards for players such as Willians Astudillo, who spent 2012 in the Gulf Coast League and won’t be sniffing the air in a Major League stadium until sometime in 2017 at the absolute earliest, while simultaneously missing on players such as Ruf and Cloyd until after their MLB debuts. Interestingly, the “1st Bowman Card” text is not found on any of its Prospects cards this year. Nonetheless, every time I see a card of a player like Astudillo I can’t help but recall the plethora of Jorge Padilla and Josue Perez cards issued by Topps, Donruss and Fleer in 2002 and 2003. On one hand, we can be grateful that we no longer need to collect the likes of Astudillo for complete team sets, but I really do wish that Topps would make better use of its resources.

And that is how I will continue to feel about Bowman so long as Topps handles it this way. I don’t actually expect to see Topps make any changes to the flagship Bowman brand — they’ve been remarkably consistent about the set and its inserts since 2005. Yet, it could be better still. Imagine if a higher percentage of the Prospects actually possessed legitimate Major League talent; imagine if the base set included more rookie cards. Those things could happen, if Topps made better use of its resources.