2011 Bowman Chrome arrived with the usual hype however much less so than last year. When last year's Chrome got close to the release date the prices were soaring because of Stephen Strasburg, this year we have Bryce Harper to chase but it seems like people are paying the kid a little less attention. Maybe that's because everyone chased Strasburg and he ended up on the DL and no one can really say for sure how he will pitch over the course of a full season at the major league level.
This year there is no shortage of hobby boxes and no shortage of the product at the retail level, at least from what I can see in Target. Shelves have had rack packs, packs, and blasters since the street release date. Granted I think Target only got 4 blasters, and the same one has been sitting on the shelf in the same spot for days... I won't say who owns one or two of those 4 blasters either.
So is 2011 Bowman Chrome all that and a big of chips? Not so much. Despite the fact that I am reviewing a box of the product, I have already opened my own hobby box and some retail items and I am a little concerned about a few things in the product. There are also some cool aspects that I think they did a great job of trying to incorporate some new ideas. Ideas = good, execution of ideas = needs a little work.
Ready to see what was in the box? Here you go:
Base cards (I forgot to count how many base and prospect cards were in the box, but I do know there were no doubles in the box. I would count them except they are in a pile with all the others...)
Prospects - Once I get my hands on the all chrome version of Bowman each year I always wonder what the point of the base version earlier in the year was.
I also feel that it's worth noting that I opened 2 hobby boxes including this one and got the EXACT same group of prospects with the exception of one card that wasn't a double. I think that is absolutely ridiculous. They were from two different places obviously, and had all the same collation? LAME.
Prospect refractor /500
Prospect blue refractor /150 - Chris Carpenter
Bowman Chrome Throwbacks - Now you would think that I would be stoked to have pulled the Pujols throwback except I'm not. If you enlarge the scan and see how grossly off center both cards are, it will make you see why I honestly don't care for the card. I thought maybe it was just this box, but when I show you the scans from the box at the card shop you will see they are all terribly off center.
Die Cut - This is something I know many collectors have been asking Topps to do for a while. They included die cut prospect cards in this years set, and in various colors of course. The xfractor version of this one is one of the cooler "low" end versions with the background looking like bubbles instead of the normal xfractor type background. It's nice that this version has a little kick to it. The only problem with the thought of the die cut was the execution... Many of these have creases or pressed edges around the top and have strings from the cut hanging or corners peeled on the back right out of the packs. Perhaps that is the price we must pay for something different.
Die Cut refractor
Die Cut xfractor
Bowman Chrome Prospect Auto Aaron Hicks - Jenkies! The auto's are all on card again this year which is awesome. The other awesome part about it is that there are no more goofy stickers on the back of the cards for the retail pack searchers to look for, so unless they have x-ray vision it's more of a fair game for all.
While this autograph is pretty well centered, I watched Jim (@BigBreakCards on Twitter) live tweet each box of his 20 cases of Bowman Chrome and saw PLENTY of 80/20, 90/10, and even one that was 100/0 on centering. Some of the cuts in this product are God awful and it should be noted to be fair.
2011 Bowman Chrome Report Card:
I still agree with my original assessment of the 2011 Bowman in that this design is just a refreshed version of every other year. It doesn't do anything for me either way, it's not terrible- just kind of stale.
Depending on where you purchase the product it can range anywhere from $55 (eBay auctions) - $70 (hobby shop). On the low end I think you get decent value for the money but at $70 per box I don't see it. Sure the checklist has some great autographs, however with the amount of them that are extremely off center it certainly makes the product less desirable at least to me.
Collation is terrible. Centering on many autographs and inserts is terrible. Edges of die cut cards are fairly poor. The upside? Well, the cards aren't as curvy as years past, the die cut xfractors are cool (if they are in decent condition), and the boxes aren't bombarded with insert sets.
While the product doesn't jump out as much as it did last year, it probably has more to do with Strasburg vs. Harper than 2010 Bowman vs. 2011 Bowman. I think the lack of quality control on the cutting of the cards really killed it in a sense, but the redeeming factors are almost equal to the negative. The introduction of die cut cards to the product, plus the chrome throwbacks and on card autographs make it fun. Obviously I love blue refractors so sometimes the color variations will sell me on something.
The price of this product may also be a reflection of the hype associated with this years upcoming Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects which I know many people are holding out for that release. I am eager to see if that product will end up all that people are hyping it up to be.