Friday, September 18, 2009

Card Spotlight: 9-18-09

1989 Bowman #62 - Carlton Fisk

In the fifties, Bowman was a threat to Topps' way of life. Today, Bowman is owned by Topps and is the place where some low level prospects get their only Major League card. When Bowman was rebooted as a set, it wasn't the home of the rookie card. That would come later.

Topps bought out Bowman after their 1955 set. Even though there were prototypes ready to go for the 1956 season, Topps shut down Bowman. If it weren't for budding competition in the late eighties, Bowman may have never been resurrected.

Already reeling from a court decision that opened the door for Fleer and Donruss to sell trading cards in the MLB market, the late eighties saw new companies spring up and grab more of the spotlight away from Topps. Score debuted in 1988, with color backs and a slight upgrade in card stock. Upper Deck would debut in 1989 with even better card stock, hologram anti-theft technology and gigantic photos on both sides of the card. How could Topps compete?

Bowman to the rescue! Collectors were abuzz with excitement about the prospect of another issue of Bowman. The initial buzz died down quickly, when collectors realized that the new set was a little lacking. Still, it was a nice homage to the original sets.

Unfortunately, a lot had changed in the more than thirty years between Bowman releases. Topps decided to release the set in its original dimensions, which were slightly bigger than the standard size that took effect in 1957. Most people who were not hardcore collectors had no use for a card larger than the standard size. In the late eighties, size mattered. If it couldn't fit into a nine pocket page, most people wanted nothing to do with the set.

I can still remember reading an article, in one of the baseball card magazines, about a collector who found a pack of 1989 Bowman cards for sale a month early. They took the cards to the post office and had a postal employee stamp each card with the date. I always thought that was a cool and unique way to celebrate the early find.

Card collectors can appreciate a release like 1989 Bowman today. The set hearkened back to a simpler time in collecting. This came before Bowman turned into a haven for prospects that will never sniff the show. This set was about capturing a long lost feeling. A feeling of happiness. As Carlton Fisk's card shows, I think he 1989 Bowman set captured that perfectly.

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