What Topps Chrome Football Could Learn From Bowman Chrome Baseball
If football cards are ever going to catch up to baseball cards in popularity, they will need to learn a thing or two from Bowman Baseball's success. The one product with the potential to pull it, Topps Chrome. At the moment, Topps Chrome is an on-card auto away from possibly filling the football card void.
Year after year, Bowman Chrome is baseball's most sought after rookie card. Stephen Strasburg's first Bowman Chrome card created a media frenzy that when all said and done could be credited with the comeback of sports cards. Bowman was popular before, but no one could have expected the success Bowman would achieve in terms of sales and popularity in 2010.
Even though football has Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford and other big name rookies this year, no football product will ultimately be as popular as Bowman Baseball was in 2010. Sure, this could be attributed to the hype surrounding Stephen Strasburg, Jason Heyward and the rest of the stacked 2010 MLB Rookie Class, but it also speaks volumes as to how great of a product Bowman Baseball is.
In the football card world, Bowman is essentially a dead product. It came out last year, but was nothing more than your typical early season, low-end version of the already low-end Topps. I imagine that poor sales of 2009 Bowman Football was a big reason why Topps eliminated the stand-alone product in favor of inserting Bowman cards into their Topps-branded products in 2010.
While I love the idea of Bowman football cards, they were and will always be lacking in terms of impact when compared to their baseball counterparts. Why? First off, they don't look nearly as good. The Bowman baseball card is the model for modern style in card design. They are clean, elegant, sharp looking and include great photographs of each player. Unlike other products, Bowman baseball seems to focus on photography over photoshop filters. The result is a piece of cardboard art, if you were to blow up any one baseball rookie card and mount it on a wall, Bowman would be that card.
If Bowman is the king of the baseball rookie card, what could football's version be? At the moment there isn't one, but Topps Chrome has the potential, they are sharp looking, sell well, and retain value well. Moreover, Topps Chrome's refractor system is essentially the same as Bowman Chrome's, which is something lacking in products like Contenders. The refractor system adds value to non-autographed rookies as well.
The one major difference between Topps Chrome Football and Bowman Chrome Baseball is that Bowman features sharp on-card autographs. I am sure there are countless reasons why a company would choose to use on-card autographs in one product and sticker drops in another, but I can only think of one reason, on-card autographs cost more and seeing as how baseball cards bring in more money than football cards, more can be invested into their development.
I'm not saying Topps Chrome Football would create the same shelf-clearing demand as a Bowman Baseball product with the addition of on-card autographs, however I do think it would make a huge difference in the products overall appeal and popularity. Maybe next year Topps should consider giving the on-card auto a go, as the football card universe would benefit greatly from it. It would mark a solid new direction for Topps Chrome, one that could flourish after a few seasons of on-card continuity.