Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Product Review: 2009 Bowman Sterling Football

Over the last few years, there hasn’t been a high end set created quite like Bowman Sterling. Trying to equal the success of the prospector's baseball favorite, Topps tried to create a similar set for football. The problem is that prospecting is very tough to market in football because all of the players are usually on the field from the beginning. This year, the previews were promising for a design that looked much better than it had in previous years. After seeing the finished product, I am less than enthusiastic about what was produced.


I have never been a fan of Bowman Sterling because I don’t think it offers much to the people who buy it. My feelings on the design are very similar as well, as this year's just looks as distracting as ever. You know those ruler designs you did in elementary school where you drew two axis and connected dots to form a cool looking star like thing? Yeah, Topps used those as part of the background. Normally, it wouldn’t be any more distracting than a normal element, but they have added a different grain of refractor to them so that they reflect differently than the normal rainbow foil. It makes the card so hard to look at that someone at the shop last night said he had a headache just from opening the packs.

Secondly, the photography they used in this set is completely awful. For some of the cards, they didn’t even use actual shots, they just blew up their player pics from Rather than accomplishing their goal of providing a good look, it looks like they are putting mugshots on the cards. Most of the players didn’t quite know what to do for those pics, and therefore most look bored or angry. Not a good look for a close up trading card.

The entire set is printed on ridiculous rainbow foil or mirror foil board that somehow makes the cheaper chrome set look like it is a more focused execution of the technology. They even added colors to the parallels, which further detract from everything on the card.

There is one good thing, and that is the fact that they incorporated cards for the rookie material auto cards where the players have their helmet on. Although there are some of them that are still helmet off and goofy, a few are done the correct way.

The golden dual autographs arent that bad despite the incredible gaudiness of the cards. Although the bordered stickers are weird looking, the overall presentation of the cards are the best of the set. Of course, that isnt saying much for this.

Rating =

Autograph Cards

The single autograph wouldn’t be that bad if they were printed without all the busy lines and added crap on the sides. Of course, since this is a Topps product that costs more than 100 dollars, they look pretty bad from most of the ones that I saw pulled. This product offers much less in their normal autos that Chrome does at less than a quarter of the price, which truly says something about the concept of this set.

More importantly, the focus of this set, the rookie material autographs look worse than they have in a long time. Ditching the horizontal orientation that gave them room for a huge foil sticker and a swatch, they instead packed every element into a vertical card. The result is a player that is almost being attacked by the swatch, as it looks to be creeping up their chests to eat their faces. The swatches obscure most of the player picture in some cases, thus making me question why it was even necessary, a la the Chrome auto patches with the same problem.

Another bad part of this is that Topps sometimes uses this type of situation as a sticker dump, meaning that non-star rookies from last year could be making an appearance. We already saw on youtube that players like Devin Thomas are put in this set, and those non-rookie jersey materials cards are rarer than case hits. How would you feel if you pulled that?

Lastly, there is no reason to release a product that costs THIS much with the stickers. Unlike Panini, Topps has the resources to get on card signatures, but doesn’t pursue it. I cannot understand why that would be the case, nor why the stickers are highlighted with a border in the design. I thought the point of a sticker was to hide the fact that it wasn’t on card, not make it a focus.

Rating =

Relic Cards

Although there are rookie jersey cards, the veteran jerseys are pretty much throwaways in this set. There are multiples per pack, and they become as boring while breaking as the overall concept of Bowman Sterling altogether. All it does is add unnecessary cost to the product, as its pretty obvious that Topps has had a tough time figuring out what a box would contain.

The rookie jerseys are expected and are basically just another card that you flip through to get to your scrub auto numbered to 15 billion. The pics are similar or identical to the auto parallels, and that is not a complement to any of them. Big disappointment.

Rating =

Value To The Collector

Of any of the sets that hit the market during the year, this is the worst possible one to buy a box of, hands fucking down. Boxes cost over 200 dollars, and you get 10 autos that are worth less than the rainbow board they are printed on, a bunch of plain swatch jersey cards, and one or two premiere rookie autos that never hold their value. I am completely serious that you need to have electro shock therapy if you are going to buy any of this. I cannot think of a bigger waste of money. Its that bad.

Even though the cards come out of a high end product, they very rarely equal the value of a card that comes out of a comparable priced set. Personally I think its because the cards are stickers and always look like crap, but Im also starting to believe its because people are getting sick of high end Topps product that offer nothing for the people that buy them.

Rating =

Overall Impressions

This set is complete crap. Poorly conceived, poorly designed, poorly executed. Go buy 5 boxes of chrome instead of buying this. Im serious. Remember the golden rule of Topps and you'll be fine.

Average Rating =

2009 Product Leaderboard (SO FAR)

1. Topps Chrome (4/5 GELLMANS)
2(t). Upper Deck Football (3/5 GELLMANS)
2(t). UD Philadelphia (3/5 GELLMANS)
2(t). Topps Football (3/5 GELLMANS)
2(t). UD Icons (3/5 GELLMANS)
2(t). UD Heroes (3/5 GELLMANS)
2(t). UD Draft Edition (3/5 GELLMANS)
8(t). Bowman Sterling Football (2/5 GELLMANS)
8(t). Donruss Threads (2/5 GELLMANS)
8(t). Donruss Classics (2/5 GELLMANS)
8(t). Donruss Elite (2/5 GELLMANS)
8(t). Playoff Prestige (2/5 GELLMANS)
8(t). Bowman Draft Picks (2/5 GELLMANS)
14. Score Inscriptions (1/5 GELLMANS)
15. Leaf Rookies and Stars (0/5 GELLMANS - NR)


  1. Bowman Sterling was a disaster in both baseball and football. How could anyone forget buying a pack or a box of Sterling? In 2006 I saw one guy open up a box and end up getting 3 Omar Jacobs game-used cards. Watching that I knew its not worth it.

  2. I know quite a few people who had similar experiences. There goes 250 dollars down the toilet, right?

  3. Big time and nothing ever stood out. It was high end garbage.

  4. As a documented Sterling Gold Patch collector from last year, I cannot defend this design. It is just gross. It's like a thown out Topps Finest Design. I actually thought sterling looked somewhat classy last year. Very minimal design. But this year is so overdone that it is hard to even focus.

    Here are some crappier elements:

    1. Way more colored parallels than in years past. Making it nearly impossible to know what you actually have on hand.

    2. No patch parallel. I have seen some patches, but not in any routine set like in previous years.

    3. Way too many veteran parallel autos. If I paid 250 for the box and got a Donnie Avery for one of my jsy autos, I would be pissed.

    4. Stupid box toppers. Have always hated them.

    Sorry Sterling, but I will not be purchasing any product this year. It hurts to say that as much fun as I had putting the gold patch set together last year. Man, I guess I will just hold the dough till SPA.