Hobby Musings: Taking stock of Bowman Mega Box mania – One of the hottest products of the hobby year has been 2018 Bowman. Fueled in large part by the demand for Shoehei Ohtani autographs and rookies, the product has been a big seller. Normally with a product, the hoopla dies down after a few days. However, Topps was able to keep Bowman on the minds of the collecting community for a few extra weeks with its recent retail-only release of its Mega Box product. Sold exclusively at Target, the $14.99 product offers five packs of Bowman as well as two additional exclusive packs for the product.
Given the success of last year’s Mega Box product and the hype surrounding Ohtani and other big rookies this season, the 2018 edition was expected to once again be a popular box. This proved to quickly be the case as Twitter was soon flooded with images of empty display comments and numerous complaints and frustrations over the inability to find a single box, despite checking multiple locations.
I myself came up empty at five different Targets, including multiple trips to a few of the same stores. Adding insult to injury was the empty display case Sunday morning after having previously been to the store on Thursday. Even more frustrating was that despite the fact that the product had already been released for a few days, none of the Target stores in Connecticut that I visited or called seemed to have any idea what the heck I was talking about when I asked for them. I do have to give props to the persistent collectors who shared their stories of asking Target employees to check the back to look for boxes and subsequently getting rewarded by snagging a few.
Overall though, the social media community quickly made clear their rather extreme displeasure at being shut out of getting a Mega Box. Whether it was taking shots at Topps, Target or other collectors/sellers who gobbled up most, if not all, of the boxes at each store, some of the reactions weren’t pretty. Likely adding fuel to the fire were the pictures posted of people who bought 20+ boxes of the stuff, while several other people in the same areas were being shut out. While I can’t fault people for wanting to buy as much as possible or trying to make a profit, those pictures definitely didn’t make for the best look. The subsequent price hiking of boxes online from various outlets also hasn’t helped to cool tempers. Again, free enterprise and completely fair by the people doing it, but it’s rough look for a product that was meant to be sold at $14.99 now being listed for over $40.
With that in mind, I understand the negative reactions people have had. I was disappointed myself at not being able to procure a box or two. More disappointing and frustrating was the amount of time I put into trying to track a box down. I think I’ve spent more time in Target over the past week than I have in my entire life. Adding to that was having to check through the entire store as the Mega Boxes were seemingly placed at different locations based on the Target they were in. While it made for some amusing stories and reactions online, it also seemed to cause a good deal of frustration that could have been avoided by putting the boxes with the rest of the trading cards. Then again, it could argued that it’s good strategy by Target (if it was done purposely) to get card buyers to other parts of the store.
While it’s rare that a retail-only products capture hobby interest like the Mega Boxes have, it has underscored some of the flaws with retail offerings. I saw a few stories online of Targets limiting how many Mega Boxes people could buy, but generally, it felt like a free for all with whoever could track them down first coming away the big winner.
Retail has always been a catch-22 in the hobby. It’s an important outlet for both manufacturers and collectors alike since so many areas in the country don’t have a local hobby store. Becoming a recent father myself, I can also better understand the concept of not having the time to visit the card shop but perhaps having a quick minute to check out the card section at a store like Target while I’m buying essentials.
By and large, I do think the retail locations offer a nice variety of products for purchase, especially at their price points. I also think the manufacturers have done a better job of expanding and augmenting their retail offerings over the years. Buying hobby is still the way to go in terms of better odds on better cards, but there have been enough big hits pulled at retail over the last few years to prove that it can be done.
That being said, the problems with retail cards have also been consistent, especially when it comes to pack searchers. While hobby shops typically do a nice job of avoiding the practice, retail outlets have mostly been an open season for them. As pervasive as the image of an empty Mega Box display has been, even more so has been the image of a pack searcher at a retail location. I’ve seen numerous images of them over the years, including people weighing packs with scales or sitting down barefoot while going through the packs. The issue has been brought up at various conventions I’ve attended, but sadly, there still doesn’t seem to be a good solution in sight.
At the end of the day though, kudos to Topps for coming up with a product that has been a winner in its first couple of years. It shows a legitimate realization on their parts on how to better offer up items for the retail market with an appropriate price point. Other companies have offered their own versions of Mega Box products, but Bowman seems to be the clear winner of the category so far.
Given the popularity, I’ll be curious to see if Topps tries to expand the Mega Box success by offering a version exclusive to brick and mortar stores with a similar price point and content. It would be hard to imagine it not doing well, and I think store owners would jump at the chance to have another quality option of Bowman at a lower price point to offer their customers.