The $3.9 Million Mike Trout “Rookie Card”
Popular media like Xfinity News, Fox Sports, TMZ Sports, and even my beloved MLB Network report that this card is a “rookie card” but according to my research, I think they got this one wrong. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at this $3.9 million Mike Trout “rookie card.”
Well, the card in question is the 2009 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects, Chrome, Superfractor 1 of 1, Autograph, #BDPP89. I know what your thinking. That is one long item description, Lol.
In August of 2020, it sold for a record-breaking $3.9 million! Now we’re not talking about a vintage 80, 90, or 100-year-old card, we’re talking about a card that is not even 12 years old yet!
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What’s So Special About It?
First, we have to look at who the card portrays. Mike Trout has a lot to do with it. Today, he is the most prolific baseball player in the game, recently voted #1 in the MLB Network Top 100 Right Now, need I say, again.
He is your modern-day Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, or Mickey Mantle. As of the date of this post, he is a 3x MVP winner, 8x All-Star, and 8x Silver Slugger. As he enters his eleventh season he has 302 career home runs and has a career .304 Batting Average. A generational talent indeed!
Aesthetically, it’s a beautiful card design made with quality card stock, and a refractor finish on the card front making the light bounce from it.
On the card back you’ll see its machine stamped, serial numbered 1 of 1. Yes, folks, this is the only card produced so it definitely has that scarcity factor.
The autograph is clean, centered, smudge-free, which are all positive attributes for such a card.
I appreciate the autograph cards found in Bowman product, it seems as the player’s season or career progresses their autographs become sloppier and sloppier, as opposed to this very early signature.
So as you can see a very unique, fantastic, scarce card. But razzle-dazzle aside, is it a rookie card?
So What’s the Big Deal?
The issue for starters can be found in the card identifiers shown here. The Bowman brand has always taken pride in being, “The Home of the Rookie Card” back in the early nineties. But by 2009 their focus had shifted to prospect cards aka prospect cards.
At one point there was a movement within the hobby to try and rival the rookie card with these 1st Bowman issues. But the hobby as a whole rejected that idea. Now it doesn’t mean anything other than the first time a player has been featured on a Bowman card.
Today, their sets are prospect heavy, meaning many cards of players who were drafted by a team but have not officially made an MLB roster. These cards are identified with a First-Year or 1st Bowman identifier as shown here.
The big deal is these Bowman products have caused lots of confusion within the hobby because some collectors have viewed them as official rookie cards, probably because of the movement years prior.
However, the rookie card standards released by the Major League Baseball Players Association in 2005, directly oppose the idea that these are rookie cards.
I’m gonna give you the facts straight up here. Any card with the 1st Bowman Card identifier and all prospect subsets inside products of Bowman, Bowman Chrome, and everything in Bowman Draft are not rookie cards. They are prospect cards.
The information I’ve shared with you thus far is like a fly-in-soup for some collectors. They may beg to differ but to fully understand there are three factors we must come to terms with.
Fact #1: We Must Learn the New Way
Any cards produced after 2005 are subject to the rules enforced by the Major League Baseball Players Association. Now I’ve previously proposed this idea and I feel like it’s worth repeating here. The rules for a rookie card have already been established and so it’s up to the collectors to comply with the rules, not the rules must comply to collectors.
Unfortunately, there’s this Barney-Badass, self-entitled attitude that says, “I’ll call them whatever I want.” Now within the confines of your own home absolutely, you call them whatever you want. But when you go public with that belief, well, your part of the problem! The solution is a simple one. When you go public call it what it is, and not what you want it to be.
The fact is your going to have to spend a few moments to learn the new way. You’re going to have to take a few minutes to educate yourself, but that’s not an issue, is it?
Listen, I know this is like petting the fur in the opposite direction. I don’t want to come off like I’m condescending because I’m not, what I’m trying to do is get your attention. I’m trying to get the hobby to think about this all the way through.
Fact #2: The Rules Say Different
So what do the rules say? Now that’s the right question to ask and I’m so glad you asked it.
So let’s take a closer look at what the rules say about this $3.9 million Mike Trout “rookie card.”
- “A rookie card must be licensed by the League and the Players Association.” Looking at the back of the card we’ll notice that the card was licensed by the MLB only and not the Players Association, must be both. A player will not be allowed onto the Players Association until he officially gets promoted onto a Major League roster.
- “A rookie card can only be released after a player has made a pro-roster.” Looking at Baseball-Reference.com we can see that Trout was drafted in June of 2009 but did not debut into Major Leagues until July of 2011. Trout was in the Minor Leagues for his first two years.
- “A rookie card must be branded with some type of identifier on the card front.” The card in question does not have the MLB RC identifier on the card front, why? Because it’s not a rookie card.
- “A rookie card must appear in the base set.” The 2009 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects is a whopping 55 card base set and it does not include the card in question. Included in the product are 5 subsets and 29 parallel cards. However, subsets can not and should not be considered for RC designation. Must come from the base set.
- “A rookie card must NOT be an insert, redemption, nor a parallel card.” The card in question is a subset insert card and a parallel card.
So for the aforementioned rules stated above it disqualifies this $3.9 million Mike Trout as being an actual rookie card, just one of these rules would disqualify it from being one let alone 5 of the 10.
Fact #3: Questionable Motives
Now I’m not saying that these prospect cards are not collectible because absolutely they are. And I’m not saying they’re not valuable. Heck! $3.9 million is pretty valuable wouldn’t you agree?
The questionable motives lie with the flippers and investors. Or as I affectionately call them flippinvestors. These folks love these prospect cards because they have a very low initial cost.
So they buy in bulk then send them off to get graded. They don’t care all that much for the cards made of paper because the return on investment is too low.
They prefer the chromium, low numbered, refractor, autographs because that’s where the big money is at.
Flippinvestors do a lot of prospecting. Meaning, they’ll watch the players in the Minor Leagues, and if a player plays exceptionally well for a month or two this creates interest in that player.
Now if the player makes it to the Top 100 MLB Prospect List well this generates more interest, the higher the player is on that list the more interest generates.
Once the player gets the call that they made it to the MLB level it’s a jackpot for flippinvestors! And if that player performs well that’s another jackpot!
It’s payday now folks, and abracadabra hurry, hurry, hurry, step right up and get these great rookie cards of player ABC for the amount of XYZ!
However, the fact of the matter is there’s an agenda with this strategy. It’s the agenda to make money. It’s not illegal but it does make me question their motives.
Are they collectors? Do they care about the hobby I love? Or is it just about making money?
The Possible Danger That Lurks
The magic trick tries to deceive you into thinking that these are rookie cards, and in some cases try to tell you that there better than rookie cards. But historically and legally they are not.
Now if your a collector of prospect cards there is no criticism directed at you. I understand why you like to collect these prospect cards, it’s a really cool niche.
However, what I want is for you to be aware. Aware of the games that happen within the prospecting community.
But now here’s what I propose. Let’s call them what they are instead of what we want them to be. These are prospect cards or as COMC and I call them “pre-rookie” cards.
Don’t try to replace the rookie cards with them. The rookie card is sacred and is the pillar of the hobby it should be respected and protected by us the hobby. That’s ultimately all I’m trying to say here.
If you like this type of content I urge you to check out my other articles:
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Happy Collecting Collectors,
Victor Roman Sr.
Learn. Collect. Enjoy.