The Future of the Beloved Rookie Card?

My last three post have been dedicated to the iconic rookie card. We’ve dissected it’s past in an effort to Understand the Complexities of the Rookie Card and we’ve looked at the original definition in an effort to gain a more definite, distinct and clear understanding via The 10 Commandments of the Rookie Card.

I proposed the idea of all collectors coming into agreement. Despite my fascination of us as humans, I’m convinced our human nature just will not allow that to happen and I can accept that. Not everyone is going to follow the same definition and as far as your personal collection goes that should be your right. So we’ve looked at the past and present but what about the future of the beloved rookie card? Where is it headed?

Two Primary Issues

communicate 2.001

I believe one of the primary issues we have is one of communication, it has the potential to negatively affect the future of our hobby. May I propose if we can’t agree on the definition lets agree to use proper language in our dealings with the sale and/or trade of RC’s. Let’s call it what it is and not what we want it to be. New collectors are confused or worse yet, getting taken advantage of and for the sake of the future of our beloved hobby we need to fix this part of it! We have to come to grips with the #fact that there is an industry standard and that the majority of collectors agree and abide by it.

mlb rc logo 150x150A secondary issue I see is in the manufacturing. For example everyone knows and loves the fact that Bowman is the king of the RC. But now we have Bowman Chrome, Bowman Draft, Bowman Prospects, Bowman Chrome Prospects, Bowman Heritage, Bowman Platinum, Bowman Sterling, Bowman’s Best, some are MLB RC’s some are MiLB. My goodness! Can someone please help me decipher which is which? Moreover, card companies must limit the use of the RC logo, this has been one of the most blatant fouls in recent manufacturing. 

A Viable Solution

Now I’m not a whiner and I’m cautious of my rants exposing issues without having a viable solution. I feel COMC (Check Out My Cards) is one of the primary leaders in the card industry. The service they provide to collectors has proven to have value. They have developed systems and procedures for identifying the rookie card. In their blog James Good posted, All About The Rookies he explains the philosophy adopted by COMC and it seems to me anyways that the hobby would benefit to adopt this as a neutral zone for every type of RC collector. The following rookie card designations established by COMC would be a viable option for the hobby as a whole to adopt:

Rookie Card (red RC designation displayed on COMC) COMC Design.001 copy 2

“The red-colored ‘RC’ tag on COMC is reserved for cards that are recognized as true rookie cards. To satisfy the designation of RC, a card must:

  • Depict a player in their pro uniform
  • Be licensed by both the league and players association
  • Come from a standalone nationally distributed set
  • Come from a base set
  • Be released after the player’s top-level debut”

If the above points sound familiar it’s because COMC has opted to follow the industry standard for RC’s. Now follow me here, this may be a shocker, in an effort to be clear allow me to say this

“For todays product, according to industry standards, Panini baseball product cannot be considered true rookie cards because their not licensed.”

I know there’s popular opinion out there. An attitude that says, “Don’t let no one tell you what to do with your collection you can do whatever you want!” #Respect but check it out. In a day of Set Registries, in a day of rookie card collections being a part of people’s financial portfolios, in a day of collectors leaving detailed instructions in their wills there may come a time that you or a loved one may try to sell your collection, they will think their selling true RC’s but will be told other wise. In other words, you collecting what ever you want is allowable but is it beneficial? Remember we’re talking about rookie cards here – the very backbone of our hobby and it’s because of the RC our hobby has a proud past and a bright future. 

COMC Design.001Rookie Year (yellow RY designation displayed on COMC)

“The yellow rookie year tag is applied to any other card released of a player during the same year as their rookie card. These cards can include parallels of rookie cards, inserts cards from sets that feature a rookie card, cards that are licensed by a player’s association but not a league (i.e. Panini Optic Baseball), stadium giveaways, and many more cards that do not meet the qualifications of a rookie card.”

Here’s where it gets interesting. This yellow RY designation is given to inserts, parallels, stadium giveaways, regional releases, and on demand product like Topps Now. I am in total agreement, these cards should not be designated as RC’s and I can live with giving them the RY designation because let’s be honest most of these insert cards look amazing so I can respect the fact that it’s a rookie year release and designating them as RY makes perfect sense. Instead of using the RC logo on card fronts manufacturers can create an RYI logo – Rookie Year Insert.

However, there is one that rubs my fur the wrong way and that’s in the parallel rookie. Logically, the RC parallel is a hybrid of the RC and insert card. I like parallel RC’s of HOF’ers and by the looks of it so do collectors. Have you seen what these things are selling for? Have you seen the eye-appeal on some of these? Have you noticed the demand for them? Do you know how hard some of these are to pull? I have not always been a fan of parallels considered as RC’s but I’ve reconsidered. Now I don’t actively pursue them, but if I pull one great! If I buy a collection and come across some they go in my personal collection. Let’s just say, I respect the RC parallel and I have a greater appreciation for them today. HOWEVER, despite my opinion on RC parallels I still respect the fact that according to industry standards parallels are not RC’s and I’m okay with that side of it too. And so in my card dealings I should not advertise it as an RC. I think instead of using the RC logo on card fronts manufacturers can create an RCP logo – Rookie Card Parallel.

COMC Design.001 copyPre-Rookie Card (green PRC designation displayed on COMC)

“A pre-rookie card is any card that was printed prior to the year that a player made their debut at the top-level of their respective sport. The most common pre-rookie cards are included in prospect-heavy products such as a Bowman Draft, Topps Pro Debut, team-issued minor league baseball cards, football rookies depicted in college uniforms in sets released prior to the start of an NFL season, and junior league hockey cards.”

Assigning the Pre-Rookie Cards designation would make sense too. Manufacturers can create a PRC logo and all would be wonderful in the land of RC’s! Right? Well something I’ve learned in my almost 40 years of collecting rookie cards is that the RC is flexible and resilient. Manufacturers listen to what collectors want, we are the ones that determine trends but everything and anything can’t be a rookie card. There has to be a base line. In any sport you’ll find an out-of-bounds line. In order for our sport of choice to be legal we must play it within the boundaries established by the league. No different in our card collecting. 

My notion that manufactures can re-brand the RC logos on card fronts is naive to say the least because ultimately the responsibility is on us. You collector of rookie cards have the liberty to collect what you want and call it what you want. But when it comes to card dealings we must speak the same language. So we must do our homework, we must be knowledgeable, honest and up front especially with those who don’t know better – the future of our hobby depends on it.

Learn. Collect. Enjoy. 

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