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Aaron Judge “Rookie Cards” Inside 2017 Topps Now

In this post I want to file a grievance against Topps Now, for its alleged misuse of the Aaron Judge “Rookie Card” identifier inside 2017 Topps Now. All Rise! Confusion is now in session.

In my line of work, there are Union Organizations that have come into Work Agreements with the Carrier. When there is an alleged violation of those agreements the organization has a right to file a grievance, also known as a complaint.

A Universal Definition for the Rookie Card

The good news is there are processes and procedures established to respond to these complaints.

The purpose of them is to keep good labor/management relations.

I believe there is a violation of the 2005 mandate between the Major League Baseball Players Association and the Card Manufacturers concerning the definition of a “Rookie Card.”

At the turn of the century, there was lots of confusion within the hobby so the MLBPA assisted the industry in defining the terms of “rookie card.”

Which according to Wikipedia says,

“A rookie card is a trading card that is the first to feature an athlete after that athlete has participated in the highest level of competition within his or her sport. Collectors may value these first appearances more than subsequent card issues.” 

In 2005 Major League Baseball instituted a set of guidelines.

They defined which cards could and could not be branded with the official MLB rookie card logo.

I get into the definition in much more detail in my post, “Sports Card Lingo: The Basics”.

Topps Now Aaron Judge – a Foul Ball

The issue was the industry had to differentiate what was a rookie card, extended rookie card, 1st Year cards, and prospect cards. Depending on the agenda many in the hobby were calling everything a rookie card.

There are some collectors who agree with this and others who don’t.

But the majority of collectors can agree that to be a true rookie card the card must be numbered as part of a product’s base set.

Insert cards have never been viewed as rookie cards, let alone stamped with the MLB RC logo.

But yet this is exactly what’s happening.

It didn’t happen right away, there was compliance (somewhat) for many years.

But now very subtly we are stamping cards with the RC logo that in my opinion shouldn’t be.

In hindsight the last few years I’ve had moments that made me wonder but I never followed up with my suspicion.

That was until the blatant foul in via the Aaron Judge “Rookie Card” craze inside 2017 Topps Now.

Which leads me to stay, All Rise! Confusion is now in session.

Hey Topps! What’s Up With That?

Now let me say this about Topps.

I’m their biggest fan. I believe that they are the pillar of the card industry.

I appreciate their history, their card designs, and the nostalgia they’ve created over the years.

I’m in no way throwing mud at them, belittling them nor am I bantering them.

What I am doing is making a complaint (or grievance) on an observation that I’ve made and I’m asking them, what’s up with that?

This would be a legit time to quote Bill Cowher, Phil Simms, Deion Sanders, and Boomer Esiason on the CBS NFL Show when they say, “C’mon Man!”

Did you know? Aaron Judge has 39 different “rookie cards” inside 2017 Topps Now! C’mon, Man!

Please Enter: Aaron Judge Exhibit A

The mandate says, “A rookie card is a trading card that is the first to feature an athlete after that athlete has participated in the highest level of competition within his or her sport.” 

In my opinion, card #87 would be a legit RC in the Topps Now set if it wasn’t a print-on-demand concept.

Also, worth mentioning here is a hobby standard that goes back decades.

The standard says, if a player has more than one card in a set the first card featured of that player gets the RC designation.

How can all these cards featured above that were released within a 5 month period all be rookie cards? Are you kidding me! C’mon Man!

Topps Now – A Great Concept

Topps Now is an amazing set. I love the concept and purchased many of them when my Chicago Cubs started their run in 2016.

I continued to purchase the first few of Aaron Judge cards but then I got really discouraged about it.

“Another RC!” I told myself. And they just kept coming.

For those who don’t know Topps Now is a print-on-demand set.

When memorable events happen throughout the season new cards are printed and released.

The following day but collectors only have a 24-hour window to make the purchase on the Topps website.

After that 24 hour window, the printers are fired up and only the number ordered in that 24 hour period is printed and distributed.

By capturing these highlights as they happen the set begins to mimic a historic documentary.

The 2017 set has 863 cards in it and when you factor in the $9.99 price it would cost you $8,621.37 to build the set.

(shipping is free for those who are checking my math).

It would be amazing to build this set and be able to read the highlights of how the season unfolded years later.

But my grievance isn’t about price, set design nor distribution.

It’s about branding so many Aaron Judge “rookie cards” inside the 2017 Topps Now, with the MLB RC insignia when they are not true rookie cards.

Please Enter: Aaron Judge Exhibit B

What do these three have in common?

Yes, there all Topps products.

Yes, they’re all of Aaron Judge.

But they’re all stamped with the RC Logo!

BUT ALL THREE ARE INSERT CARDS! Since when do we stamp RC on insert cards?

This practice frustrates veteran collectors and confuses the novice collector and I can only assume that this is not what Topps wants to do.

Proposed Solution

I understand why this type of thing happens, at least in my realm. Over the years there are new management changes, sometimes frequently.

Over the years if left unchecked the working agreements get watered down and if neither side enforces them they become obsolete altogether.

But there are many benefits to the working agreements.

They provide structure and stability, and when followed they provide boundaries, quality, and profitability.

So when we stray too far to the left-field there is a process established to get us back to the center.

Topps, I realize you’re the big dog in town, you’re the Boss of the industry.

But let’s tighten the belt in this area, that’s all I’m asking.

I understand you were riding the Aaron Judge wave but you overdid it.

A Misconception of the Rookie Card

Today, there is a mistaken notion that a rookie card is whatever you want it to be.

Or that there all rookie cards because the card says so.

All Rise! Confusion is now in session. The reason there is confusion, is that over time, the waters have been muddied.

I get into this very topic on my YouTube channel “Victor, The Rookie Card Specialist.”

The first video is The History of the Rookie Card in it we look at how the RC has evolved over the decades, more specifically 1981-2005.

Next, we review The 10 Commandments of the Rookie Card in an effort to give us a definition of what a rookie is and is not, and what we can do as collectors to preserve this cultural icon.

Happy Collecting Collectors,

Learn. Collect. Enjoy.