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Rookie Card Misconceptions

I was a sports card dealer/collector for 28 years before I took a 10 year hiatus. When I returned to the hobby in 2014 I noticed that there are misconceptions about the rookie card, that in my opinion, are not healthy for our beloved hobby.

Misconception #1 About the Rookie Card

Within the hobby, there is a mistaken notion that states, “the hobby decides what a rookie card is.” 

This statement is deeply rooted within our belief system, but could it be the very reason for our frustrations and confusion pertaining to the rookie card?

Well here’s the thing with the statement, “the hobby decides what a rookie card is.” It just doesn’t sit right with me. I get it and I understand it. Heck, I even agree with it to a certain extent.

But there’s something that still bothers me about that statement. So I started to give this statement some thought and I asked myself what is the misconception about the rookie card that bothers me so much.

I mean it’s the power to the people, right? It’s the hobby telling the industry, you don’t tell us we’ll tell you. In all practicality, this is a very empowering stance that we as collectors have. But still, I felt something isn’t right.

Now I was watching the US Presidential Elections on November 3, 2020. On the channel that I was watching the tagline was “America Decides.”

And then it hit me, I had an aha moment! If America decides who the next President is, and the hobby decides what a rookie is…

Then that means there was some kinda vote. Right?! Well, I didn’t get that ballot.

Misconception #2 About the Rookie Card 

So all of this got me to thinking, and I’m going to propose the same question to you. When it comes to the rookie card what exactly has the hobby decide?

To my knowledge, for an entire generation which is around 40 years, a large portion of the hobby agrees, while another large portion of the hobby disagrees. And there’s another portion of the hobby that just doesn’t care.

So again I ask you, what exactly has the hobby decided? And here’s the irony.

On the one hand, the hobby says “the hobby decides what a rookie card is.” And in the other hand is the misconception about the rookie card number 2 which says, “the hobby will never come to a consensus on what a rookie card is.”

So… wait! what?!

Are you kidding me?!

A moment of silence for reflection on these two statements.

So here’s what’s happening.

The RC Crazy Cycle

At the top of The Crazy Cycle Wheel is the great misconception about the rookie card, “the hobby decides” right? But the hobby is full of disagreement about that statement and defining a rookie card altogether.

Instead of compromising or coming to a solution we as collectors draw the line in the sand and say, “we’ll never come to a consensus” which directly opposes the strong belief that the hobby decides.

The issues just sit and become stale. The result? Confusion about what is and is not a rookie card. And the wheels on the rookie card bus go round and round.

The Solution to These Misconceptions

This is why I’m such a big advocate for the 10 Commandments of the Rookie Card. It gives us the rules needed to clearly define what a rookie card is. Now don’t tune me out just because I said the word “rules.”

Now when The National Sports Collectors Convention comes to Chicago I’ll be taking I80 westbound towards Rockford, IL. I’ve been driving I80 every day for decades and the speed limit is 55mph.

Now I can tell you from personal experience over the years when I’ve gotten pulled over for speeding the officer will come back to my vehicle, hand me my license back, and tell me to keep under 75 mph.

If the law says the speed limit is 55mph, why does the officer tell me to keep under 75? Why do they allow this? Because not everyone agrees with going 55mph and not everyone agrees with going faster than 75.

So what do they do? They allow for this window or boundary so that everyone can operate in it. And that’s what the MLBPA has done for the card industry.

Can you imagine if the expressway nearest you allowed everyone to decided how fast they go? Hey everyone, you decide what the speed limit is! It wouldn’t take long and chaos would ensue.

But the law brings regulation and freedom within its boundaries.

In 2005, the MLBPA gave the industry boundaries on the use of the rookie card. Resistance was instant. Card manufacturers instead of looking to comply opted to take shortcuts and shenanigans.

A Better Question is Why Don’t We Agree?

When it comes to the topic of the rookie card it can be a touchy subject. I’ve been in enough of these conversations to tell you it’s right up there with politics and religion.

The hobby of sports card collecting is predominantly male. When you have men that are passionate about any one topic and they have opposing views our human nature is triggered.

On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with this behavior because our opinions, beliefs, and views are one of the greatest assets we have as humans. They shape our thoughts and our decision-making.

But sometimes there’s this thing called “The Male Ego” which at times can blind us from using wisdom. Books have been written on the topic.

So when we look at the overall picture of the rookie card in a predominantly male culture, I believe it all comes down to certain characteristics that can be found in our character.

Here’s where I get nerdy on you. I want to give you four definitions that I found and they pertain to what I’m talking about here. The resource for these definitions is an app called Dictionary.

I’d like for us to view these character types as rookie card collectors.

The 4 Characteristics of an RC Collector

The Four Characteristics of an RC Collector

  1. Traditionalistis a person who supports the established customs of his or her society or group and does not want to change them. 
  2. Puristis a person who wants something to be totally correct or unchanged especially about a topic they know a lot about. Many people view the traditionalist and the purist as nit-picky, old-fashioned, or even stubborn. Now let’s look at opposite character types.
  3. Liberal (not the political definition) – is a person who has liberal views and believes people should have a lot of freedom in deciding on how to behave and think.
  4. Progressiveis a person who favors and advocates progress, change, improvement, or reform as opposed to things just remaining the way they are. 

So the reason why I have such heartburn with the statement, “the hobby decides what a rookie card is” is because it’s subject to every person’s psyche and way of thinking on the topic.

It invokes ego, opinion, and the overall psychological structure of a person. And there are just too many variants in personality in our society today. This is why we will never come to a consensus.

This is why the rookie card needs structure, discipline, and boundaries. In other words, the rookie card needs to be structured by a set of rules.

But our human nature is resistant to rules because we think that rules bind us but when done correctly rules provide structure, stability, and prosperity.

Maybe I shouldn’t call them rules because that word by itself rubs people the wrong way. Maybe I should call them Boundaries of the Rookie Card or Rookie Card Code.

So of the four characteristics of a rookie card collector, which one are you?

To bottom line this point I’ll be direct. Most men, not all men, are resistant to change and rules.

Now although card manufacturers were shady in implementing the expectations set by the MLBPA in the beginning. Today, they have made much improvement in complying with them. It’s the collectors that have given the most opposition.

The Hobby Objects! Overruled

So the statement, “the hobby decides what a rookie card is” is a profoundly beautiful statement but unrealistic in its application. The hobby decided yes, prior to 2005 but after 2005 those decisions are now made for us. Why? Because of “consumer confusion.”

I guess you can say I’m a progressive. I’m advocating for progress, change, and reform as opposed to things remaining the way they are.

If we want all cards to be considered rookie cards I’m all for it. But let’s get it in writing. This way opinions can be overruled!

Here’s the concept that we must all wrap our heads around. In 2005 the MLBPA gave us the standard, now we must comply with it, it does not comply with us.

If we think about it. It would benefit us tremendously.

Whenever there is a question or an erroneous card released by manufacturers and is causing confusion, we have something to stand on, something that will give us clarity instead of adding gas to the confusion fire.

But this endeavor is going to take leadership. It will take the Players Associations of all primary four primary sports to step in once again and make things official.

I do not have the authority, the hobby does not have it either. Hobby Publications and Card Manufacturers especially do not have the authority to make changes to the agreement set in 2005.

Only the Leagues and the Players Association for each League have the exclusive rights.

Again I’ll say, but I say this with the utmost love and respect for you and our beloved hobby. The current rules have already been written it’s up to us to follow the rules, not the rules follow us.

You see that has been the problem! Collectors want to interpret the rules in whichever way it suits us. We want to put our own spin on the definition and everybody has their own version of it.

So Why Is This So Important?

This is a great question and I’m glad you asked it.

We’re living in a day of set registries, our hobby today has a strong atmosphere of investing via, the flipper, long term collectors, even fractional investing nowadays. Collections are being inserted into wills because of the value found in them.

Why is it so important to know what a rookie card is? Because there’s gonna come a day when we will pass and the person of our choosing will inherit our collection. How happy or how disappointed will they be?

I can picture a widowed spouse going to an Auction House and being told, “Sorry to say, there’s not much value in this collection.” 

That’s what would happen if our collections have no substance or depth. Why don’t they? Because we believed that anything and everything is a rookie card.

My Proposal to You

My friend the rookie card is the backbone of our beloved hobby and we have a responsibility to preserve this cultural icon. We shouldn’t muddy the waters with everyone’s interpretation and opinion.

The rookie card needs to stand on a firm foundation, not on one made of sand. As collectors/investors we need to be on the same page on this.

My goal is for this website and YouTube channel to become your rookie card resource. With that comes the responsibility to bring awareness to misconceptions about the rookie card.

So I’ve created an RC Survey, will you take a moment to fill it out? It can be found here: True Rookie Cards – Survey.

The survey will only take a couple of minutes, it’s ten questions, and I will not see who sent them. There is extreme confidentiality and I will only be able to analyze answers, not names or emails of who sent them.

With all that said, stay positive and test negative!

Happy Collecting Collectors,

Learn. Collect. Enjoy.