Few things elicit the adrenaline rush of snagging a legend’s rookie card. The player’s innocence, his untapped potential, and the invariably youthful image all combine to make rookie cards extremely collectible. Plus, everyone loves firsts.

Rookie cards of superstars are especially coveted. Jackie Robinson first appeared on 1948-49 Leaf and Hank Aaron debuted on a 1954 Topps. Roberto Clemente’s first baseball card was also a Topps, printed a year later in 1955.

Collectors have various reasons for obtaining rookie cards. One, no doubt, is an untarnished love of the game or adoration for a particular player, but in recent years, a major motivation has been pure speculation. Some people deliberately invest in the rookie cards of unproven players, hoping they will become stars one day and that their card will skyrocket in value. The most dramatic example of this occurred in the summer of 2010 with the escalation of prices for Washington Nationals’ pitcher Stephen Strasburg’s cards. Before Strasburg had thrown his first major-league pitch, his cards were selling on eBay for thousands of dollars.

Rookie cards tend to be a player’s most valuable baseball cards, but that isn’t always the case. For example, Mickey Mantle’s 1952 Topps card is widely considered more sought-after than his 1951 Bowman rookie card. Nor is Babe Ruth’s 1915 M101-5 Sporting News rookie card his most desired. In recent years, the historical preoccupation among collectors for rookie cards has been further eroded by the advent of specialty cards, such as game-used-jersey or game-used-bat cards, as well as autographed cards.

Some stars never had rookie cards. Lou Gehrig, for one, debuted in the big leagues in 1923 but did not have a baseball card until a 1932 U.S. Caramel card. Some collectors consider a player’s first card his rookie card—for them, that ’32 U.S. Caramel is Gehrig’s rookie card—while others believe a player’s rookie card must be released during his first season.

In 2006 there was a minor clamor to standardize what constituted a rookie card—card companies complied. Now, no player is eligible to have a rookie card until he is a member of his team’s 40-man roster (as a footnote, a player can still be in the minor leagues and on a 40-man roster at the same time). Once a player achieves this milestone, his first card is given a rookie logo on the front. As for minor league players, they get “first year cards” which mark a player’s pro debut, albeit in the minors.

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1916 M101-5 Sporting News Babe Ruth Rookie Rc #151 Psa 5 Ex (pwcc)1952 Topps Mickey Mantle Rookie Rc #311 Psa 5 Ex (pwcc)1937 O-pee-chee Joe Dimaggio Rookie Rc #118 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)1948 Leaf Satchel Paige Sp Rookie Rc #8 Psa 4.5 Vgex+ (pwcc)1909 E90-1 American Caramel Shoeless Joe Jackson Rookie Rc Psa Auth (pwcc)1954 Topps Ernie Banks Rookie Rc #94 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle Rookie Rc #253 Sgc 2.5/35 Gd+ (pwcc)1954 Topps Hank Aaron Rookie Rc #128 Psa 7.5 Nrmt+ (pwcc)1948 Leaf Jackie Robinson Rookie Rc #79 Psa 6 Exmt (pwcc)1955 Topps Roberto Clemente Rookie Rc #164 Psa 7 Nrmt (pwcc)1907 Wolverine News Ty Cobb Rookie Rc, Portrait Sgc 5/60 Ex (pwcc)1939 Play Ball Ted Williams Rookie Rc #92 Psa 5 Ex (pwcc)1954 Topps Al Kaline Rookie Rc #201 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)1954 Topps Hank Aaron Rookie Rc #128 Psa 5 Ex (pwcc)1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle Rc Rookie Card Gma Certified Authentic !!1955 Topps Roberto Clemente Rookie Rc #164 Psa 5.5 Ex+ (pwcc)1993 Sp Foil #279 Derek Jeter Rc Rookie New York Yankees Psa 9 Mint1949 Bowman Duke Snider Rookie Rc #226 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)1938 Goudey Bob Feller Rookie Rc #264 Psa 5 Ex (pwcc)Ernie Banks 1954 Topps #94 Rookie Psa 5 Hof Mr. Cub Rc Clean! $1500! Look! Rip1948 Leaf Warren Spahn Rookie Rc #32 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)1958 Topps Roger Maris Rookie Rc #47 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)2013 Bowman Chrome Refractor Kris Bryant Rc Rookie Auto 199/500 Chicago Cubs1948 Bowman Warren Spahn Rookie Rc #18 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)Miguel Sano 2010 Bowman Chrome Rookie Rc Auto1941 Play Ball Pee Wee Reese Rookie Rc #54 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)1939 Play Ball Ted Williams Rookie Rc #92 Bvg 5.5 Ex+ (pwcc)1955 Topps Harmon Killebrew Rookie Rc #124 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)2011 Bowman Chrome Draft Blake Swihart Bgs 9.5 Gem Mint W/10 Auto! Nice! Rookie!1955 Topps Roberto Clemente Rookie Rc #164 Bvg 7.5 Nrmt+ (pwcc)1959 Topps Bob Gibson Rookie Rc #514 Psa 7 Nrmt (pwcc)Kris Bryant 2014 Bowman Chrome Rc Rookie Purple Refractor Cubs Sp Mint /199 $1001957 Topps Brooks Robinson Rookie Rc #328 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)1954 Topps Hank Aaron Rookie Rc #128 Psa 5.5 Ex+ (pwcc)Yasiel Puig 2013 Bowman Chrome Dodgers Rookie Auto Bgs 9Bryce Harper 2011 11 Bowman Chrome Rookie Rc Sp Auto Autograph Bgs 9.5 W 101955 Topps Roberto Clemente Rookie Rc #164 Psa 6 Exmt (pwcc)Psa 10 Mike Trout 2011 Topps Update Diamond Anniversary Rookie Rc Foil #us1751948 Leaf #79 Jackie Robinson Rc Rookie Hof " No Creases " " Likely Trimmed "Clayton Kershaw 2006 Bowman Sterling Prospect Dodgers Rookie Auto Rc Nl-mvp ClawSandy Koufax 1955 55 Topps #123 Rc Rookie Card Brooklyn Dodgers Psa 8 Nm-mt !!1949 Bowman Gil Hodges Rookie Rc #100 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)1948 Leaf #79 Jackie Robinson Rc Rookie Dodgers Hof W/ Glue On Reverse1984 Fleer Update #u-27 Roger Clemens Rookie Red Sox Psa 9 *5085351954 Topps Low-mid Grd Complete Set Kaline Banks Hank Aaron Rookie, Psa (pwcc)Bgs 8.5 Ken Griffey Jr 1988 Best Platinum San Bernardino Spirit Rookie #1 Rc Ssp1984 Fleer Update #u-93 Kirby Puckett Minnesota Twins Rc Rookie HofAaron Judge 2013 Bowman Chrome Yankees Rookie Auto Bgs 9.51954 Topps #94 Ernie Banks Rookie Bvg 51954 Topps Hank Aaron Rookie Rc #128 Bvg 6.5 Exmt+ (pwcc)1959 Topps Bob Gibson Rookie Rc #514 Psa 6 Exmt (pwcc)1955 Topps Roberto Clemente Rookie Rc #164 Psa 7(oc) Nrmt (pwcc)Clayton Kershaw 2006 Bowman Chrome Draft Prospects Dodgers Rookie Auto Rc Nl-mvp2008 Bowman Chrome Michael Giancarlo Stanton Bgs 9.0 Mint W/10 Auto! Rookie!1948-49 Leaf Jackie Robinson Rookie #79 ... Sgc 55 (4.5) ... Absolutely Stunning1967 Topps #581 Mets Rookie Stars Bill Denehy, Tom Seaver Psa Graded Nm 7 Card1949 Bowman Roy Campanella Rookie Rc #84 Sgc 7/84 Nrmt (pwcc)2011 Topps Finest Baseball Mike Trout Rookie Die Cut Refractor 7/10 RarePsa 10 Gem! Giancarlo Mike Stanton 2010 Topps Chrome Rc Rookie Autograph Sp Auto1951 Bowman Baseball Willie Mays Rookie Card Psa 5 (oc)

Recent News: Rookie Baseball Cards

Source: Google News

Fun baseball cards you may have never noticed
KSDK, January 30th

With several pitching prospects having the last name Reynolds in 1971, Topps used card 1971 Topps Archie Bob Ken Reynolds#664 to produce a three-player rookie card of pitchers all sharing that last name. Heck, even position player Tommie Reynolds got ...Read more

Houstonian finds way to nurture passion for baseball artifacts
Houston Chronicle, January 29th

Horn also has a 1989 Donruss Rated Rookie card of Randy Johnson as a member of the Expos. Not all of the players featured were stars. Some would be remembered only by diehard Astros fans. "I just pulled guys that I dealt with or were fan favorites...Read more

What baseball cards taught a top investor—and where he sees opportunities now
Fortune, January 27th

When he was about 10, growing up in Atlanta during the 1980s, he exchanged his rookie card of superstar Philadelphia Phillies slugger Mike Schmidt for an Al Oliver (who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates and other teams). At the time, Toney thought that ...Read more

Ernie Banks Was "Mr. Sunshine" At Baseball Card And Autograph Shows, Too
Forbes, January 24th

Perhaps, his passing will bump up the price of his rookie card, which sells for a fraction of the cards I mention above. For example, last May a rookie Willie Mays 1951 Bowman card sold for $32,524. Six months later a rookie Ernie Banks 1954 Topps in...Read more

The Card Beat: Sports Collectibles News for January 21, 2015
The Cardboard Connection, January 21st

View a detailed look at both eras of rookie card collecting for the Patriots in our comprehensive guide. Top 10 Selling Sports Card and Trading Card Hobby Boxes - Get a list of the top 10 selling sports card hobby boxes for the week of January 8-14...Read more

PHOTO: Rob Zepp, Flyers' old rookie goalie prospect, getting Upper Deck rookie ...
NJ.com, January 8th

PHILADELPHIA — Back in the day, a Flyers player with one career NHL game never gets featured on a hockey card. Remember Darren Jenson, the rookie was in goal for the Flyers' first game after Pelle Lindbergh was killed in an automobile accident during ...Read more

Babe Ruth's rookie card on sale for $695K
New York Post, December 15th

A sports memorabilia shop on East 57th Street is selling an ultra-rare 1914 Babe Ruth rookie card — believed to be one of only 10 in existence — for $695,000. The card shows Ruth as a pitcher for a Baltimore pro team before he went on to the majors...Read more

Alex Gordon and his amazing, mutilated rookie card
SB Nation, October 29th

It's one of the curiosities of the lost Alex Gordon rookie card that the unaltered versions tended to show up in far-flung clusters: a bunch turned up at a Wal-Mart in Wichita, and others surfaced in military PXs overseas. Back in 2006, Gordon cards...Read more