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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Leap of Faith: The Importance of Trust in the HobbyThe Cardboard Connection, November 21st
A kid I grew up with (it was one of those my mom was friends with his mom so we were friends kind of arrangements) stole my stack of 1985-86 O-Pee-Chee Hockey cards. At the time, I didn't care about what a rookie card was, let alone Mario Lemieux. But...Read more
The Card Beat: Sports Collectibles News for November 20, 2014The Cardboard Connection, November 20th
Complete Blake Bortles Rookie Card Guide - Blake Bortles was not the biggest name in the 2014 NFL Draft, but he was the first QB taken and is now the starter in Jacksonville. View a complete guide to his available rookie cards, notable pre-rookie cards...Read more
For Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi, New Team Affords New PossibilitiesNew York Times, November 17th
Several years later, when he was at the University of California, Berkeley, Zaidi applied the story of that coveted Griffey rookie card, and a later story involving the rookie card of the N.F.L. star Tom Brady, to his graduate thesis in behavioral...Read more
Jordan rookie card fails to sell at auctionFOXSports.com, November 7th
DALLAS (AP) A Michael Jordan rookie card expected to earn more than $80,000 in an online auction failed to sell. Heritage Auctions in Dallas said Friday that bidding didn't meet the consigner-mandated reserve of $60,000. Heritage is now offering the...Read more
Jordan rookie card could fetch more than $80000Chicago Daily Herald, November 6th
DALLAS -- A Michael Jordan rookie card in top condition is expected to earn more than $80,000 at auction. Heritage Auctions in Dallas is offering the card from 1986 in an online auction where it's expected to sell after midnight today. The consigner...Read more
Jordan Rookie Card Could Bring More Than $80000NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth, November 6th
A Michael Jordan rookie card in top condition is expected to earn more than $80,000 at auction. Heritage Auctions in Dallas is offering the card from 1986 in an online auction where it's expected to sell after midnight Thursday. The consigner wishes to...Read more
Teammate Henry intercepts Pruneau's rookie cardOttawa Citizen, October 29th
That's a good-looking photo on Antoine Pruneau's CFL rookie card, except that it's not him. Rather, an image of slotback Marcus Henry appears on the front of Pruneau's card in the Upper Deck set for the 2014 Canadian Football League season. The cards ...Read more
Alex Gordon and his amazing, mutilated rookie cardSB 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