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2024 The Year of "Getting Smarter!”

In my attempts to understand our beloved rookie card, I am often asked, “Which rookie card should I get?” I have empathy and sympathy with collectors who ask this question. It’s not asked from a position of investment opportunity but more from a state of confusion.

You see, today’s ultra-modern hobby will feature cards, many, many cards of a certain athlete. Doing some research, one can quickly evaluate that approximately 2,000 to 4,000 cards are produced of any given athlete in any given year.

One thing all these cards have in common is that they all feature an RC Logo indicating to us, the consumer, that this is a rookie card. Even though many of these cards historically and traditionally are not considered true rookie cards.

Oh! And don’t forget about the prospect and/or collegiate product produced 1-5 years before the athlete enters the pro league. Some in our beloved hobby refer to these as rookie cards as well. Bringing the tally up to 3 to 5,000 rookie cards?!

Get what you like! Is the hobby mantra, but I will take a contrarian viewpoint for just a moment. This is such a cliche response that, at times, it rubs the fur in the opposite direction. Many times, I’ve followed this “hobby golden rule,” and I’ve purchased what I like, only not to like it anymore a year later.

Chances are, if that card has lost its luster to me, it will have lost its luster to other collectors as well. And that’s a problem. I think we need to GET SMART in this vast sea of cardboard variety! And I’m not talking about Agent 86 on the popular Get Smart television series from the late sixties. 

I’m saying our beloved hobby is not cheap, and there are too many rookie cards to choose from for me to simply get what I like. I say instead of getting what you like, get smart! 

We need to be smart with our hobby dollars. We need to be smart on precisely which rookie card to get because, you see, my friends, not all rookie cards are created equal.

Getting what you like is great advice for the novice collector, but I don’t want to stay here. At some point, I need to get off the milk and move on to meat.

Digesting the Meat of RC Guidelines

As a free resource for the hobby, I put together a document titled Rookie Card Guidelines & Best Practices. This document aims to help collectors better understand how the rookie card has evolved and recommends a logical, systematic set of best practices.

The source is time-tested best practices created by hobbyists and is still relevant today in many hobby circles. Also included with these rookie card best practices are current-day rookie card guidelines established by the Player's Association, the legal authority, since 2006.

It is not a legal document and functions more like a resource for educational purposes. However, I recently had a revelation. This document is not for the faint at heart. It’s rather meaty. So I’m told. 

Recent feedback tells me that many folks agree with the standards and principles I speak of on my YouTube channel. Some hobbyists agree that the RC needs reform but they just don’t see how it can be done.

Inspired, my viewers follow up with my call to action to check out this free resource, but once they're in it, they are quickly consumed by the details of this 6-page document. Like I said, it's meaty.

So, how can we take something complicated and make it simple? How can I teach you how to filter through all the fluff so that you can figure out which rookie card to get?

How to Determine If It’s a True RC

  1. Is the card fully licensed? On the back of the card, you should see one license for the league and another for the Players Association.

  2. Has the athlete debuted on a pro-level roster for their respective sport? Minor Leagues, G League, or Collegiate teams do not qualify.

  3. Does the card feature an athlete with a pro-level uniform?

  4. Does the card feature the proper use of an RC logo? See 1, 2, and 3 to determine proper use.

  5. Does the card come from a base set?

To simplify even further:

  1. Fully Licensed

  2. Pro-Debut

  3. Pro-Uniform

  4. Proper Use of RC Logo

  5. Base Set

This is how one can determine whether it's a true rookie card. There are other little nuances for each one, but that’s what the document is for you can check it out here: Rookie Card Guidelines & Best Practices.

I simply filter the cards in question through this exercise to remove all of the fluff and get to the ones that really matter, and now you can too!


Until next month,



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