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Base Rookie Cards: An Endangered Species

For almost ten years now, I have studied the evolution of the rookie card. I have burned lots of midnight oil, putting the pieces of this complicated puzzle together.

I have spoken to many of the elders in the hobby. Statesmen like B.A. Murray, John Ramirez, Dr. Jim Beckett, and so many others. Men with five to six decades of hobby experience.

I have taken Google searches way past page 10. I have read books, articles, blogs, and anything that would further me into the rabbit hole. I have verified sources by researching the sources of those sources.

And to fully understand, I’ve even embraced the ultra-modern rookie card. I find the story and the evolution of the rookie card fascinating. I aspire to publish a book on this topic in the next few months.

But today, I want to share with you a sad reality. A concerning dilemma that my research is showing me exists in today's hobby. That is, base rookie cards have been devalued. To be dramatic, the base rookie card is an endangered species. There is a hate-for-base movement. Allow me to explain further.

Reasons Why This Is Happening

  1. The RC logo is being applied to everything. - it’s like Frank’s Red Hot Sauce; they “put that ***t on everything!” But this permissive, anything-goes rookie card has caused the base RC to lose its luster.

  2. Print runs are another reason. - today’s collector is very concerned with this. The fear is that print runs will reach or surpass the print runs of the 1980s.

  3. A new, skewed view of population reports. - the current trend is scarcity either by serial numbering on the card itself or through population reports. The less available, the better is the mindset. Somehow, many believe that base rookie cards are not worth it because there are one thousand or more in the pop report. And if there’s a pop report like eight thousand or more, it's considered trash. If it's not a Gold parallel to /10 or a Black 1/1, it's for mere pagan gentiles. Zion Williams escalated this hate-for-base concept, which sometimes can come off rather arrogant. My only pushback with this mindset is if there’s 20k in the pop report, but 100k people are shopping for one, what’s the problem?

  4. Dull or boring card designs. - base rookie cards typically need more eye appeal. For example, Panini Prizm is tough to tell which year is which. It comes off as the same card design year after year. Early 2000s rookie cards were great. They typically had a different design element than the rest of the base set. They had lots of foil, and most brands had some type of serial numbering on their base set rookies.

Why We Shouldn’t Hate Base Rookie Cards

  1. Base rookie cards are the most accurate form of a rookie card - believe it or not, there was a time in the hobby when parallel rookie cards were not considered rookie cards. They were viewed more like a variant or a copy of the original. Although parallel rookie cards are regarded as true rookie cards (at least in my book), the base rookie card is the traditional rookie card, with no fluff, no razzle-dazzle manufactured scarcity. It's just a 100% pure rookie card.

  2. Base rookie cards are the most popular among the silent majority - data will show us that the most transacted type of rookie card is the base rookie card. You see, collectors are the end user, and collectors enjoy base rookie cards. If I were a dealer or card shop owner, I would advocate for the base rookie card. I know they don’t bring much of an ROI, not as much as their counterparts, but if a particular player pops, his base RCs become liquid.

  3. Base rookie cards can assist our more significant trades or purchases - hot deal cooking at a show, but you both are about $300 apart. Offer up $400-$500 in base rookie cards, which might complete the deal. Base rookie cards should be easy money, but many folks devalue them. How much sense does that make?

Recently, I posted a video on my YouTube Shorts highlighting a PSA return I had. I proudly showcased some base rookie cards of Seattle Mariners' Julio Rodriguez. It was about five or six cards of him, all in PSA 10!

I was jammin in the video to Megan Trainors hit single “I’m all about that base…” Somebody left me a comment that said, “This is more of the junk slab era.” My response was simply, “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.”

Oddly, there aren’t many social media posts highlighting ultra-modern rookie cards. I can tell you that I’ve taken PSA 10 rookie cards of Hall of Famers with me to a card show for possible trade and have felt too embarrassed to pull them out of my pocket for fear of rejection.

This hate-for-base isn’t what’s best for the hobby if we expect it to grow. The base rookie card is sacred, and it should be respected and protected by us, the hobby.

Until next month,

Victor, The Rookie Card Specialist


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