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Make Base Rookie Cards Great Again

This is not a political post. But it advocates for what is at the core of hobby tradition, the beloved base set rookie card [emphasis mine]. But something very concerning is happening in today’s hobby.

If you have your ear to the rail, you can begin to discern that there is a mockery of sorts for base rookie cards, especially on ultra-modern products. If you pay attention to sports card content creators on YouTube, Instagram, etc., you will notice undertones of hate for base rookies.

Sometimes, it's very subtle, and other times, it's very direct, but the spirit of what is being said is the same: base rookie cards are garbage. Pay attention to the interactions between card show dealers and customers, and you’ll pick up on it there too. Even if you offer up PSA 10s of current stars, it's like, “Oh! base rookies, um-no thanks.”

Unless, of course, it’s a base rookie card of a high-end product. But you better hope there’s an autograph or some sort of memorabilia on it. This hate for base movement, as I call it, affects the low to mid-range products the most.

Why Is This Happening?

Could it be that the hobby has completely flipped to only caring about cards that make money? Could it be arrogance? Are we entitled and have lost our appreciation for the true spirit of collecting? Or is it all about building a portfolio of high-end, low-scarcity sports card assets? 

I’ve recently created a couple of YouTube videos on the topic, and the feedback I’ve been getting in my comments has been phenomenal. In my video, I asked the question, is the base rookie card dying? I want to share some viewers' comments that may give us some insight into this, but more importantly, what we can do to make the base rookie cards great again!

  • @kevinquiles1903 says, “I believe it’s definitely being driven by influencers only wanting high-end cards and only promoting high-end cards, so the younger generation of collectors only wants to collect higher-end cards.” I tend to agree with this comment. There seems to be a lot of glamor for the high-end product being portrayed on social media.

  • @officialghetty says, “The problem is they have printed millions of these base cards, so that’s why they are undesirable.” They go on to say, “…there are so many parallels that it makes the base undesirable even to collectors.” Although I don’t believe print runs are in the millions, I do see this commenter's point. Print runs seem to go higher and higher every year, especially on the base RCs.

  • @fliplife67 says, “My problem with base RC is from 2020 products and up. They are overprinted.” Starting to see a theme here. Again, the apparent perception that ultra-modern base cards are overprinted is a reality to the collector. 

  • @bubblesnz1059 says, “I think there’s some conflation (the process or result of fusing items into one entity) of grading hate with base hate, the Zion Williamson 30k Prizm base at PSA that really triggered that.” This, to me, is one of the primary drivers for the state of base rookie cards today. During the Pandemic years, the mass submissions sent to third-party authenticators were unprecedented. Every type of rookie card of every rookie athlete was being sent in. What was the result? Some grading companies had to stop taking submissions. The natural consequence of that is diminished card values and interest among hobbyists. This whole “slab era” has done more harm than good.

  • @thomasadams9230 says, “I spent 20 years away from the hobby and recently got back into cards and collecting. The hardest part to me is what card is the RC now, or are they all RCs? The hobby seems to have gotten very complicated and run by investors and influencers.” This comment tugs at my heartstrings because I know the feeling. But to remain on topic, I believe one of the things that hurt the base rookie card is the fact that everything is considered a rookie card these days because everything has an RC logo on it, but as I have stated and proven time and time again, not all rookie cards are created equal.

Some really great feedback here! There are many others, and I appreciate everyone who took the time to watch and share their thoughts. So what we’ve learned here is that some of the reasons the base rookie card is losing some of its luster is due to influencers only hyping up high-end products, overprinting low-end products, the pandemic slab era, and the RC logo on everything. Solid points! Right?

I would like to add a fifth element. In today's ultra-modern product, the base rookie cards are boring. Whaaat! How can you say that? You might be asking. Let’s keep it real, shall we?

To be honest with you, Panini Prizm Basketball and Football from 2018 through 2022, it’s hard for me to tell which year is which. They all look the same! There’s no creativity. Have you seen the cardbacks on most Panini products? Basic, generic, or perhaps laziness is a better adjective. Even the cardbacks look the same!

Topps baseball product? Remove the RC logo, and you’re left with a common. You couldn’t pluck them out from a stack because nothing else makes them stand out. That may be okay for some folks, but keeping on topic, the base rookie card could be losing its allure because the cards are boring. 

How to Make the Base RC Great Again

I’ll make this quick because I know you don’t like long articles. 

1. Card manufacturers - let’s get some creativity in the base set products. These designs are boring! Study how Upper Deck has done it for decades now. Their base set rookies have a completely different design to them. They borderline look like inserts.

2. Card manufacturers - let's figure out what to do with print runs. Make the sets bigger, let’s make the rookie rosters bigger, and/or perhaps create different types of brands. Perhaps more image variants. Just make sure the card back is the same, and the card number is the same. 

3. Change our expectations - understand that not everything is about money. Certain products are made for high-end investors, and certain products are made for collectors. We shouldn’t expect to make 4-figure ROIs from low-end products, and not everything should be graded, thinking you're going to 10x.

4. Honor every type of collector - do not think more highly of yourself than you ought to. In its simplest form, honor equates to respect, but it's much more than that. It’s a sense of finding value in something or someone. I collect what I like, the number one rule in the hobby. But we should learn to find value in what others collect, even if it's different from what we like. 

I sometimes wonder why I don’t see more base rookie cards highlighted on social media. With the exception of @sportsmdcardcollector on Instagram, he proudly displays his base rookie cards for the world to see, but most of what you see are the shiny, low-scarcity, high-dollar cards posted. Perhaps folks are ashamed of posting their base rookie cards. Or do those thoughts only go through my mind?

Do me a favor, if you’re a base rookie card collector and you’re proud of it, tap that heart on the lower right-hand corner of this post. 

Until next month,

Victor, The Rookie Card Specialist


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