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Rookie Card Misconceptions

I was a sports card collector/dealer for 23 years before I took a ten-year hiatus. When I returned to the hobby in 2014, I noticed many things about the rookie card that needed clarification. I found myself confused and frustrated.

I recall the rookie card guidelines before my departure, but much has changed. So I devoted myself to this topic and quickly found severe errors.

Misconception #1

Within the hobby, a mistaken notion states, "The hobby decides what a rookie card is."

This statement is deeply rooted within our belief system, but could it be the reason for all the debate about the rookie card?

The hobby decides what a rookie card is. I get it, and I understand it. Heck, I agree with it to a certain extent.

But there's something that still bothers me about that statement. So I started to give this statement some thought, and I asked myself, what is it about this that bothers me so much?

It's power to the people, right? It's the hobby telling the industry. You don't tell us, we'll let you know. But still, I felt something wasn't right.

One night I recall watching the US Presidential Elections on November 3, 2020. The tagline on the channel I was watching was "America Decides."

And then it hit me! I had an aha moment! If America decides who the next President is, and the hobby chooses what a rookie is, then there was a vote. Right?! Well, I didn't get that ballot.

Misconception #2

All of this got me thinking, and I will propose the same question to you. When it comes to the rookie card, what exactly has the hobby decided?

For an entire generation, around 40 years, a large portion of the hobby agrees, while another significant part disagrees. And there's another portion of the hobby that just doesn't care.

So again, I ask you, what exactly has the hobby decided? And here's the irony.

On the one hand, the hobby says, "The hobby decides what a rookie card is." And in the other hand, another misconception about the rookie card says, "The hobby will never come to a consensus on what a rookie card is."

So wait! What?!

Are you kidding me?!

A moment of pause to reflect on these two statements.

So here's what's happening.

At the top of The Crazy Cycle Wheel is the great misconception about the rookie card, "the hobby decides," right? But the hobby is full of disagreement about that statement and defining a rookie card altogether.

Instead of compromising or coming to a solution, we as collectors draw a line in the sand and say, "We'll never come to a consensus," which directly opposes the firm belief that the hobby decides.

The issues just sit and become stale. The result? Confusion about what is and is not a rookie card. And the wheels on the rookie card bus go round and round.

Moments like this have led me to develop a document titled The 10 Commandments of the Rookie Card V2.0 It is a historical, authoritative statement that helps us define a rookie card clearly. Please feel free to check out this free resource.

Speed Limits & Rookie Cards?!

When The National Sports Collectors Convention comes to Chicago, I'll take I294 westbound toward Rockford, IL. I’m no stranger to this route. I've been driving I294 daily for decades, and the speed limit is 55mph.

I can tell you from personal experience over the years when I've gotten pulled over for speeding, the officer will return to my vehicle, hand me my license back, and tell me to keep under 75 mph.

If the law says the speed limit is 55mph, why does the officer tell me to keep it under 75? Why do they allow this? Because not everyone agrees with going 55mph, and not everyone agrees with going slower than 75mph.

They allow for this window or boundary so everyone can operate in it. Can you imagine if the expressway nearest you allowed everyone to decide how fast they would go? Hey everyone, you decide the speed limit! It wouldn't take long, and chaos ensues.

But the law brings regulation and freedom within its boundaries. And that's what the MLBPA, the legal authority, has done for the sports card industry.

In 2005, the MLBPA gave the industry boundaries on the use of the rookie card. Resistance was instant. Instead of looking to comply, card manufacturers quickly looked for loopholes.

As collectors, our human nature quickly followed suit. And the rookie card guidelines were forsaken.

Our human nature resists rules because we think rules bind us, but rookie card guidelines can provide structure, stability, and prosperity when done correctly.

I think it’s time. We’re long overdue to bring stability back to the rookie card. The rookie card needs to stand on a firm foundation, not on one made of sand.

Buy what you want, but know what you’re buying. Why? Because not all rookie cards are created equal.

Until next month,



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