Saturday, January 5, 2019

Say it with me now: "Rookie Card cards"

2018 is another new peak in Rookie Card mania. But then collecting baseball cards has always had this, to me, odd angle to it, and we have always been in the midst of Rookie Card mania for as long as I can remember that baseball cards had monetary value attached to them. Fortunately, there was that sweet period in my young baseball card life where all I cared about was attempting to Complete The Set, blissfully unaware that baseball cards are supposed to = $$$, which is how oh so many "collectors" approach 'The Hobby.'

And the result of inescapably looking at and thinking about Rookie Cards every time there is a pack of baseball cards in my hands or reading some online baseball card discussion (outside of all you friendly bloggers in the baseball card blog-o-sphere), is that a Rookie Card has become my 2018 Baseball Card of the Year. That is something I have never declared before, here on this blog, though I do have such selections randomly tucked away in my collection. Soon I will post a somewhat related Card-of-Year card for a blog series I have wanted to start for some time.

However, my Card of the Year is not this one
What fun would it be to post the Card of the Year as the very first card? I had to get a photo going to keep you awake in this sea of so many wordy words. This was, however, from my very first pack of 2018 Opening Day this year, and that was fun. I wish I could remember my very first card from 2018 Series One this year, but alas, that pack got opened in the midst of a blizzard of details of trying to help my elderly parents all in the midst of an actual blizzard, and Real Life fairly well trumped sweet Baseball Card memories there. I am still a bit distraught that I let Real Life beat me like that, on something every true baseball card collector should know by heart, each and every season.

Nevertheless, baseball cards came through for me all year long. My years long unexplainable love for buying too much Opening Day finally paid off. I probably bought more of it than ever before, because to be honest, I too am not immune to chasing those little dollar bills sometimes, yes, via baseball cards. The demise of Toys R Us this year probably largely drove the exercise, as the midwestern Target/Wal-Mart competitor called Meijer's agreed to sell all the orphaned TRU exclusives. (They did this for the Series 2 purples, as well).

Sensing a commercial opportunity, one three-bucks-and-change lottery ticket at a time, I bought 3 pack blister packs of Opening Day, with 3 purple parallels in each one, whenever I could. I now have a nice little stack of 80 or so of them, including one of the best possible doubles/dups, from any kind of 'limited' set - Mike Trout.

Finally on the day after Christmas I hit the card I was continually hoping for

This one will eventually get sold, maybe even graded first in my own hopes of exploiting that, in my opinion, fairly insane baseball card market. As I write tonight there is the inevitable new news of folks once again "trimming" cards to exploit the bizarre world of collecting 'high grade' baseball cards. Which will again be news again some future new day, too, as long as 'collectors' are willing to pay such absurd premiums for baseball cards 100.1% free of invisible micro scratches. As I wrote elsewhere today, I never thought I would meet actual prisoners in Plato's Cave. Now I know they are called 'collectors' by some, but are actually pitiable prisoners of their own Ego, in reality.

Such strange people can only be truly mollified that their precious baseball cards have never been altered by dastardly crooks preying upon their sad hearts-of-darkness (so determined to enjoy owning something largely because the fewest number of other people can own it too), by a simple manufacturing expedient. Some day, I predict Topps robotic machines will produce the 100.2% perfect cards and place them directly into "slabs", never touched by human hands, before sale to us totally crazy baseball card collectors. (Or at least, some market segment of them, that will not include Me). But then all those same 'collectors' will complain mightily because they can no longer exploit that grading bump for themselves, either, via random good luck opening packs of baseball cards with partially sort-of random card quality. Ahh, the things I learn on the Internet, mankind's single most efficient invention for revealing how much of Humanity will just simply never be Happy. Sad.

But this is the Internet - back to MY story, where in my own little way, I did well in the hunt for Rookie Cards that we almost all participate in, whether by design or not. I will probably turn a tiny, but still in-the-black, profit on my purchases of Opening Day, and the proceeds of selling that Ohtani purple RC will become part of a new bank account I will be setting up, to hold profits from baseball cards, which I need for obviously massively expensive dental and health care on my personal horizon, far more than I need rare baseball cards. Fortunately for me, I also hunted up 2011 Topps Update as much as I could on my very limited budget, picking up $3.49 (tree-fiddy-ish is a good #, for my budgets) discounted hanger packs all over backwoods K-Marts in several states in 2012 and 2013. Which yielded a stash of 7 of the ultimate modern Rookie Card mania card - #US175.

So I got that going for me. ADVthanksANCE, baseball card clectors with money to burn. I needs it. Except I won't be selling off everything - the rest of my random Opening Day hits will largely continue to finance (via COMC) my 2013 All Parallel set collecting effort, which is coming along nicely enough that I soon hope to launch a blog about it. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile later on in the baseball card season, this year I was finally able to buy some Topps Chrome, which last year never made it to the backwoods Big Box stores generally an hour or more drive away from me, for most of my work season. Aaron Judge Rookie Card Mania was to blame there, so I never got to try out a few of my easy favorite baseball card parallel color - Pink - which looks like bubble gum. This year, I did find some retail Topps Chrome and some examples of those nifty pink retail refractors for my Personal Collection of the artistic side of baseball cards. And, this,
Which is the Chrome 'Prism' Refractor, also quite toploader-worthy and individually salable. It was a fun pull, too, though pitching was already over for Ohtani by the time I pulled it, so I figured I would need to acquire a simple low-end Ohtani rookie of him batting too, but I knew that would be no problem in the RC logo flood this year. My first pack of '18 Update came through for me with a nice copy of card #US1, his 'Rookie Debut' & otherwise pointless additional Rookie Card card.

[My only other real complaint about the year of Ohtani is that I am still bummed he didn't end up in the National League. Can you imagine what Joe Maddon could accomplish while having an Andrew Miller type reliever, who could come into the game in late innings and hit Home Runs, too, and then slip into the Outfield (in case of extra innings), for a true Closer to come in? The Greatest Reliever of All Time (the GROAT?) would be a possibility. I will just have to keep hoping he gets traded to the NL, eventually.]

Obviously I can't totally decry the existence of all these Rookie Card cards. They fall out of all the packs of baseball cards I open, and I can't ignore that. And I don't hate Rookie Cards, they just bemuse me. In fact, I collect the RC logo cards as a special side collection of Series 1/Series 2/Update a.k.a. "Flagship" baseball cards. I like looking at them all together that way, as a sort of living set of every player that debuts in MLB. And the vast majority of them are worthless, anyway.

The whole idea of valuable Rookie Cards came along with no forethought or planning from Topps, or from baseball card collectors. Back in the 60s, when a young Keith Olbermann was ordering his first "singles" from hand-typed lists of decade old baseball cards for sale through the mail, to fill out his first sets of baseball cards, well, those cards had to be priced, of course. Even then, star power drove the price of a card. More people wanted a card of a regular All Star, so Supply & Command kicked in, as my sorta hero Ricky would say. Simple enough. And, even then, not every collector was trying to Complete The Set, which would make all cards in the set of equal value. Some were happy to own just a few All Stars. But I think simplicity also explains the eventual premium for "The Rookie." Obviously, with each passing year, fewer and fewer examples of a specific card will exist, as unfortunate things happen to them. Supply goes down. More importantly, when baseball cards first had to be priced, individually, in a re-sale market, the oldest cards would obviously command the most money. And thus, the "Rookie" card would be the most valuable card of a player, by the default/natural workings of economic transactions.

And without any type of deliberate marketing psychology manipulation on the part of Topps, or even after-market dealers of baseball cards. It was just the way it was, for a long time. Even as a mid-teen, I understood to not just ignore those weirdly dumb cards with two, three or even four small pictures on them. I didn't really care for them, making my 2018 Card of the Year a rather ironic selection. But they stayed in a special stack, apart from the regular doubles, to be traded only if absolutely necessary. I mean, that weird looking Ripken kid, or any of probably hundreds of other such players on those cards, _could_ turn out to be Somebody, some day.

Eventually of course, the proliferation of baseball card products and the now eternal arguments over which is the "true" Rookie Card, after the odd "XRC" designation slowly faded away, gave us, on the 2nd try by Topps, the little red-white-&-blue "Logoman" RC logo, which also somehow involves the Topps contract with the MLBPA for some reason. 

Which I mostly enjoy, on the one "true" Rookie Card - the card in the regular (or Update) Topps set each year. (I am a traditionalist, I guess). An extra little bit of classical American iconography on a classical American iconic object, a baseball card.

Outside of that use of this officially licensed logo I am far less of a fan, though one of my all-time favorites can be seen on a card in this favorite blog post from a while back, and that was before they appeared on dozens of different cards for one player in a single year.

I have reached the conclusion that I should sell most examples of them I pull, when not on the 'regular' base card. I figure that for any Rookie player with a bit of 'buzz' about him, an RC-logo insert will be the most valuable during his first year, before he has time to disappoint anyone and become just an everyday MLB starter, rather than a guaranteed first ballot Hall of Famer and thus the only kind of player "worth" collecting for so many. That way, I can get a dollar or two for some insert card that I don't think will ever hold much value, in the long term - because there are now sooooo many cards with an RC logo on them. Only certain ones will ever hold any real value, though I expect the miscellaneous RC logo inserts will have some demand from folks trying to Complete The Set of Rookie Card cards for the newest GOAT flavor of the season.

But then there are the ordinary Rookies, who come up to MLB without generating Joe Charbonneau type excitement. When Yasiel Puig was the "It" Rookie in 2013 (I received $60 -now worth $20- for his Update Chrome Gold /250 RC, which I promptly spent on 100+ low end Miguel Cabrera cards for myself to enjoy), well, no one cared if they pulled Nolan Arenado rookies or Christian Yelich Rookie Card cards, either. Anyhow, I also mostly sell off such less-heralded Rookies right away, too, because even if one were to win the MVP five years later, like Yelich just did, I don't think RC logo inserts would hold any value then, either. Though I would keep any clutch parallels I might hit, which is pretty tough in 300 cards sets, but somewhat less difficult in my guilty pleasure 200 card set of Opening Day.

Which finally leads me to my Most Hated Baseball Card this year. I would like to see more of these egregious examples of Topps', or other perps, assaults on baseball card blogger sensibilities. But, what's with the negative waves, and all. Anyhow, at first I greatly desired the following card when I somewhat distantly glanced it, online
I often like that regular line of Heritage inserts, the "New Age Performers", when I can run across them, but I haven't been collecting Heritage lately through the rather dull years of 66-70. (The endless parade of same-same Photo Day posed shots is getting really, really boring, too - the 70s are here now Topps, time for some shots from Shea Stadium. Oh, wait.) But those New Age cards with their nice reminiscence of 1960s graphic arts, those I like.

And that Ohtani card really "pops" as they say. I thought I might even spend a whole buck-fifty (RC exhaustion has set in on Ohtani cards, finally) of my randomly accumulated COMC credit on one of these shiny (and not even Chromed) beauties.

Until I noticed that insidious, ubiqitous, sadly inevitable logo up there in a key spot in the overall image. Pointless. INSERTS DON'T NEED THIS RC LOGO - DUHHH! It's an insert. No one will ever confuse a pretty, well crafted insert for a base card. On that particular card, I would have quite enjoyed the far tinier example of MLB's "Logoman" where it should be, on the actual baseball. But that card, I will never own, and had to steal an image of from eBay, for you, to share in my hatred.

We all know the RC Logo is here to stay, and stay for a long while. Forever, now? I hope not. I would hope Topps could back off from using it on every insert ever made, maybe, possibly, perhaps - Please?

Or is it on every card ever made? While everyone else in The Hobby endlessly questions which is "The" Rookie Card to own, always with the same basic answer - the card the answering person already owns - I pulled the ultimate, most perfect Shohei Ohtani Rookie Card this year. It is hands-down his most traditional Rookie Card, by far, and the word "Rookie" does not make an appearance, anywhere on the card. But for some totally-unknown-to-me reason, amidst surely a record setting quantity of Rookie Card RC logo cards for just one player, my 2018 Card of the Year is the one and only Shohei Ohtani Rookie Card - without an RC logo.


  1. I didn't know Meijer picked up the Toys R Us packs? Is that just for 2018 or will they continue to do so in 2019?
    I like your choice of a rookie card without the rookie logo. Well done. It is the most "rookie" looking card of them all.

    1. 2019, who can say? We will find out in just about 4 weeks. Some Meijers stores are struggling to sell them all, but then the ones I visit are in low population areas.

      I'm sure the card vendor's employees had a most excellent time searching the Series 2 blisters, which were very easy to examine to determine the specific purple card inside. So hopefully they will tell Meijer's - yeah, do this again, sales were great!