By Richard Mock aka Paintball

Let us fast forward to the year 2061. Fifty years may seem like an eternity to a lot of the young collectors on this site, but in truth it is not very long when dealing with collectibles. In sports card collecting this would only take us back to the year 1961 from today’s date. Let us imagine three 25 year old baseball card collectors are discussing the cards of the greatest baseball player to ever play the game. Let us assume they are talking about Bryce Harper who in his 25 year career had posted the greatest stats baseball has ever known. Here is possibly the conversation:

COLLECTOR 1: “My grandpa gave me the Harper auto rookie card from his collection.”

COLLECTOR 2: “Wow. I just bought the 2009 AFLAC auto card on eBay for $5,000. There is no way I could afford his rookie card. The last time I checked it was selling for $100,000 in mint condition.”

COLLECTOR 3: “I bought the 2011 Bowman Chrome auto last year for $15,000. I looked at some of the rookie cards, but there is no way I could afford even one in near mint condition.”

COLLECTOR 1: “The card my grandpa gave me was the 2009 AFLAC auto card. He told me it was his true rookie card because it was his first card made.”

COLLECTOR 2: “What the hell is a ‘true rookie card’? A card is either a rookie card or not.”

COLLECTOR 3: “I know you haven’t been collecting as long as collector 2 or me. My dad told me that when he started collecting that a lot of the old timers were using the term ‘true rookie’ and paying more for a player’s first year card then the one with the rookie card logo. He said that his generation got fed up with the mess this was causing and decided to just ignore this entire argument and to only call a card with the rookie card logo a player’s rookie card. He said the old timers didn’t like this very much and continued to call their cards “rookie cards” on eBay when trying to sell them. eBay got fed up with all the claims of false advertizing and finally passed the rule that only cards with the Rookie card logo could be listed as a player’s rookie card.”

COLLECTOR 2: “Everybody knows that a rookie card is the first card of a player after he makes the 40 man roster. Harper wasn’t brought up until the 2012 season. That’s why his 2012 cards are the most valuable.”

COLLECTOR 3: “Harper isn’t even pictured in his Major League uniform on the 2009 AFLAC or the 2010 card. That’s why they aren’t as valuable as the 2011 card.”

 

Now I know that the entire conversation is just an example of a possible outcome that might or might not happen in the future between collectors. I wrote an article a few weeks ago talking about why I was confused in baseball card collecting and my concerns about the long term value of all of our collections. The conversation outlined above will not affect in any way the short term value of our collections since the generation that made the change in this example is just now being born. The young collectors on the forum right now are the above collector’s grandfathers or grandmothers.

 

I don’t know why I even bother to think about things like this. Probably because at 63 years old I think about all the things I threw away that now have a value. I also remember how my view of my baseball cards was not the view of a collector. When collecting something becomes a collection then rules start being formulated among collectors and these rules directly affect the value of these collections. The definition of a “rookie card” set out by COLLECTOR 2 above has now been adopted by the card companies, but as far as I can tell the collectors themselves are ignoring this rule. I will tell you what is presently being affected, however. When the demand for a player’s most valuable card is divided between more than a single year and each year contains the same number of cards then eventually collectors will get fed up of arguing which year should be the most valuable. By calling all these different cards the player’s “rookie card” then present day collectors seem to be agreeing that a player’s “rookie card” should be his most valuable card. If the first year card is going to maintain its statue as the most valuable card then slowly the lingo needs to change. I’m too old to be around when this change starts taking place, if it ever does. I’m just suggesting that when some of you younger collectors are the old timers and you notice this change taking place, that the argument shouldn’t be that the first year card is the “true rookie card.” The argument should be that the first year card should be more valuable than the rookie card.