Friday, July 9, 2010


Mel writes:

"First of all, I want to say that you have a great Internet site about baseball cards. You have a lot of good information. My question is this – how do you tell which ones of the cards you list for each set are true Rookie Cards? You don’t distinguish them that way. Or, do you know somewhere which lists all of the cards like you and shows the Rookie Cards? Beckett magazine doesn’t do that for older cards anymore."


Thanks for your question.  I have actually answered this question in my FAQ page, but I'll be happy to elaborate.

Rookie cards weren't a big deal in the hobby until the late 1970s. If you look at the early price guides, you'll see that a premium value was often placed on star cards, and no mention at all was made of first-year players. To the kids of the 1950s, rookies were untested players. They would rather have guys like Mantle, Williams and Musial than some new hotshot they'd never heard of.

The one point I have to take with your question is the part about the "true" rookie card. Since 1948, there has been a new set issued every year, and most rookie cards are easy to figure out. However, there have been times in hobby history when few sets were issued, and collectors have a wide range of varying opinions about what constitutes a "rookie card."

The 1938 Goudey set is believed to contain the rookie cards of Joe DiMaggio and Bob Feller, but DiMaggio appeared in the 1936 Goudey Wide Pens set and Feller in the 1937 O-Pee-Chee. While many collectors claim that premium, regional or foreign sets really don't count, try telling that to a collector who doesn't share that opinion. And it's not just for pre-WW2 rookie cards, either.

Quick...what's Hank Aaron's rookie card?  If you said '54 Topps, I'd be inclined to agree with you, but there are others who'll point out that the '54 Johnston's Cookie set came out sooner in the year, so that card should be his true rookie. Can the 1957 Topps card of Frank Robinson be a true rookie when he's also among the players in the 1956 Kahn's set? Beckett points out that Walter Alston's first card is his 1956 Topps, but a 1952 Parkhurst card can be found of him if you're willing to look.

And don't get me started on how often the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card is called his "rookie" when he had a card in the 1951 Bowman set.

Thanks to such a wide discrepancy of opinion about what exactly constitues a rookie card, I have politely tried to stay out of the argument. The hobby is fun because every collector can amass whatever makes him happy. That's the reason I don't mention a lot of rookie cards in my site.

1 comment:

  1. Chris, I'm following now thanks to your comment on my blog question! Nice vintage cards. I'll be sure to keep up now!