A New Concept...The "Hobbyist Rookie Card"...
by, 11-14-2007 at 11:26 PM (1856 Views)
With all the new rules in place regarding rookie cards and what they constitute, it's often difficult to find out what a rookie card is to a hobbyist. What those two words mean to him or her. While I don't (and won't) often quote anything put out by Donruss, I must say I have to agree with them here. A Donruss rep told I think it was Beckett in an interview for the upcoming release of Elite Extra Edition..."We believe that the hobbyist should determine what constitutes a rookie card." Long before I found that quote, I've been trying to find out just that. And I finally think I have a good handle on it. The definition of a Hobbyist's Rookie Card, or HRC. An HRC is the first card of a player portraying them in a Major League uniform with a Major League team name. It's as simple as that. Any prior card that mentioned the player's team but fails to show him in an MLB uniform (exempting early 1990's Topps Draft Pick and Olympic cards) would an HXRC, or Hobbyist Extended Rookie Card. I'll give you an example. A 2007 Bowman Chrome baseball card of Mike Carp is his HRC. It portrays him in a New York Mets uniform as well as calling him a member of the New York Mets. A 2004 SP Prospects card of Carp (which is also technically his rookie card) would be an HXRC because Carp is portrayed in an unaltered St. Lucie Mets uniform.
There are other examples of what is and is not an HRC. Minor League cards, for one, are never HRC's or HXRC's. This is because they do not say that a player is with a Major League team. For example, Luke Hochevar's 2006 Just Justifiable prospect card would merely fall under the category of "Minor League card" despite it being Hochevar's first card. Then there are the MLBPA rookie cards. Some, like those of Daisuke Matsuzaka and Mike Pelfrey (you can find a complete list of true rookie cards containing the MLBPA Rookie Card logo on the Baseball Card Forum), are HRC's. Others are not. Take Troy Tulowitzki. Tulowitzki's MLBPA rookie cards aren't worth much at all. This is because his true rookie card can be found in the 2005 Bowman Draft, 2005 Bowman Chrome Draft, and 2005 Bowman Sterling sets. Then there's what I like to call the Bowman Factor.
The Bowman Factor came into existence in 2006 with the MLBPA's service regulations on rookie cards. Because inserts were exempt from this, and also because inserts couldn't be considered rookie cards, Topps started making their Bowman cards as inserts. Included were all the top prospects who'd never had a baseball card before (and some that had...take the inexplicable apperance of Shawn Riggans, who also appeared on a 2002 Topps Traded card). Because these cards were for the most part the first cards made of these players and they also portrayed them in their MLB uniforms with MLB team names, they became HRC's. A few guys featured in the various Bowman brands had rookie cards in other sets in 2006, as well. But then some...like Alex Gordon, Carlos Gomez, Joe Smith, Oswaldo Navarro, Cesar Jimenez, Kelvin Jimenez, and Justin Upton...had what were technically rookie cards in 2007. But these cards are not and likely will never sell for what their Bowman counterparts sell for. Why? Simply because we're going back to the Donruss quote...the hobbyist is dictating the rookie card, not the MLBPA no matter how hard they want to. The Bowman brand cards are viewed as rookie cards by the hobbyist while the technical rookie cards simply are not. That is the Bowman Factor.
How about an example of a player with everything? An HXRC, a HRC, a Minor League card, and an MLBPA Rookie card. Okay. Well, how about Hunter Pence?
-2004 SP Prospects HXRC (considered by Beckett as a RC despite a production run of only 400, no MLB uniform, and all the cards being autographed)
-2004 Just Memorabilia Minor League Card (First Minor League card, IIRC)
-2006 Bowman Chrome HRC (Not really considered anything by Beckett, but it tends to sell for anywhere between $10-$15)
-2007 Topps Updates & Highlights MLBPA "RC" (Worth about $2.)
I think you get the idea. I agree with Donruss (for once) in that you let the hobbyist decide what the rookie card is. The limited production 2004 SP Prospects card is difficult to really fairly call a rookie card due to its incredibly limited production (far less than a true Beckett XRC like one of the '80's Topps Traded sets or Upper Deck Prospect Premieres or Future Gems). Thus, a majority of hobbyists consider Pence's 2006 Bowman Chrome card to be his rookie card as well as his 2006 Bowman Draft Futures Game card. I think that the HRC/HXRC system may gain a little bit of traction once the status of Donruss Elite Extra Edition is inevitably thrown into dispute and the MLBPA starts trying to neutralize Bowman, as well.