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Discussion: Are Rookie Cards and Rookie Logos still Important?
Collecting Sports Card Has Changed
For collector's who have been with this hobby for 25+ years, you've probably noted a few changes. Back in the late 70's and early 80's, generally believed to be the height of this hobby, things were extraordinarily simple. Each year a baseball card set was issued by Topps and in 1981, Topps was joined by Fleer and Donruss. Each year, the card sets issued presented a fairly large amount of players from each team as well as All-Star, Leader Highlight and other subset cards. Also included in these sets were the Rookie Cards of the top players from each team.
Topps presented them either as a multiplayer card by team or on their very own card. I'm not sure what Topps used as the criteria for deciding who got there own card. In 1982, Cal Ripken shares a rookie card with two other players, but Dave Stewart and Lee Smith both got their own cards. Rookie cards, no matter how they were presented, were the cornerstone of the hobby at the time.
The RC Logo
This logo was introduced a few years ago when MLB decided to pare the licensees down to just Topps and Upper Deck. They were attempting to lessen the confusion caused by many years of "too many sets, too much stuff". The real problem, and I hate to pin it on one set, is Bowman. The whole premise of Bowman was that Topps had the lobg-standing agreement with MLB to present recent draftees and minor-league players in major league uniforms. This created "rookie cards" of players long before they ever made it to the major leagues.
THIS IS A PROBLEM...
You may ask why this made such a difference. The simple fact is that when players were rookies, collectors couldn't find the true rookie cards in the current year sets. If the hottest rookies aren't in the sets currently available, then there isn't any real reason to buy those sets and it also makes it difficult to find those cards in Bowman from 3 or 4 years before without paying a premium for it.
The only way to "beat" that was to speculate years before a player could possibly hit the big leagues. If you were good at it, you made money. If you weren't, you lost, and most people lost. It simply wasn't a great way to present cards (though Topps loved having the "Rookie Brand"). This made Bowman and Bowman Chrome extremely popular for many years.
The RC Logo was meant to lessen the confusion for new collectors. The problem is that Bowman is still considered the Rookie Brand even though the Prospect cards they present in their sets are really considered inserts, and therefore can't be rookie cards which are cards presented only in the basic set. Sound confusing??? It is, and it gets worse.
Some cards in other sets labeled with the RC logo aren't really RCs, and some of them are. Yuckkk. Nobody can really keep it all straight anymore and the real debate is if it really even matters anymore. Is anyone still collecting rookie cards? When you bust a box of cards are you looking for a hot rookie card or the guaranteed autograph or relic card? The rookie card really isn't considered a "hit" anymore.
Rookie cards are still desirable, and having them in the current year product is important, but the logo really isn't. Many people simply consider the players first card in a major set as the rookie card. Bowman's prospect cards are considered inserts to the basic set, but seriously, it isn't. It's a set unto itself. With Topps being the only card licensee for baseball, the logo seems even less important since there isn't anything else to consider. A player either has a Bowman card, or he doesn't and the Topps sets that first present that player will have the Rookie Card.
For example, Jayson Heyward, The Atlanta Braves phenom is not in any sets yet - not Bowman, Bowman Chrome or anything else for that matter. That means when he has a card presented in Topps Series 2 (along with a host of other rookies) many people will be looking for his cards in that set. In that sense, the rookie card is important. But I guarantee, more people will be looking for his autographed rookies in Topps Chrome and his relic cards that will soon be found in every other Topps product presented this year.
Rookie cards are still important. All collector's like them and want them. The RC logo placed on them is just as confusing as when the RC logo didn't exist. With Topps being the only licensee, it's even more useless.
Keep collecting those rookie cards, just don't trust the RC logo...