Rookie Card

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Rookie Card: A player's first base card(s) in a regular issued, fully-licensed card set.

The "Beckett Definition" of the rookie card (or "RC") states that a "rookie card" must come from a fully-licensed (both MLB and MLBPA), nationally-distributed set that is primarily focused on current Major League players. It must be a base card and cannot be an insert, parallel, or redemption card. A player may only have one RC per set. If he has more than one base set card in the same set, then the "rookie card" tag is given to the "regular" card (assuming that the other card is from a special subset). If a player has more than one base set card in the same set, but the two cards are produced in different quantities (i.e. one is short-printed and the other is not), then the more common card is given the "rookie card" label.

Many of the cards produced by Classic (and other so-called "draft pick" manufacturers) are not considered rookie cards, because they are not licensed by the respective leagues and teams. This is why many of the players in such sets are still pictured in their college and high school uniforms. It should be noted, that a player need not be pictured in a major league uniform for a card to be considered a rookie. For example, Manny Ramirez is shown wearing street clothes on his 1992 Bowman rookie card. Since Ramirez had signed a professional contract, and because the 1992 Bowman set was officially licensed by Major League Baseball and the Player's Association, this is a rookie card.

Before 2006, a player need not have actually played in a Major League game to have had a rookie card.

In recent years with the trend by card makers to "short-print" their base-sets (especially the rookie cards), the line between what is "base" and what is "insert" has become blurred, almost to the point of no return.


Parenth-RC: (RC) A card from a 2006 or later card set bearing the standardized "ROOKIE CARD" icon of a player whose "true" rookie card was issued in a pre-2006 set.

Beginning with the 2006 season, a new set of rules on player selection from Major League Baseball Properties (MLB) and the MLB Players Association (MLBPA) went into effect. From that point on, only those players who have actually played in a Major League game, will be allowed to appear in an MLB/MLBPA licensed base set. Further more, all cards of first-year players will have a new standardized, cross-brand, "ROOKIE CARD" icon on their cards.

As part of it's long-standing agreement with the MLBPA, Topps is not bound to the Association's group licensing agreement, and must sign each player to an individual contract. On the surface, this appears to give Topps' competition an advantage; however, (up until 2006) it allowed Topps to include players who had yet to reach a Major League roster, onto fully-licensed MLB cards. Since relaunching the Bowman brand in 1989, Topps has positioned it as "The Home of the Rookie Card" by stocking the checklist with hundreds of minor leaguers. Since Bowman is a fully licensed brand, and does feature a token number of current Major League stars, the cards of these minor leaguers are considered their true Major League rookie card.

And therein lies, as the MLBPA sees it, the problem. First the "RC Gap:" that is, a player's rookie card appears in a product years before he actually appears in a Major League game. An example of this is the case of the 2005 National League Rookie of the Year, Ryan Howard. Howard actually Major League debut as a September call-up in 2004, but all of Howard's rookie cards were issued in 2003. (Not surprisingly, they're all Bowman products.) Unlike the NFL or the NBA, which do not have established minor-leagues, a player is prohibited from appearing in football or basketball card set until he has appeared in a actual game.

Second is the fact that the hundreds of minor league prospects featured in the Bowman set are not actual Major League players, and as such, are not dues paying members of the MLBPA -- some of whom retire without ever making it to the Big Leagues.

Guide to Rookie Card Abbreviations

For purposes of this wiki, we are using these abbreviations in our checklists.

RC: A "true" rookie card.

RC*: A "true" rookie card of a player who retired without playing in a single Major League game.


(RC): Parenth-RC (see above).

RCup: Card with the Topps All-Star Rookie Team cup. These are usually 2nd or 3rd year cards.

ROO: Card from a rookie-themed subset. May not necessarily be a true rookie card.