A Rookie Card is normally the first licensed card ever produced of a given baseball player.  The Rookie Card is normally the most valuable card that a player has and is normally the most sought after card as well.  This is where baseball cards and football cards vary widely.  When it comes to baseball cards there are a wide variety of sets that had been produced on a player is still in the minor leagues.  The problem is many people do not classify Minor League Baseball Cards of a given player as a rookie card.  This can be a very confusing situation to many card collectors. Card manufacturers like tops and upper deck has begun to specify a rookie card logo which is placed on the front of every card.  This tries to take the guessing game out of the equation.  Football cards are much different do to the fact that a card can’t be produced of a player while he’s in college.  This is against NCAA rules and is considered an NCAA violation.  The rules state that a player is not allowed to receive any income while he is in college other than a job that he’s working for.  So football is a lot easier to understand what a player’s actual rookie card is.  Once a player leaves college and is drafted every card produced after that is considered his rookie card.  Basketball cards as well as hockey cards are produced the same way.  Because basketball players are drafted from college they are not allowed to have a card produced until the draft. Upper Deck and Topps have been working diligently on fixing the confusion to help collectors know the difference between what is a rookie card and what is not.  Below is a picture of recent rookie cards that have the rookie card logo in the top right corner of the card.  You can compare this to the picture next to it which was produced in the 1980’s which has not such logo.

Why are Rookie Cards Worth So Much Money?

Rookie cards are the most popular sports cards to collect.  Why you might ask?  Well the truth is it’s a matter of supply and demand.  When a player begins his career a rookie card is produced and if that player is not the most popular athlete to come out of the draft he may develop over the years into a star.  When this happens collectors began to dig into their common boxes to find the players rookie card to add to their collection.  This begins a trend where a popular players rookie cards are purchased by the masses which leads a smaller supply left in the card market.  These cards are brought into people’s homes and put in holders or in boxes as a keepsake or investment for future considerations.  The better the player the more collectors want to purchase that players rookie card.  As a player continues to flourish a higher demand is put on his individual rookie card which increases the value of what people are willing to pay to own one.  The card will continue to rise until it reaches a point where people which had earlier purchased that rookie card become willing to sell theirs.  Some players develop over time which makes it even harder to find their rookie cards.  A great example of this is Tom Brady rookie cards.  Tom was drafted by the New England Patriots and was slated as their backup quarterback for his first few years.  Because Tom Brady was not the most popular of players when he was drafted his cards were destroyed or thrown in common boxes.  After a few years of watching the game from New England’s bench Brady arose as one of the greatest if not the greatest football player ever to wear a uniform.  Collectors began scavenging for Brady rookies but had a very hard time finding them.  Some companies did not even produce A Tom Brady rookie card in there initital sets because of his lack of popularity.  His success cause an extremely high demand in a very low supply which made his rookie cards quadruple in value.  This sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence but that is far from the truth.  There are hundreds of players that have developed into superstars after being in the league a few years.  Players like Brett Favre, Derek Jeter, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, and the list goes on.  Derek Jeter Rookie Cards are great examples of a card that has flourished over time as well. Sometimes it takes a few years for a player to get used to playing in the major leagues and develop his abilities to their maximum potential.  Sometimes it takes time for a player to just get his shot at being a full-time player.  This is what makes rookie cards so intriguing.  It’s like finding that winning lottery number or that diamond in the rough that you forgot about.

Where to Find Rookie Cards?

Rookie cards can be found in packs of every sports card set that is produced.  Unless a specified set is produced almost all sports cards are produced in boxes which are readily available to the public on release.  Another way to buy rookie cards is by purchasing them secondhand from places like a local card shop, sports card show, another collector, and online auction sites.  If you look hard enough you will be able to find almost any rookie card that you are looking for as long as you are willing to pay the price.  Below you can see some ebay auctions of Tom Brady Rookie Cards.

Alan Karpuch

Owner of GMA Grading Inc. Over 20 years experience in the sports card industry.

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