By Dan | @dgood73
The card shown above is not Derek Jeter's rookie card.
Not even close.
Sure, Jeter is young here - check out the uniform number on the back of his jersey! The photo was snapped before he wore number two to Yankees immortality. Derek was simply a prospect when he appeared on this card, 1996 Pacific.
You can buy this card for a dollar or two online. Nice card, but nothing to get too excited about.
A man was selling this Pacific card at the mall - ungraded - for $15.
"Rookie card!" the sticker read.
Uh, no. Jeter has eight rookie cards, all from 1993:
- Stadium Club Murphy
- Topps (shown above)
- Upper Deck
The salesman at the mall walked over when he heard me discussing his mislabeled "rookie" cards.
The Pacific wasn't a rookie, I explained.
"Well, yes it is," he responded. "Rookie cards are based on when the companies released their first cards of a player. Some of the companies put out earlier cards of Derek Jeter, but this is his first Pacific card, so this is a rookie card."
My blood started to boil as the man explained how Jeter's 1992 Classic Draft Picks cards are also rookies ... a faulty premise as well. Jeter's earliest releases are certainly sought-after. But rookie cards? No.
Rookie cards involve a player's first Major League releases by MLBPA-licensed companies (today's players need to reach the big leagues before their rookie card is issued).
After a player's rookie card is issued, only cards released during that year are considered rookie cards.
In Jeter's case, he has three different Topps cards that designate him as a future star or prospect that aren't technically rookie cards, from 1994, 1995 and 1996:
The man was selling a handful of early Jeter prospect cards, cards that designate him as a rising star or the next big thing, but not official RCs.
I wanted to start a full-scale war with the man at the mall, but then I noticed his break-away gym pants and lack of customers.
No, this wouldn't get me anywhere. So I simply nodded and walked away, complaining about the jerk-off who tried to sell me a 1996 Pacific Derek Jeter "rookie card."
The moral of the story: do your homework before you buy, sell or trade a card. Research its value. Study recent sales.
For the jerk-off who tried to sell me the Pacific card, I offer him some other notable "rookie cards" from baseball's cardboard past:
1998 Topps Alex Rodriguez, his first Topps card due to a contract issue
1967 Topps Maury Wills (had a contract with Fleer instead)
1954 Topps Ted Williams (first Topps card 15 years after "Play Ball" rookie)
1952 Topps Mickey Mantle (true rookie is 1951 Bowman)
1992 Bowman Pedro Martinez (check 1991 Upper Deck FE for the true Pedro rookie)
There is one card I'd like to give the man with the break-away pants, a fitting second-year card with a subliminal message: