Friday, May 31, 2013
My issues with rookie cards (And why I enjoy Topps Archives football)
By Dan | @DGood73
I miss the simpler times.
It's difficult to pinpoint when investment eclipsed innocence, but a series of flash-points triggered our current collecting landscape. The Ty Cobb T206 card. Junior Griffey's Upper Deck smile. Autographed Baseball Heroes cards. Embedded game-used materials. Grading popularity.
Rookies, rookies rookies ...
Last year's football products were stuffed with rookie card potential - the first appearances of once-in-a-generation talents such as Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck. A handful of other rookies stood out too, such as Russell Wilson and Doug Martin, Justin Blackmon and Alfred Morris.
That's six special (investment-worthy) players. What about the nearly 200 others?
Some collectors who opened 2012 football products uncovered cards worth thousands of dollars.
But most didn't.
In search of Griffin and Luck, we endured the Michael Egnews and Isaiah Peads, less-intriguing players whose cards were inserted at greater quantities than the marquee talent.
Instead of RGIII, you uncover the autograph of T.J. Graham, and it's selling on eBay for less than $5 ... when it sells at all.
This isn't meant to disparage Egnew, Pead or Graham. They could all develop into fine NFL players. But the cardboard hype (Graham has 36 rookie cards, for example) focuses unrealistic pressure on the rookies to star, and star immediately. The newbies are attracting an expansive piece of the collecting pie. But because of injuries and on-field struggles and physical limitations and maturity curves, not to mention politics and pressure and egos and luck and money and temptations, most of last year's rookies will never become stars. That's the reality of every draft class.
The rookie focus has soured me on many current football card releases. Sure, I opened a handful of products in 2012. I liked Magic, a veteran-heavy set inspired by a 60-year-old card series. Chrome and Score were fun, too.
Basically, the cheap stuff.
Without the draw of Luck and RGIII rookie cards (and in their place, marketing campaigns focused on players who don't exist), I'm not fawning over 2013's football card outlook.
Some of the new rookie crop will develop into Hall of Fame-caliber talent. I'd just rather collect other things.
That's why 2013 Topps Archives Football has been so refreshing. The set doesn't contain a single rookie. The Lucks and RGIIIs are second-year cards.
Without the RC burden, Topps simply combined the best mix of yesterday and today's talent. Kurt Warner and Roger Staubach and Drew Brees share pack space. Christian Okoye and Ed "Too Tall" Jones and Jason Witten are in there, too, highlighting gridiron greatness while employing some of Topps's coolest designs from yesteryear.
It's nice to see Jerry Rice featured on a 1985 Topps design. That was his true rookie season, but because Topps waited a year for rookie debuts in the 1980s, Rice's rookie card actually appeared in 1986 Topps.
My favorite is the 1,000 Yard Club insert of Emmitt Smith featuring Emmitt on that awesome dollar bill design. Money! The card focuses on Smith's 1995 season, when he rushed for 1,773 yards.
My cards of the Quicks also made me smile. I pulled a Fan Favorite Autograph of former Eagles Pro Bowl receiver (and current radio commentator) Mike Quick. A few packs later, I found a "Super Action" insert of current Rams receiver Brian Quick (they're not related).
I don't expect these cards to ever be worth much money.
The value here was enjoyment. I felt something - sentimentality, nostalgia, innocence, fun - when opening these packs. And it had nothing to do with 190 mostly-forgettable rookies.