Ever since collectors began realizing baseball cards have value, especially rookie cards, there has been an annual chase for the cards of the tops rookies expected to make Major League rosters out of Spring Training.
When only a few card sets were released each year, it was easier to distinguish the rookie cards. That became more difficult when card manufacturers began releasing scores of sets each year. The question then became, “What card is a player’s rookie card?” But that’s a topic for another day.
Back to the chase for rookie cards.
Even though I started collecting baseball cards for the joy of collecting, I’ll admit, each year when the new Topps baseball set would come out, I researched the rookies in an effort to add them to my collection. I knew enough about the hobby to know the rookie cards had a better chance of increasing in value.
After a few years of assembling complete sets by buying packs of cards, I began buying the complete set each year. This would allow me to spend some of my money on “speculating.”
In 1987, when I was a sophomore in high school, I tried my hand at speculating. Still being in high school, my funds for speculating on rookie cards were slim, so I could only go after the less expensive rookie cards.
Back then card dealers would list the individual cards for sale for new releases in their ads. I remember looking through these ads in hobby publications and settling on some rookie cards from the 1987 Topps Baseball release that were less than 25 cents per card.
These are the players that I settled on: Scott Nielson of the New York Yankees, Billy Beane of the Minnesota Twins, Dan Plesac of the Milwaukee Brewers and Juan Nieves of the Milwaukee Brewers.
And I didn’t just buy a few cards of each; I went all in. The less expensive the card of the player, the more I bought. I bought 100 Nielson cards, 75 Plesac cards, 50 Beane cards and 25 Nieves cards.
I figured if the card increased in value just a little bit I would come out ahead. Well, you guessed it, I didn’t get rich by selling these cards at a future date.
The fact is, I still have the cards. They are still in the plastic baggies they were originally sent to me in. Most of the cards probably haven’t been taken out of these baggies since 1987.
You may be asking yourself why I decided to buy so many cards of the same player. That’s easy to answer: I wanted to be part of the game.
Reading the hobby publications at that time, I had read about how rookie cards increase in value. It was also at this time that I was thinking about my future; my desire to own my own card shop was at the forefront of my mind. I figured this would be my start of making a living in the sports cards hobby.
Fast forward 30 years to today: I have long abandoned my plan to open my own card shop, but I am making a living in the sports cards and sports memorabilia industry, so it’s all good.
Even though my rookie card speculating didn’t pan out, it was a learning experience. It taught me to collect sports cards for the enjoyment, not for the hope of monetary gain.
Bert Lehman is the editor of SCD. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.