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Thread: 80's & 90's RC (XRC) discussion

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    80's & 90's RC (XRC) discussion

    Part of the beauty with collecting is we can make our own collecting rules. Since the RC is the foundation to so many collectors, I'm curious to know what you consider a RC during the 80's and early 90's. Does it depend on simple economics, supply vs. demand ? Does it change with each player ? Is a Tiffany or Glossy card a RC? Perfect example: same years, different players, different sets but both have "labeled" RCs in '89: 1988 Craig Biggio vs. 1988 John Smoltz. Biggio's most sought after card from either year is '88 Score R/T Glossy. Smoltz's is the '89 Topps Tiffany. Why isn't Craig's his '89 Tiffany? Why isn't John's his '88 Fleer Update Glossy? Are Griffey's Tiffany cards from '89 RCs? Bonds had 5 cards issued in '86. Why do people consider his RC in '87? Why aren't Chipper's Desert Storm cards considered rookies? They were issued in packs exactly like the base Topps. Sorry for all the questions. I don't expect answers to all of them. It's just a lot to ponder . Let the discussion begin......
    Last edited by cbrandtw; 09-22-2016 at 10:47 PM.

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    I personally consider Tiffany/Glossy to be RCs as well as their base equivalents, but many do not because they weren't pack-issued. That's also why 1987 Bonds cards are RCs; the 1986 cards weren't pack-issued, just available in factory sets. Hence the XRC, which was just for the factory set issued cards.

    The 1988 Score R/T Glossies are not something you find every day, so Biggio's card from that set is fully justified as being his best RC (or XRC, if you want to be technical). On the other hand, 1988 Fleer Update Glossy is barely worth a premium over the base since they made something like 50,000 sets. Not hard to find at all.
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    Beckett is at the root of it all. The "RC" tag came from Beckett, and they had some pretty peculiar definitions. The RC tag was created to show the player's rookie card, obviously, but it quickly became contentious, like any time an arbitrary "authority" gets involved in common-sense cases. From a hobby-history perspective, the term "rookie card" is important and, thus, can't be left alone. And now that Beckett is completely irrelevant, many new collectors are either oblivious to these definitions or confused by them.

    Was the 1985 Topps Mark McGwire card a rookie card? It was the first time he appeared on a major-brand card, so why wouldn't it be? Well, he was not a major leaguer at that point, or even drafted, so how could it be a rookie card? Two years later, his "rookie" card appeared again. Or was it a third-year card, or second? Debates raged.

    Then there was the perception of scarcity. While the hobby was really taking off in the mid-80s, there were not yet card shops in every town, and there was no internet. Topps put out their boxed Traded sets starting in 1981 through mail-order and in the few hobby shops there were. Donruss and Fleer packs were fairly hard to find until 1988, and their box sets similarly tough (not sure if they did mail-order). So, (IMHO) in order not to hurt anyone's feelings, Beckett created the XRC see tag for cards from rookie/traded sets to indicate,"Yes, this is the guy's first card but since not everyone can just go down to the Piggly Wiggly and pull it from a pack, we're going to say it's something other than a real Rookie Card, but it's still pretty good." That's a verbatim quote from a mid-80s Beckett's glossary.

    For a while they even tracked when a player first appeared for which company. Check out a circa-1990 Beckett and you'll see marks like "FTC" showing First Topps card, etc., in case he somehow snuck into one company's cards a year before the others, and people needed to know that. Before there were multiple sets from every company, people really had to focus their energy in strange directions.

    Then there are the parallel sets. Topps Tiffany, Score Glossy, Fleer Glossy, whatever Donruss might have put out, Topps Desert Storm, etc. Beckett also arbitrarily decided that these cards would not earn the RC tag, either. Their reasoning was along the same lines of availability as R/T sets. Only 5000 copies of Tiffany? How can the average Johnny Snotnose be expected to acquire one, and thus, not have a complete Shawn Abner rookie card collection? The pain Johnny would feel by missing this unobtainable treasure would be too great to bear, drive him out of the hobby, and out of Beckett's circulation numbers. This became confusing to me, if no one else, once Topps started issuing these parallel sets in packs. By the late 80s/early-90s the hobby market had matured a bit, shops were all over the place, and even in remote locations you could find brands like Pinnacle and Upper Deck. In big towns, there were loads of card shops, even if they weren't actual, dedicated card shops. I once bought a box of 1992 Ultra from a video store.

    I also recall reading how they didn't consider parallel cards to be on the same level as base cards. This is fuzzier but there was something about it being something other than an "original" card and so not really a rookie. Maybe skip this part.

    Anyway, when Bowman Chrome came out and you could get that napalm-hot Jose Cruz Jr. card in a shiny metalicized plastic alternative to boring old paper, it was labeled an RC. So retroactively the Tiffanies and Glossies became RCs? Nope. XRCs became RCs, invalidating following-year RCs? Nope. While the marketplace at the time made it relatively easy to find 1-per-case parallels, apparently it did not make it easier to find decade-old plain paper copies printed in the millions. So the rule was extended so that cards that came in factory set form, as a parallel to a base set, were still not rookies, yet full-set parallels in packs were RC gold. The cynic in me suspects that if this weren't the case, and Bowman Chrome wasn't viewed as it's own set, and thus earn a separate listing in Beckett, rather than as a one-line multiplier in the Bowman section, it wouldn't have been anywhere near as hot as it was. And if the cards weren't really hot, why would people need to buy a Beckett to not see all those up arrows?

    Yet Beckett also excludes in-product parallels from the RC designation for some reason. If you buy a pack of Bowman Draft, you could potentially get three different versions of the same guy: a Bowman, a Bowman Gold, and a Bowman Chrome. Bowman would be RC, Bowman Chrome would be RC, but the Gold would not. Why? Good question. There is no answer, but it's a good question. So all those sweet refractors and x-fractors and pulsefractors and such, not RCs. Boring chrome card is RC.

    And inserts? Nope. Base cards = RC, insert cards = NoRC. 2001 Fleer Platinum Ichiro? RC. 2001 Fleer Platinum Chart Toppers Ichiro? NoRC.

    There are some weird corner cases. In baseball, there was a case where it was I think 2001 Fleer put out a factory set of glossy cards and they had some high-number rookies exclusively in it. Beckett counted those as RCs, since they were new cards even though they came in factory sets, since the whole set wasn't a parallel, just different packaging of the regular set. Can't remember the details, but it was something like that. And in 1994, in football, Jeff Blake made some noise as a rookie starting QB. He had just one card, on a Bowman's Best insert card from Stadium Club (and refractor parallel). According to Beckett's rules, not an RC. But it's right there, a 1994 Jeff Blake card. He had loads of RCs the next year, though.

    It ultimately doesn't matter, though. People call certain cards rookies because they want to. Does anyone outside the Beckett office refer to Kobe's 1996 Topps Chrome Refractor as anything other than his best rookie card? And yes, people call the 52 Topps Mantle a rookie card sometimes, because they are dopey, probably. And some people insist Mike Trout's 2011 cards are RCs while the cards from the two whole prior years are "prospect" cards, which sounds God-awful. The market shows what's really important to people. People like Mike Trout so much that his third-year base Topps card is $60. But his first-year, preferred-set autograph card is $1500. The non-Beckett-RC parallels and inserts are the ones people sell kidneys for.

    It's also curious that the "RC" tag really only applies to post-WWII cards. It's true there was no real continuity to the hobby before the war. Goudey had a good run in the 30s, even into the war years, but you don't really see the "RC" applied to Goudey cards, or T-206s. I suspect if there was a long run of cards from the same company from the teens to the war, you would. But there isn't so you don't. Imagine if there had been.

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    Senior Member DaClyde's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by smapdi View Post
    Beckett is at the root of it all. The "RC" tag came from Beckett, and they had some pretty peculiar definitions. The RC tag was created to show the player's rookie card, obviously, but it quickly became contentious, like any time an arbitrary "authority" gets involved in common-sense cases. From a hobby-history perspective, the term "rookie card" is important and, thus, can't be left alone. And now that Beckett is completely irrelevant, many new collectors are either oblivious to these definitions or confused by them.
    Need to sticky this post. Very well explained. I wish I had a text-to-speech app that could read that post in the voice of Robert Stack from Unsolved Mysteries. Or Lewis Black.

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    My thoughts coming from someone who has been in this hobby 37 years.

    A player's first card, regardless of where it came from is a rookie card.

    85 USA mcgwire? Yes.
    86 Fleer Sluggers vs. Pitchers Clark? Sure
    89 Tiffany Griffey? Yep.
    09 Elite Trout? Obviously
    09 Refractor Trout? Yes
    09 Super Trout? Yes

    There's also cards I call rookie year cards such as 10 Bowman Platinum Trout, 07 Bowman Sterling Travis Snider, etc etc.

    Rookie logo cards are just that, rookie logos.

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    Senior Member Brewer Andy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BBCgalaxee View Post
    My thoughts coming from someone who has been in this hobby 37 years.

    A player's first card, regardless of where it came from is a rookie card.

    85 USA mcgwire? Yes.
    86 Fleer Sluggers vs. Pitchers Clark? Sure
    89 Tiffany Griffey? Yep.
    09 Elite Trout? Obviously
    09 Refractor Trout? Yes
    09 Super Trout? Yes

    There's also cards I call rookie year cards such as 10 Bowman Platinum Trout, 07 Bowman Sterling Travis Snider, etc etc.

    Rookie logo cards are just that, rookie logos.

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    Senior Member predatorkj's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaClyde View Post
    Need to sticky this post. Very well explained. I wish I had a text-to-speech app that could read that post in the voice of Robert Stack from Unsolved Mysteries. Or Lewis Black.
    Lol!
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    Ok, we've had this debate/discussion before. I'm kinda with you guys. First card is the true rookie.

    However, I wonder...if this is the case then why does it have to exclude "minor league" cards? Why is Griffey's rookie 1989? Simply because they were "licensed"? The licensing does little to deter others from collecting the minor league stuff. I have all of Bagwell's minor league stuff. Yet his rookie is 1991?

    Furthermore, what about Aflac cards or "perfect game" cards. Are these pre-draft? Yes. Still, it's the player's first card isn't it.

    My point in all of this is despite me being on the same side of the fence as you guys, I see the hypocrisy in what even we "knowledge collectors" call a player's true rookie card because try as we might, we can't even play by our own rules.
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    In my mind I've always taken RC literally as Rookie Card and not Rookie Year. So to me it is Rookie (First) Card (Card) - First Card. So McGwire as an example, I consider his Rookie Card (1st card) '85 Topps.

    There's no wrong answer to it, that's just how I've always viewed it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by smapdi View Post
    Beckett is at the root of it all. The "RC" tag came from Beckett, and they had some pretty peculiar definitions. The RC tag was created to show the player's rookie card, obviously, but it quickly became contentious, like any time an arbitrary "authority" gets involved in common-sense cases. From a hobby-history perspective, the term "rookie card" is important and, thus, can't be left alone. And now that Beckett is completely irrelevant, many new collectors are either oblivious to these definitions or confused by them.

    Was the 1985 Topps Mark McGwire card a rookie card? It was the first time he appeared on a major-brand card, so why wouldn't it be? Well, he was not a major leaguer at that point, or even drafted, so how could it be a rookie card? Two years later, his "rookie" card appeared again. Or was it a third-year card, or second? Debates raged.

    Then there was the perception of scarcity. While the hobby was really taking off in the mid-80s, there were not yet card shops in every town, and there was no internet. Topps put out their boxed Traded sets starting in 1981 through mail-order and in the few hobby shops there were. Donruss and Fleer packs were fairly hard to find until 1988, and their box sets similarly tough (not sure if they did mail-order). So, (IMHO) in order not to hurt anyone's feelings, Beckett created the XRC see tag for cards from rookie/traded sets to indicate,"Yes, this is the guy's first card but since not everyone can just go down to the Piggly Wiggly and pull it from a pack, we're going to say it's something other than a real Rookie Card, but it's still pretty good." That's a verbatim quote from a mid-80s Beckett's glossary.

    For a while they even tracked when a player first appeared for which company. Check out a circa-1990 Beckett and you'll see marks like "FTC" showing First Topps card, etc., in case he somehow snuck into one company's cards a year before the others, and people needed to know that. Before there were multiple sets from every company, people really had to focus their energy in strange directions.

    Then there are the parallel sets. Topps Tiffany, Score Glossy, Fleer Glossy, whatever Donruss might have put out, Topps Desert Storm, etc. Beckett also arbitrarily decided that these cards would not earn the RC tag, either. Their reasoning was along the same lines of availability as R/T sets. Only 5000 copies of Tiffany? How can the average Johnny Snotnose be expected to acquire one, and thus, not have a complete Shawn Abner rookie card collection? The pain Johnny would feel by missing this unobtainable treasure would be too great to bear, drive him out of the hobby, and out of Beckett's circulation numbers. This became confusing to me, if no one else, once Topps started issuing these parallel sets in packs. By the late 80s/early-90s the hobby market had matured a bit, shops were all over the place, and even in remote locations you could find brands like Pinnacle and Upper Deck. In big towns, there were loads of card shops, even if they weren't actual, dedicated card shops. I once bought a box of 1992 Ultra from a video store.

    I also recall reading how they didn't consider parallel cards to be on the same level as base cards. This is fuzzier but there was something about it being something other than an "original" card and so not really a rookie. Maybe skip this part.

    Anyway, when Bowman Chrome came out and you could get that napalm-hot Jose Cruz Jr. card in a shiny metalicized plastic alternative to boring old paper, it was labeled an RC. So retroactively the Tiffanies and Glossies became RCs? Nope. XRCs became RCs, invalidating following-year RCs? Nope. While the marketplace at the time made it relatively easy to find 1-per-case parallels, apparently it did not make it easier to find decade-old plain paper copies printed in the millions. So the rule was extended so that cards that came in factory set form, as a parallel to a base set, were still not rookies, yet full-set parallels in packs were RC gold. The cynic in me suspects that if this weren't the case, and Bowman Chrome wasn't viewed as it's own set, and thus earn a separate listing in Beckett, rather than as a one-line multiplier in the Bowman section, it wouldn't have been anywhere near as hot as it was. And if the cards weren't really hot, why would people need to buy a Beckett to not see all those up arrows?

    Yet Beckett also excludes in-product parallels from the RC designation for some reason. If you buy a pack of Bowman Draft, you could potentially get three different versions of the same guy: a Bowman, a Bowman Gold, and a Bowman Chrome. Bowman would be RC, Bowman Chrome would be RC, but the Gold would not. Why? Good question. There is no answer, but it's a good question. So all those sweet refractors and x-fractors and pulsefractors and such, not RCs. Boring chrome card is RC.

    And inserts? Nope. Base cards = RC, insert cards = NoRC. 2001 Fleer Platinum Ichiro? RC. 2001 Fleer Platinum Chart Toppers Ichiro? NoRC.

    There are some weird corner cases. In baseball, there was a case where it was I think 2001 Fleer put out a factory set of glossy cards and they had some high-number rookies exclusively in it. Beckett counted those as RCs, since they were new cards even though they came in factory sets, since the whole set wasn't a parallel, just different packaging of the regular set. Can't remember the details, but it was something like that. And in 1994, in football, Jeff Blake made some noise as a rookie starting QB. He had just one card, on a Bowman's Best insert card from Stadium Club (and refractor parallel). According to Beckett's rules, not an RC. But it's right there, a 1994 Jeff Blake card. He had loads of RCs the next year, though.

    It ultimately doesn't matter, though. People call certain cards rookies because they want to. Does anyone outside the Beckett office refer to Kobe's 1996 Topps Chrome Refractor as anything other than his best rookie card? And yes, people call the 52 Topps Mantle a rookie card sometimes, because they are dopey, probably. And some people insist Mike Trout's 2011 cards are RCs while the cards from the two whole prior years are "prospect" cards, which sounds God-awful. The market shows what's really important to people. People like Mike Trout so much that his third-year base Topps card is $60. But his first-year, preferred-set autograph card is $1500. The non-Beckett-RC parallels and inserts are the ones people sell kidneys for.

    It's also curious that the "RC" tag really only applies to post-WWII cards. It's true there was no real continuity to the hobby before the war. Goudey had a good run in the 30s, even into the war years, but you don't really see the "RC" applied to Goudey cards, or T-206s. I suspect if there was a long run of cards from the same company from the teens to the war, you would. But there isn't so you don't. Imagine if there had been.

    Written jauntily. It's Friday afternoon, I just ate a whole bag of Hershey's Kisses, the largest infusion of sugar I've had in weeks, and I'm ready to get the weekend started.
    I seem to recall a full page ad in the Beckett magazines when the definition of the RC changed in 2006 that said something like "You're not a rookie card until we say you are!". That kinda ruined Beckett's relevancy in the hobby for me (although I still use the price guide for my lower-end trading lol). This "RC rule" has confused many and understandably so,but being around this hobby for a long time,I'll make my own decisions on what I consider a player's RC and don't need a magazine to tell me otherwise.
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    The whole boxed set vs. pack issued RC guidelines get thrown out the window when it comes to Pedro's RC.
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    Much like the changes intended to "speed up the game" (all of which have resulted in more delays and a slower game), the RC logo rules were created by people who completely failed to understand the "problem". Mainly that there wasn't a problem. There was nothing to solve. The hobby was managing just fine without the RC logo, but the completely haphazard way it has been implemented has only added confusion where there was little to begin with.

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    Beckett's use of XRC and RC tags makes as little sense as their price guides. I don't get why 80s Leaf, O-Pee-Chee, and Sportflics don't qualify as RCs. Especially the latter. I recall seeing them in pack form at grocery stores back then. And they use the XRC label through 1988. So Craig Biggio's cards from 1988 are XRCs while Albert Belle's cards from 1989 are considered RCs. Confused? Personally, I find all those players in the 1986 update sets as true RCs. So that goes for Barry Bonds, Bo Jackson, Will Clark, etc. Plus they were actually rookies that season and many had cards from other boxed sets. I don't consider their multitude of 1987 cards as RCs.

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    Regarding Pedro, which one? The 1991 Classic Green or the 1991 Upper Deck? Both were from boxed sets, IIRC.

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    I left out the whole "RC logo" debacle because I had written enough about answering the original question, but yeah, in 2006 it was a major change that ultimately just made things more confusing, especially since the allowed Topps to continue producing cards of non-Major Leaguers. Now, you not only have to keep track of what a guy's first card is, but when he debuted in the majors down to the month. How Miguel Sano just had rookie cards last year when he has had cards since 2010 is just completely illogical.
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