Sunday, January 07, 2007

Rookie Card Mania

As a young baseball card collector, I only knew Topps. Then Bowman, Fleer and Leaf were revived and Upper Deck, Donruss and Score came along. Then card companies started releasing multiple product lines.

Players no longer had one rookie card. (According to the August 2006 issue of Beckett Baseball, Albert Pujols has 198 rookie-year cards.) Cards with slices of "game-used" memorabilia became hot. It got very confusing.

Some market correction was in order. Wikipedia says:

Fleer went bankrupt and was bought out by Upper Deck in 2005, and Donruss lost the MLB license in 2006....However, Upper Deck bought Fleer, and the company will be putting out products with the Fleer name while Topps continues to release Bowman and Bazooka card products. Currently, Topps and Upper Deck are the only two producers of baseball cards.

Spurred by the success of recent Dodger rookies (and some recent purchases at Blue Heaven), I researched what might be considered their "best" (read: most expensive) rookie cards.

Results on eBay suggest Bowman is the rookie card specialist:

player "primo" rookie card
Chad Billingley 2003 Bowman Chrome Draft #BDP174 (autographed)
Andre Ethier 2003 Upper Deck Prospect Premieres #P9 (autographed)
Matt Kemp 2005 Bowman Chrome #349 (autographed)
Clayton Kershaw 2006 Bowman Chrome #DP84
Andy LaRoche 2005 Bowman Chrome #341 (autographed)
James Loney 2002 Bowman Chrome Draft #BDP19
Russell Martin 2005 Bowman Chrome #224

But Bowman has complicated matters by producing multiple "parallel" versions of each card in varying print runs. Naturally, scarcer versions cost more.

As for prices, during last season Kemp's "standard issue" chrome card was regularly fetching $100 and Ethier's $30. As the players cooled off, so did their card prices. But if you want a high-grade card, be prepared to pay extra.