As of this writing, I’m 33 years old and I’ve been collecting since 1987 when I was five. Yet, after almost 30 years of collecting sports cards I feel more confused today about the products that card companies create than I did when I was a young child. Things just don’t make sense to me. Companies such as Topps, Panini, Leaf, and Upper Deck seem to have great intentions in mind when putting out these great products every year, but they still seem to fall short at times and I think if there was a governing body in place to hold these manufacturers accountable the (collectibles) world would be a better place.
Let’s face it. Currently, there are very few rules that the card manufacturers must adhere to including (but not entirely limited to) the following:
- those with league licenses (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, etc) can use team logos, color schemes, team names, etc while those without league licenses cannot
- those with Player’s Association licenses can use players images and names but cannot use team logos, names, etc though they seem to be allowed to use players in team uniforms where the logos and other trademarks have been removed
- in baseball, rookie cards cannot be produced with the “RC” logo (usually found in the base sets) until that player has been added to the 40-man roster
Of those three rules, the most confusing is without a doubt the rookie card rule set forth by the MLBPA in 2006 and almost 10 years later it’s still confusing. Simply stated, the rule is what I wrote above: rookie cards cannot be produced with the “RC” logo (usually found in the base sets) until that player has been added to the 40-man roster. However, manufacturers just love to add to the confusion by adding prospects to insert sets as a way to sidestep the rule and include prospects in their releases as early as possible.
Take Manny Machado for example. His rookie card (in following the MLBPA guidelines) was released in the 2013 sets yet he had cards released as early as 2009 all the way through 2012 leading up to his rookie season. So, which cards are his rookie cards? It just depends on who you ask. Some will say his rookie cards are the ones from 2013 with the RC logo. Some will say the ones released in 2009 which are his first mainstream cards but they feature him in his Team USA uniform. And some will say his 2010 cards are his rookie cards because they’re the first ones to feature him in his MLB uniform. Confused yet? Here’s what I say: collect what you want.
On the surface, these three rules seem to be the main guidelines for the manufacturers when creating their sets. I’m sure there are a few other minor ones that they follow but those are the “big three” and Topps, Panini, Leaf, and Upper Deck have all done a fantastic job following those rules.
I just wish they had more rules to follow and maybe even a governing body to answer to. Instead we are forced to accept what the card companies give us and there’s not much we can do about it. We can stop buying their products but does that really hurt them? It does but only to an extent and on a small scale they probably wouldn’t even notice. It would take a major boycott to get them to change their ways. This is where a governing body could be a great benefit to collectors and manufacturers alike.
Let’s imagine for a minute that I’m part of this yet to be created governing body. Here are a handful of rules that I would put into place:
- Rookie cards for players in any sport cannot be released until said player is part of the professional team’s main roster (40-man for MLB, 53 for NFL, 14 for NBA, and 23 for NHL).
- Colored parallels are limited to 5 types/colors.
- All autographs must be on-card. No sticker autographs. No exceptions.
- All relic cards must feature a picture of the full item prior to being cut up AND feature the date the item was used/worn.
- Manufacturers are limited to one “1 of 1” card per player, per season (i.e. Bryce Harper would only have one “1 of 1” card produced by Topps per season no matter how many sets they produce)
- Patch relics must be multi-colored with the second color representing at least 25% of the swatch.
- Multi-relic cards cannot contain duplicate relic types (i.e. two jersey swatches) if the card features only one player. However, if more than one player is featured, relic types can be duplicated but they must be different colors (i.e. two jersey swatches can be used but they cannot both be the same color)
- Print runs must be released for all sets but they are not required to be serial numbered.
- Cards with print runs of less than 100 must be machine serial numbered. No hand-numbering.
- No redemptions.
Those are just a few of the rules that I would put into place if I was part of the non-existent governing body of trading cards. I’m sure I could come up with more if I sat here longer but I think you get the point. I’m not asking for much and I think that many collectors would agree that these rules aren’t too much to ask and they could really do wonders for the hobby that we love so much!
I don’t want this to sound like one big complaint because it’s far from that and I would buy cards every day if I could afford it even if things never change. I just hope that the manufacturers take a step back one day and realize how flooded the market has become with parallels and “hits.” Collectors love to collect for many reasons and not all of us are out to make money.
Simplicity is the key!