Rookie card mania!
This is one of the oldest card magazines I have, but the couple I have that are older don't talk about rookie cards all that much. They were much more focused on stars, new sets and obscure oddball sets and variations. In 1986 though, when this magazine came out, It started to be nothing but rookies, rookies rookies for a while. You can see some of the cards that really jump started the whole rookie card obsession on the cover. The '69 Reggie was one of the first cards I can remember people going berzerk over. In that old price guide from 1982 I posted about a while back, the price of a Reggie Jackson rookie card was eleven dollars, which was one of the highest prices for a card in the set (Willie Mays was only six dollars) but still in line for a superstar like Reggie. The price of his second year card was three dollars, so a rookie card premium wasn't unknown back in '82. However, if you look at the price guide in this magazine you'll see that Reggie's card jumped to 64 dollars. So almost a 600 percent increase in 4 years. How'd this happen?
The magazine has a great article by Bob Lemke that takes a close look at the rookie card craze as it was happening. It's a neat look at the hobby as it existed at the time, with a focus on investors, brands, even regional issues that are all but forgotten today. He sums up the craze quite succinctly in the first few paragraphs though:
... the term "rookie card" was virtually unheard of in the hobby before 1982. Essentially, the entire rookie card phenomenon began as nothing more than dealer hype - a way to sell more new baseball cards than ever before at unprecedented prices.
Can't argue with that. That's kind of the business model of card manufacturers today. Topps, Upper Deck, Donruss and all the rest are constantly searching for ways to add perceived "value" to their cards to move more product and justify charging hundreds of dollars for a small metal tin filled with a tiny amount of cardboard.
Up next in part two, the economics behind the rookie card craze.