2021 Bowman's Best Adds Fire to the Rookie Card Debate
Did Wander Franco's 2021 Bowman's Best card break the RC rules?
What is a Rookie Card? It should be a simple answer, but it’s been debated for years, especially when it comes to baseball cards.
In theory, a rookie card is a player’s first card. But that doesn’t currently include Bowman, Topps’ prospect-focused brand. Or minor league cards. And it doesn’t count inserts.
For years, the unwritten baseball card rookie card rule was: A player’s first card that was part of base set from a national MLB release.
To help with this, in 2006 Topps and Upper Deck started including a “Rookie Card” logo on all of a baseball player’s rookie-year cards (inserts, autographs, relics). The purpose was to help make the Rookie Card rule clear, but it also boosted the secondary market sales by taking the guesswork out of it for collectors. It was a big deal because Rookie Cards always meant more $$$$ because collectors, prospectors, investors, and hobbyists have always been drawn to these cards.
Yet, the debate rages on — especially today with the release of 2021 Bowman’s Best Baseball. Now, with it being a Bowman product, you would expect prospect cards.
And you would be right.
However, the issue arises because the prospects cards – while having a slightly different front and back designs than rookies and veterans – are numbered as part of the base set. This isn’t how prospects have been handled in the past releases.
Previously, the prospect cards, while similarly designed, are numbered differently on the back such as “TP-XX” in 2020 Bowman’s Best or “BCP-XXX” in Bowman Chrome. Notice the letters in front of the numbers, that’s the indicator that it’s not part of a base set, which are just sequentially numbered cards.
What has made 2021 Bowman’s Best different?
The product includes a 100-card base set, but features prospects such as Adley Rutschman, Jasson Dominguez, Wander Franco, Julio Rodriguez, and Spencer Torkelson – all of whom have only had prospect cards up until this point even if they made their MLB debut in 2021 like Franco.
Franco’s case is especially interesting because there was a concerted effort to hold his rookie card until 2022 even after his call-up this season.
But Franco’s 2021 Bowman’s Best card does not include the RC logo despite being part of the base set. BUT … it also doesn’t say anything about a prospect. The only big differentiator is that it has a different design that has been designated for prospects, so it sets it apart from the “Rookie Cards” in the set.
It’s really confusing!
The big question is now: Since the card is released as part of the 2021 Bowman’s Best base set despite the difference in design, is it considered a rookie card even though it doesn’t have the logo? Some will say yes. Others will say no. Some just won’t care.
My opinion: I think while some collectors make a great argument of this being Franco’s rookie card based on precedent, without the RC logo, it won’t matter in the long run. Once his plethora of 2022 cards come out with the RC logo on it, his 2021 Bowman’s Best card may well be afterthought to the larger collecting community. Flagship and Chrome and all the other goodies coming out in 2022 will be the cards to chase while Bowman’s Best will be the stepchild to the Bowman products.
EDIT (6:28 pm): Beckett released this note saying it would recognize these cards as RCs in its price guide.
It will still be a neat collectible to have and probably deserves an asterisk.
But as is always the case, collect what you want and how you want. If you want to own Franco’s 2021 Bowman’s Best because it is a Rookie Card to you, collect away!
What do you think? Is 2021 Bowman’s Best Wander Franco’s true rookie or will it be 2022 Topps Baseball?
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With that philosophy Eric, then Derek Jeter's 1993 SP shouldn't be considered his RC. He didn't play his first major league game until 1995. Wander already was playing in MLB months before the Bowman's Best was released. I think when Bowman chrome and Topps chrome versions of his card is released, those will become the chase cards for Wander RC's. But current sales on EBAY show the Bowman's Best Wander card holding it's value, 4 months after it's initial release. The fact that Topps nor Fanatics hasn't commented on the situation doesn't help matters.
This is totally contrived. The prospects have a different card design. Also, most of the prospects haven’t played at all in the majors so those cards clearly aren’t rookies. Why would Wander’s?
People can collect what they want but they’re fooling themselves if they think collectors will embrace these cards as rookies. This seems like a pump and dump scheme for people to sell Francos for ten times what they’re worth.
Appreciate the post on the subject. It’s fascinating to see the controversy.