RC, or Not RC…? That is the Question

Do you consider stickers “Rookie Cards?” 

Sure, stickers lack the rigidity of their cardboard cousins, though some stickers have stiff backings.

Maybe they are not “cards” per say, but why don’t stickers carry the coveted RC designation?

Both stickers and cards are printed on paper. Stickers usually don’t have stats, but many old hockey cards didn’t have stats either.

In order to be considered a “rookie card” by Beckett’s standards, a card has to adhere to the following 3 guidelines.

  • It has to be in a set licensed by the NHL and the NHL Players Association.
  • It has to be in a set that is widely released–so a regional issue by an NHL team would not count.
  • It has to have a print run of 99 or more copies.

Licensed sticker sets adhere to those criteria.

I don’t agree with all of Beckett’s criteria for what makes an RC an RC.

And they even bend their own rules from time to time, designating certain cards as an XRC if it is from a really obscure (yet non-regional) set. Examples are Antti Niemi’s XRC from the 2008-09 Be A Player set and Bill Guerin’s XRC from the 1991-92 Parkhurst Final Update Set.

So, why aren’t these stickers considered RCs?

Case #1 – Steven Stamkos – 2008-09 Panini Stickers

This came out in 2008-09. So did Stamkos’ rookie cards from various Upper Deck sets.

So, why isn’t this an RC? It is fully licensed and from a widespread release.

Beckett does not list this set in their Online Price Guide. Ironic, considering that a Panini album and 4 stickers came bagged with a copy of Beckett Hockey Magazine in late 2008.

Case #2 – 1985-86 Mario Lemieux O-Pee-Chee Stickers

This came out in 1985-86–the same season as Lemieux’s Topps and O-Pee-Chee rookie cards. And it was made by O-Pee-Chee, one of the “big two” of the 1970s and 1980s.

While this sticker will never have the same trade or sale value as Lemieux’s Topps or OPC rookie cards, shouldn’t it have an RC designation?

Case #3 – Brian Leetch – 1988-89 Panini and O-Pee-Chee Stickers

This sticker predates Leetch’s Topps and O-Pee-Chee rookie cards by one full year. And yet, Beckett “values” it at 50 cents and does not give it an RC–or XRC–designation.

This also came out a year before Leetch’s OPC and Topps rookie cards–and it is rigid, too. It’s actually a sticker backing. The 1988-89 O-Pee-Chee sticker set was issued on cardboard backings, with some of the backings being “Future Stars” cards like this one of Leetch.

Now, you might reason that something like this would fall under the “insert” category, because it isn’t part of the main set.

But how is a short-printed rookie card limited to 99 copies not considered an insert?

Why do stickers get no love?

I care what you think. Please voice your opinion about stickers here.


Author: Sal Barry

Sal Barry is the editor and webmaster of Puck Junk. He is a freelance hockey writer, college professor and terrible hockey player. Follow him on Twitter @puckjunk

10 thoughts on “RC, or Not RC…? That is the Question”

  1. I have never seen these stickers before, specifically the Panini ones, so I don't know how wide of a release they got. I mean, I don't remember them in the mid-to-late 80's and my father owned a card shop.

    Are the OPC minis from the 80's considered rookies?

  2. Well, now 2 other people agree with you too, Canuck.

    I can't vote in my own poll (that would be cheating), so that's actually 3 people who agree with you.

  3. The Panini stickers weren't sold at card shops, ironically.

    I used to get them at local grocery and drug stores. So, it was actually easier to find Panini hockey stickers than hockey cards before the "card boom" of 1990.

  4. I guess if those are to be considered RCs, then we need to look at a whole host of other things that aren't considered. All of these were licensed, nationally-distributed products:

    – 1970-71 Esso
    – 1974-75 Loblaws

    Food releases
    – York Peanut Butter cards ('60s)
    – Vachon cakes cards ('83-84)
    – Lipton Soup (1974-75)
    – Post cereals ('81-82)
    – Shiriff coins ('61, '62, '68)
    – Bee Hive photos (1935-67)
    – Coca-Cola (1965-66)
    – Quaker Oats photos ('40s-early 50s)
    – Crown Brand (1936)

    They're all interesting, but none have ever contained what have been considered RCs.

    The Panini stuff was available at the corner store, right next to the OPC cards. I've got piles of them somewhere. 🙂

  5. I want to say yes, but my heart says no. I am willing to call them Rookie Stickers, but cards I just can't. Call me a snob or a purist but I just can't do it.

    I am also against calling the Be A Player redemptions rookie cards as well because they usurp all the actual rookie cards for that following year. Upper Deck was notorious for that in the early 90's with their WJC cards and I was happy in many respects to see that go. What about ITG cards, are they rookie ones as well? I absolutely love this topic because an argument really can be made for both sides in a lot of these different cases. To add to your examples Sal, don't forget the rookie redemptions from 04-05 SP Authentic. Should that be Crosby's true RC? Then of course there was the big McDonald's debate and how Crosby's card is recognized as a RC.

    I think and agree that the OPC minis should be RC's! But that is as far as I go.

  6. The Coke set would push Bernie Parent's rookie back by three seasons. There are a number of others. Cheevers would also have an RC in that set.

    I'm sympathetic to the concept, but I think it's a can of worms. I'd limit it to major releases by companies for whom the card is the actual product – and it needs to be a card.

  7. They aren't rookie cards because, well, they aren't cards. They are stickers. I don't think you can call them rookie stickers either because that would dictate that there is a widespread release of stickers available that give all rookies a chance at having a "rookie" sticker based on production and print run. Of course, that would then depend on the manufacturer.

    Since this is not the case anymore, let's not upset the apple cart more than we have to. Let's just call them…really cool stickers!

  8. But Tim, the stickers were widespread releases.

    The old OPC stickers were sold in card shops–just as the normal OPC cards were.

    Panini stickers were sold in grocery and drug stores in the U.S., whereas hockey cards were only sold in card shops…at least during the 1980s.

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