Travis Kelce Hates His Rookie Card

Alex Giaimo Repairs Rookie Card Trauma

Date: Apr 17, 2024
Author: Alex Giaimo
Topics: Alex Giaimo, How To Collect, Jason Kelce, Rookie Cards, Travis Kelce
Length: 1259 Words
Reading Time: ~7 Minutes

Sportsball people, also known as people who don’t follow sports, recently discovered the brotherly love bond between Jason and Travis Kelce. They’re the hottest brother duo on the planet right now—at least the hottest real-life brother duo. I can easily make a case for my favorite Italians, the Mario Bros. I’ve already watched their movie three times while redeveloping my Mario Kart addiction. I’m not kidding. This article was due weeks ago, so I’m just hoping it’s good enough to stay employed…

Anyway, I’m sure my fellow football junkies agree the Kelces are anything but “new” to us; Jason is one of the greatest centers in NFL history, and Travis will retire as the greatest tight end of all time. The numbers and postseason dominance don’t lie. Sorry haters – love ’em or hate ’em – they’re good at football and have entertained us for a long time. But if there’s one thing we sports fans and sportsballers have in common, it is our love for their New Heights podcast. It just won podcast of the year, and deservingly. It serves all the feels, but this one particular conversation had me shook. Take a listen…

Folks! My head is spinning for two reasons – we’re talking about two surefire Hall of Famers – if they have zero clue how rookie cards work then I’d imagine the majority of the world doesn’t either. The second reason is that Travis clearly suffers from rookie card trauma, and I feel an overwhelming sense of duty to help him. So I tracked down the man responsible for his pain and suffering. Kindly enough, former Topps employee and football brand editor Ryan Mattos agreed to an interview.

Travis Kelce with the emphatic inscription

The following is my open letter to the Kelce bros, answering all their burning questions. Oh, and you best believe I’ll make sure they see it—something tells me this conversation doesn’t end here…


Dear Jason and Travis,

Firstly, huge congrats to the big man on retirement and to Travis on yet another ring. My name’s Alex Giaimo. I’m a sports broadcaster who specializes in sports cards and collectibles. You may have seen me on Netflix’s King of Collectibles – I heard Travis is a fan. But I’m actually reaching out to help with regard to Travis’s rookie card. I heard the tone in his voice while you guys were discussing it so I felt compelled to do something about it. I might’ve even taken on some of his frustrations myself, actually. I can totally relate as a chick who works in sports – all I have to do is google myself to learn something new every day — today I discovered I was married with millions. Alas, I am not. $hit is triggering.

But Travis, here’s how I can help…

I can’t change your rookie card—sorry, till death do you part—but I can help you understand why it looks the way it does and hopefully change your outlook on it. So I found the man responsible for your card; he’s the former Topps editor who literally picked your photo out. I convinced him that his explanation of what exactly went down with your card could potentially help you cope with the outcome…

The truth is not all rookie cards are created equal. In fact, your card was destined to look weirder from the prototypical ones due to logistics; the biggest one being the number you were taken in the draft. There’s a direct correlation between a player’s rookie card and draft order: publicity, potential upside, media attention, etc. are all factors too. So although you’ll retire as the best tight end in NFL history – you weren’t “supposed” to be this good at football – at least, according to the experts who passed on you. Ultimately, your draft landing spot impacted your rookie card.

For example, you were picked sixty-third overall in the 2013 NFL draft, with four tight ends taken ahead of you: Tyler Eifert, Zach Ertz, Vance McDonald, and Gavin Escobar. Unlike you, all four of those guys are wearing an NFL uniform, but the reason why has nothing to do with Topps or their editors and everything to do with the NFL Players Association. So to answer Jason’s question: “I thought all rookie card players were in uniforms?” Unfortunately, not the case for Travis, and here’s why…

Every year, the NFLPA hosts the Rookie Premiere event, which takes place a few weeks after the NFL Draft. The event allows rookies to meet with the top brands for the first time. Only around forty players are invited, and around ninety percent of them are quarterbacks and wide receivers. The Rookie Premier was an opportunity for photographers to get “mock” action shots of rookies in their uniforms before they’ve even played in an NFL game; it’s important to note that 2013 Topps Chrome was the rookie flagship product, and produced before the NFL season even started. Also, Topps avoids Photoshopping or editing images unless it’s absolutely necessary for certain products that call for it. With 2013 Topps Chrome being as elite as a product can get, only real photography was used for your rookie card. They also couldn’t just use an image of you in a Cincinnati Bearcats uniform because they didn’t own the NCAA licensing rights at the time. So because you weren’t in attendance that day – coupled with Topps not using retouched images pretty much forced their hands into settling for photos of you taken at the NFL Draft Combine. Unfortunately, you happened to be wearing that dreaded Under Armour t-shirt that day. 

Now, let’s finally address that goofy tongue sticking out in your photo. I asked Ryan Mattos why he ultimately picked that photo: “I don’t remember exactly why, but it was a pretty cool-looking photo. It was simulating the catch. I felt his facial expression showed some personality, so that’s probably the two biggest reasons why we chose that particular photo. It was something a little more lively from what little we had to choose from.” Apparently, he had no more than ten photos of you to pick from. That’s the only one that he felt showed potential.

Truthfully, I think it worked out exactly how it was supposed to. It’s kismet. Don’t take this the wrong way, but your card pretty much embodies who you are. It’s different. It’s fun. The moment you step onto a field or walk into a room, you command attention…so does your card. The NFL is nicknamed the “No Fun League” for a reason. Who wants another boring card? Nobody wants average, and you’re anything but the typical dude. We want passion. We want fire. We want authenticity.

Listen, your rookie card will always be your rookie card. You’re stuck with it, but I hope this at least helps you learn how to navigate your feelings on it. Nobody thought you’d be this good. They chose to see red flags instead of talent. You proved them wrong, and the card is proof of that. Instead of wasting energy hating it, feel the positive vibes that radiate from it when you look at it. Wear it like a badge of honor. Sign your auto with pride. The story behind your card is quite enchanting. It’s giving…Karma is the guy on the chiefs…haunting their dreams.

In solidarity,

Alex Giaimo @alexgiaimo

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