30 Day Baseball Card Challenge

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Obviously Not Junk

The term "Junk Wax Era" gets thrown around a lot among collectors and for good reason.  There were so many sports cards produced from the late 80's to the early 90's that 99.7% are practically worthless.

Nevertheless... buried among some of those junk wax products are gems that have maintained collectors' interest and have surprisingly held their value over the years.

1991 Donruss Elite #7

The 1991 Donruss Elite inserts are one of those sets.  They were one of the first mainstream, serial numbered cards inserted into packs.

I was working at my local card shop when 1991 Donruss was released and was blown away by how much money people were willing to spend on singles from this set.

Here's a peek into the September 1991 Beckett:

Let's zoom in on what they had these inserts listed for:

These days there are several different high end products released each year, so it's not that uncommon to see cards worth triple digits pulled from packs.

But back in 1991, there weren't too many current issue cards that commanded that kind of cash right out of the gates.

Why the hype?

Well... they were really, really, really tough to pull.

One look at my Rickey Henderson numbered to 10,000 might have you scratching your head, since that's a figure that seems astronomical by today's standards.  He wasn't alone.  Donruss produced seven other guys who had cards numbered to 10k.  Plus Nolan Ryan had a special Legends card numbered to 7,500.  And there was an autographed Ryne Sandberg card numbered to 5,000.

That's 92,500 insert cards produced in total!  However... you've gotta remember that this was the Junk Wax Era.

One blogger did the math a few years ago and estimated that Donruss produced almost 7,000,000 wax boxes (Series One and Two combined) of baseball.  He based his numbers on an estimation published on BaseballCardPedia that stated that collectors pulled these inserts at a rate of around 1:75 boxes.

If either of these numbers are even remotely true, then you can't deny just how difficult these were to pull.

Today the Rickey no longer commands $200.  But it isn't a $2 insert either.  After a small bidding war, I ended up paying $27 (+ $2.99 shipping) about a month ago on eBay.  I've seen a few go for less, but I paid a premium to finally cross this card off of my wantlist.

You have no idea how good it feels to finally scratch a twenty-seven year itch.

And assuming this post is published on schedule, it'll feel a little bit better knowing that the regular school year ended a few hours ago and my four day weekend (until summer school session) has begun.

Happy Thursday and sayonara!


  1. Do you really think they made 10,000 copies of that card? I have my doubts as I thought (and still think) they are pretty hard to come by. But, I don't have any evidence to back that claim up.
    Regardless, congrats on the get! I would love to acquire the Sandberg some day, but it'll probably never be in my price range.

  2. Congrats on getting the Elite card Fuji! Those cards are a historic insert set and are a cornerstone of any collection. Glad to see a good guy like you get a sweet card like that!

  3. I look back at the time when I got back in to collecting in the early 90s and miss it occasionally. Sure printing presses were in overdrive but pulling an insert like this got everyone at the LCS talking about it for a week. Now people toss inserts aside with the base cards even though so many inserts look better than the hits.

  4. Poor Doug Drabek..the low ender. I did a quick search on ebay and see an entire set sold for $500. A far cry from the high-end days, but still respectable. This set is what I believe started the whole insert craze. Reading old Tuff Stuff magazines from the early 1990s, inserts like these really caused a stir in the collecting world. The old guard was complaining that they killed set building, and the new generation of collectors were enamored with the "gambling" aspect of buying packs.

  5. P-town Tom - Yeah. I just think a lot are sitting in unopened wax boxes tucked away in flea markets, attics, storage units, and garages. These cards are literally buried treasure. As for the Sandberg... I feel the exact same way.

    Jeremya1um - Thanks. I'm not targeting the Rickey Legends card from the 1992 set.

    Corky - I really wish Topps and Panini would slow down their production of insert sets to make them a little more special. Unfortunately... they flood the hobby with them causing them to not hold their value.

    SumoMenkoMan - With my luck... one day I'm going to pull one of these from a pack of 1991 Donruss and it's gonna be Drabek. Yeah... this set was definitely one of the first to kick off the high end insert craze. I remember it well working at my LCS back in the day. Like Corky mentioned... it had everyone talking.

  6. Congrats on crossing it off the want list. The new releases of Donruss have these at limited numbers of 999 copies. A far far cry from the 10K produced in the 90s.

  7. Amazing what a difference a few decades make. Those numbers are crazy. Happy you were able to check that off your list. Fun post. Thanks.

  8. Collecting Cutch - Thanks. Yeah... it's weird that cards #'d to 999 today are worth a fraction of what a card #'d to 10k in 1991 is worth. I saw cards #'d to 25 sitting in a dollar bin this past weekend. Times have sure changed

    Bulldog - Thanks! I was super stoked to finally have it in my hands.