When 10,000 Was Rare - 1991 Donruss Elite Baseball

When 10,000 Was Rare – 1991 Donruss Elite Baseball

What's considered rare in the hobby today? Cards numbered to 50? Maybe 25 total copies. Singles with print runs of 100 can sell for a dollar or two. Go back a couple of decades and it's a totally different picture. 1991 Donruss Elite inserts come numbered to 10,000. Yes, that's a one followed by four zeroes. By today's standards, that's a lot. Yet, this ground-breaking set still commands some solid attention on the secondary market. And rightfully so.

1991 Donruss Elite was a ground-breaking set at the time. It really did change the game. The insert set is credited as being the first set of serial numbered cards. While others had hand numbering like the various Pro Set holograms and 1990 Upper Deck Reggie Jackson autographs, none went to the same lengths as Elite.

This set a finite limit on print runs. It also made the card makers accountable as there wasn't much to hide behind as far as print runs go.

Rarity can be somewhat relative. While the number of Elite cards is very high by today's standards, print runs back in 1991 were massive. These inserts were found less than one per case. Factor in the eight cards in the main set plus the more limited Nolan Ryan card and the Ryne Sandberg autograph and you get the idea that Donuss made a lot of cards back in 1991.

A popular story suggests that some would use metal detectors to try and cherry pick cases and boxes that had an Elite card.

Check out the entire set of 1991 Donruss Elite inserts below.

1991 Donruss Elite Visual Checklist

1 Barry Bonds, Pittsburgh Pirates

1991 Donruss Elite 1 Barry Bonds

3 Jose Canseco, Oakland Athletics

5 Doug Drabek, Pitsburgh Pirates

7 Rickey Henderson, Oakland Athletics

L1 Nolan Ryan, Texas Rangers

2 George Brett, Kansas City Royals

4 Andre Dawson, Chicago Cubs

6 Cecil Fielder, Detroit Tigers

8 Matt Williams, San Francisco Giants

S1 Ryne Sandberg, Chicago Cubs

1991 Donruss Elite Signature Series Ryne Sandberg

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Ryan Cracknell

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Ryan is a former member of The Cardboard Connection Writing Staff.   His collecting origins began with winter bike rides to the corner store, tossing a couple of quarters onto the counter and peddling home with a couple packs of O-Pee-Chee hockey in his pocket. Today, he continues to build sets, go after inserts with cool technologies, chase Montreal Expos and finish off his John Jaha master collection.

User Comments

  1. As someone out of the hobby for 20 years and starting to take a peek back at it again… This is depressing. $20 for some? Andre Dawson is in the HoF now… etc,etc. I’ll have to read your site more.

  2. The 91 elite cards are goi g to sky rocket in the prices in the future. They were the first ground breaking set. A must for the elite collectors, which are in the 10s of thousands

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