The Elite brand of trading cards dates it origins back to a Shop-At-Home promotion in 1993. Manufactured by the Donruss company, each of the cards in the 20-card set were printed and serial numbered to 5,000 copies. While that might seem exorbinant by today’s standards, it was pretty cutting edge at the time. To add further value to the promotion, the first 2,500 cards were autographed. Viewers who purchased boxes of Donruss baseball received one card. The autographed versions in particular were quite popular with collectors and commanded hundreds of dollars at trading card show across the country.
From Promotion to Insert Set
The aforementioned promotion was so successful that the following year, 1994, Donruss expanded the brand as a randomly inserted bonus into the base set for that year. The Elite inserts were issued in two series of six cards each. Utilizing a continuous numbering system from previous years, card numbers 37-42 could be found in Donruss first series packs and card numbers 43-48 in series two. The production run was increased to 10,000 copies of each card. The unique diamond vision bordering design created the illusion you were looking into the field of play where the photos were taken.
From Insert to Brand
The Elite insert set continued in that fashion until 1996 when the Donruss company released it as a stand alone set in their hockey category. This was followed up by a baseball version in 1997. The 150-card set was an instant hit with collectors. Distributed in a Hobby only format and printed on a mirror-like foil board, boxes delivered 18 packs with 8 cards per pack. Over the next few years, the set size remained the same but the pack-out configuration and price point changed moderately.
Elite Gets the Extra Edition Treatment
In 2007, after losing their MLB license to manufacture officially licensed trading cards, Donruss turned to collegiate athletics to fill the void and released Donruss Elite Extra Edition. The new brand continued the tradition of mirror foil board, serial numbering and various inserts. The early years of Elite Extra Edition proved to be a windfall for prospect collectors who now had an alternative to Bowman, which had long dominated that aspect of the hobby market. Additionally, the Donruss Elite Extra Edition brand lent itself well to Panini’s acquisition of the USA Baseball license in 2012. Bolstered by the added content, the product provided new opportunities to collect early cards of baseball’s top prospects. Since becoming Panini America, the Elite brand has been utilized in other sports, including 2012 Elite Football, the upcoming 2013 Elite Football, and 2012-13 Elite Basketball to name a few.
Elite Card Sets
Browse our database of Elite trading card sets, which feature product reviews, set checklists, expert analysis, price comparisons, and more.