Product Review: 2011 Donruss Elite


Here is a pop quiz for you: What has two thumbs, buys football cards, and then waits well over a month to post a review? THIS GUY. I don’t know what my deal is recently. Other than all of the time constraint complaints I’ve listed before, there really is no excuse for this. The lockout is over. The release calendar is heating up. This is when I should just be gearing up, not slowing down. I’ll work on that. While I do, here is a review of 2011 Donruss Elite:

2011 Donruss Elite box
The Box – Click for Detail

Hobby boxes come with 20 5-card packs for a total of 100 cards. I got this box from Dave and Adam’s Card World for $93, which translates into a reasonable $0.93/card ratio. Donruss Elite has been one of the more stable products in terms of price and expectations. It seems like it has always been the quintessential mid-shelf, pre-season release. In an NFL off-season full of so many uncertainties, it was nice to have a familiar product to open. The only problem is now half of the players have the wrong team logo on their cards…

2011 Donruss Elite pack
AD…as in “Advertising Demon”…he moves products

The Breakdown:
Base Cards
   Veterans: 86 (0 duplicates)
   Rookies (#/999): 4
   NFL/Team Logos (#/999): 3
   Hit List (#/999): 1
   Craftsmen (#/999): 1
   Power Formulas (#/999): 1
   Legends of the Fall (#/999): 1
   Rookie Aspirations Die-Cut (#/85): 1
   Craftsmen Jerseys (#/299): 1
   Power Formulas Jerseys (#/299): 1
   Turn of the Century Rookie Autographs (#/499): 1
   Rookie Aspirations Die-Cut Autographs (#/49): 1
   Printing Plate (1/1): 1

2011 Donruss Elite2011 Donruss Elite
Click each image for a full-sized scan

1st Down, Design: In a word: retro. I’m not talking about the faux retro that has been all the rage the past few years, I’m talking about mid- to late-90s awesomeness. Maybe that’s not retro to very many collectors, but it definitely takes me back to a simpler time. But not simpler cards. When I peeled back the wrapper of the first pack and saw this year’s base design, I may have actually said out loud, “That’s actually pretty cool.” It definitely reminds me of a lot of sets in the 90s that had bold player images on top of a shiny silver backgrounds (that still don’t scan well appreantly). I still think the Panini brethren could have built in some logos or team colors on the card front as they are still terribly sterile, but at least the base design is solid. The card backs are…well, they’re Panini card backs. I swear one day they’re just going to say “Eff it, let’s just copy and paste the card backs for all our products this year” because they’re definitely moving in that direction. One side note, I still don’t understand the idea behind making base rookie cards completely different than the base veterans. I’m cool with some sort of “rookie” designation, but the entirely different design just seems odd to me. It takes most of the box until I figure out if I’m pulling base rookies or some special serial numbered insert, especially when I’m only pulling 4 RCs in an entire box.

2nd Down, Inserts: In a word: meh. The whole “let’s cut the player out of a great action shot and put him on a designed background with a whole bunch of lines and shapes” is starting to get trite. It’s actually getting to the point where I don’t like pulling basic inserts. And that makes me sad. Really sad. Because there was a time when I LOVED inserts. But that was before pack-inserted autographs, jersey swatches, and ultra low numbered parallels took the Hobby Throne. I’m also not sure what the point of serial numbering everything out of 999 is. Granted, this comes from a guy who used to be stoked to pull a card #1596/3100. The times they are a-changing. But not always for the best. Panini did an alright job here, and their insert concepts seem to be getting better, but it’s still pretty glaring when your insert doesn’t have the jersey swatch or auto sticker…even though there is a convenient slot waiting for them. I also don’t really get the NFL/Team logo cards. Let’s just make it glaringly obvious there is a better version of this card out there that I’ll never pull. I will say the Legends of the Fall backdrop is cool. I’m a sucker for awesome sunsets. The rookie Aspirations are a nice set. Pretty basic design and die-cut. I like that.

3rd Down, Collation: In a word: adequate. I didn’t pull a single duplicate, which was good. Granted, I would be livid if I had some with just 100 cards in a box. I also got all of the “hits” I was told I’d get, so that is a plus. My only concern here would be the lack of true rookie cards. Like it or not, the RC still rules the day. And in a product where I’m only pulling 4 RCs, there’s just not a lot of ruling going on. I’d rather them not serial number the crap out of the product and just print more rookie cards. Maybe they wouldn’t be worth as much that way, but when most of them are selling for less than $2, I don’t think it really matters. So called quality is not always preferred to quantity. Ask the folks who buy Score.

4th Down, Overall Value: In a word: solid. I didn’t pull that one showcase card, but I feel like most people don’t. If every box supplied a showcase worthy gem, we’d need an awfully large showcase. But I would say I’m fairly happy with the results. I don’t expect that I’ll be able to recover my entire $93 on the secondary market, but it was certainly fun opening a product that reminded me of younger days. I also have some very nice cards to put into team lots now, so folks don’t wind up getting 25 lame base cards for $5. I try to add value to each lot, and these will certainly help.

RED ZONE RESULTS: FIELD GOAL I don’t know what else to give this box. I already admitted earlier this year that I’ll probably be more generous with my red zone results this year than in the past, so this is par for the course I suppose. It’s also becoming tough to give incredibly unique final results in this template. Maybe if I had a 0-100 scale I could be more specific, but for now, this product gets lumped in with the rest of the boxes that could survive in the Big Ten. A lot of potential, a little flash, definitely some hype, but at the end of the day, it just settles for a field goal so it can get back on defense.

NEXT UP: 2011 Score


Not Like the Others


How many of you readers at home used to watch Sesame Street when you were growing up? I usually don’t like discussing childhood things with a mixed crowd because I either wind up sounding like a young whipper-snapper or horribly dating myself. But given Sesame Street’s unprecedented 41+ year run (and counting), I’m going to assume you all can follow along with me on this one.

A popular segment of the show was One of These Things (Is Not Like the Others). We’re going to play that game now with some cards from my Emmitt Smith collection. I know this might seem a tad too educational and developmental for this blog, but just go with it.

Are you ready? Here goes:

#1                 #2                  #3

One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn’t belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?

Well, how do you think you did? If you picked #3, you’re correct! Perhaps the bigger question though, is WHY is #3 the odd one out?

Any guesses?

Because I don’t think it exists. If your logic is adequate, I’m sure you’ve figured out that card #3 is the 1999 Donruss Elite Primary Colors Red insert. Parallels and serial numbers were all the rage in the late 90s, and I’ve fallen victim to the hype. Not only do I really want card #3 to complete the mini primary rainbow, it is serial numbered to just 25 copies and I have never seen one anywhere. Perhaps all 25 copies are already in prized Emmitt Smith collections. Maybe there are a few still stuck inside sealed packs in someone’s dusty storage facility. All I know is that not a one has found its way to my home. I do have the die-cut red insert, but that is #/75 for I can’t fathom what reason. In my current box breaks, it’s nothing to pull a #/25, #/10, or even a 1/1. But do you think I could find a #/25 from 1999? No.


Maybe some day…

EDIT: A buddy of mine just found a copy for sale! Now I just need to do some deep soul searching to decide if it’s worth $120…

Product Review: 2010 Donruss Elite


When Panini bought out the struggling Donruss/Playoff company last year, certain product offerings changed names (i.e. Panini Prestige and Panini Classics). However, they decided to allow a few longer tenured products to keep their namesake, such as the recently released Donruss Elite. While this is the second product from Panini on the 2010 release calendar, this is the first to feature photos of rookies in their new pro uniforms, something for which collectors always look forward.

2010 Donruss Elite box
The Box – Click for Detail

Hobby boxes come with 20 5-card packs for a total of 100 cards. I purchased this box from Dave and Adam’s Card World for $111 (I added some supplies to get free shipping), which translates into a $1.11/card ratio. That is a little high for my usual liking, but it matches the style of this product with its rookie focus and mid-shelf feel. It’s not low end like Score and it’s not high end like Exquisite, but you also get a lot more in a box than you will with Score and (most likely) a lot less than you would from Exquisite, so it’s appropriate.

2010 Donruss Elite Pack
Tim Tebow was on the side of the box, too (not Sam Bradford?)

The Breakdown:
Base Cards
   Veterans (#1-100): 85 (84.0% with 1 duplicate)
   Rookies (#101-201): 4 (all #/999)
   Super Bowl XLIV: 1 (#/999)
   Elite Series: 1 (#/999)
   Chain Reaction: 1 (#/999)
   Zoning Commission: 1 (#/999)
   Stars: 1 (#/999)
   Prime Targets: 1 (#/999)
   NFL Shield/Team Logo Rookies: 2 (#/999)
   Aspirations Die Cut: 1 (#/90)
   Prime Targets: 1 (#/299)
   Down & Distance Prime: 1 (#/50)
   Turn of the Century Rookies: 2 (#/399)

2010 Donruss Elite2010 Donruss Elite
Click images for full-sized scans

1st Down, Design: The base design is not bad. There is a fair amount of stuff going on in the design, but it doesn’t come across as busy or crowded, which is something Panini/Donruss has struggled with in the past. I like that there is some color to the front of the card (Prestige, you might remember, was all ultra neutral with a grey/silver design). I would prefer to see a team color scheme, but as you can see with the Aspirations Die Cut and autograph cards, the design color helps to distinguish parallels. In the past, Donruss forced collectors to figure out which color foil stamp was used and the serial numbering to determine parallels, which was awfully annoying. The back of the card is decent, although I’d like to see more stats and a photo, as long as it’s not just a cropped version of the photo on the front. Lastly, the base cards (as well as most of the inserts) are on ultra shiny foil board. Normally I’m all for shiny, but these are REALLY shiny. And when almost every card in the entire box is ultra shiny, it loses some of its lure.

2nd Down, Inserts: Where to start? It seems like Panini took every good insert from the past and threw them all into this product. When I buy an entire box and there are so many inserts that I’m only pulling one of each, you may want to reconsider how many inserts sets you’ve created. And that does not include the plethora of parallels of each set that were produced, something for which Panini is infamous. Also, you can once again easily tell where the jersey swatch and/or autograph sticker would be placed if you had received the relic/auto parallel. Granted, they filled in those empty spaces better than in the past, but it is still there. Individually, no particular insert is oustanding or awful, but overall, there are just too many. I’d rather get a few more rookie cards than yet another worthless insert. One small change Panini has made this year might be minor, but I really like it. On their jersey cards, they are indicating directly on the card front whether or not the jersey swatch is prime. Before, you had to hope you got dual colors or stitches because otherwise you had to rely on the serial numbering to tell what you got. On a side note, this is probably the first time I’ve pulled a jersey card that I could definitely tell what part of the jersey it came from. If you tilt the card a little, you can see more white beyond the small red stripe, so it’s obviously the very far left portion of the Patriots logo. Pretty cool stuff.

3rd Down, Collation: The collation was pretty good. Out of 85 base cards, I only pulled 1 duplicate, which really isn’t too bad of a ratio. I also feel like I pulled a good sampling of the various inserts, rookies, and hits (you are “guaranteed” 4 hits per box with at least one being an auto). My only issue with collation is more related to my comment above about inserts. I would have been much happier if Panini had cut several insert sets from this product, if only to allow more room for rookies in each box. When half of your base set is rookie cards, I should be able to pull more than 4 from a single box. If you really want to limit each base rookie to just 999 copies, produce a few fewer cases to get more rookies in each box. I know this sort of product doesn’t really appeal to set collectors anyway, but even from a singles-focused collector, it would be much nicer to get more rookies from each box.

4th Down, Overall Value: It is what it is. Any time a product’s per card ratio exceeds $1, I start to get really leery. With a rookie class that has quite a few big names like Bradford, Spiller, and Tebow, there is certainly the potential to pull way more value than any individual box or case may have cost, but that tends to come down to luck of the draw (as is the case with any box break). One definite positive point here is that this is the first 2010 product to feature rookies in their new pro unis. One thing that really concerns me though is how quickly the box prices are falling. I bought my box for $111, but if I had waited less than a week, I could have paid $107. That’s not a huge dropoff, but for a brand new product that is less than a week from its release date, that seems rather significant to me. If I had gone the eBay route, I could have gotten a sealed box for about $85, although then you are at the mercy of disreputable sellers who open product to find the case hits and sell anything they didn’t open. As always, it boils down to knowing what you want. If you want a big base set to hand collate and a low per card price, wait for something like Score or Topps’ flagship. If you want super valuable and low numbered autographed patch cards, wait for something like Exquisite (oh wait…). But if you’re looking for something in the middle, Donruss Elite can be a good way to go.

RED ZONE RESULTS: Defensive penalty resulting in a FIRST DOWN Overall, this box break didn’t necessarily “wow” me, but it also did not disappoint or bore me. I didn’t pull any spectatular rookies or hits, including any of the case hits, but that is to be expected as not every box can be the best from the pack out. Given more time and a much larger budget, I definitely would not mind busting a case of this product. I think the base set would look really sharp in a binder and the new pro unis and various chase cards can be a great find. One slight personal bias that may come out is that I am all for any product that includes Emmitt Smith, and Panini did include him in their higher end autograph insert sets for Donruss Elite. So while I’m not ready to give this product any offensive points just yet, it definitely deserves another shot and further consideration, hence the defensive penalty and a fresh set of downs from inside the 10 yard line.

NEXT UP (tentatively): 2010 Upper Deck NCAA Sweet Spot

Fantasy Focus: Week 17


Fantasy Focus

As you gear up for the post season, let’s take a quick look back at the last regular season week’s studs. (Note: Points listed are directly from the First and Goal Fantasy League and may not represent point totals in your individual leagues)

QB: Brett Favre, Minnesota Vikings — Unlike the Favre we saw slump into homestretch in 2008, this year’s Favre has remained on top through the end of the regular season. Favre proved to his naysayers that he’s still got it by throwing for 316 yards and 4 touchdowns in Week 17. His 30 fantasy points look even better when you consider the fact that he was pulled from the game in the third quarter after amassing a 41-0 lead.

*Fantasy Stud of the Week*
RB: Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs — Who needs to be a pre-season favorite to put up big numbers? Not Jamaal Charles, that’s for sure. Charles finished a surprisingly strong season with 259 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns. His 37 fantasy points capped an impressive year for the young running back, which didn’t really begin until Week 9 when he finally got the starting nod over a slacking Larry Johnson. His Week 17 performance also earned him Fantasy Stud of the Week honors.

Jamaal Charles

WR: Sidney Rice, Minnesota Vikings — An obvious benefactor of Brett Favre’s strong year, Rice had another great game in Week 17. In all, Rice reeled in 6 passes for 112 yards and 2 touchdowns. His 23 fantasy points were the highest amongst wide receivers in Week 17.

TE: Zach Miller, Jacksonville Jaguars — Giving the Jaguars some hope for the future, Miller had a solid performance to end the season. Miller caught 8 passes for 69 yards and 2 touchdowns for a total of 18 fantasy points. He may just be the pass catching tight end the Jaguars have needed for quite some time and should see a large increase in playing time in 2010.

K: Ryan Succop, Kansas City Chiefs — In a surprising upset of the Broncos, Succop certainly carrying his weight. He connected on 3 field goals (including 1 40+ yarder) and 5 PATs for a total of 15 fantasy points. It is a shame his offensive teammates couldn’t get him any more action during the rest of the season.

D/ST: Kansas City Chiefs — Along with Jamaal Charles and Ryan Succop, the entire Chiefs’ D shined in Week 17. While the unit did allow 24 points, it also racked up 2 sacks, 3 interceptions and 2 touchdowns. The unit accumulated 20 fantasy points, the highest amongst defensive units.

ROOKIE: Arian Foster, Houston Texans — For the second week in a row, Foster showed that he could be considered one of the top underrated rookies of the 2009 season. Rushing 20 times for 119 yards and 2 touchdowns (both in the fourth quarter), Foster could carry the Texans into the future if Steve Slaton continues to struggle with injuries and fumble tendancies. Foster finished the day with 25 fantasy points, more than any other league rookie.

Check back next week for a fantasy season recap!

Note: To quickly view all of my Fantasy Focus posts, simply click the Fantasy Focus banner at the top of any such post!

A Look Back: 1894 Mayo


As the card companies continue to deliver a bumper crop of retro-themed (recycled) set designs and concepts, I thought it would be good to turn around and look into the Hobby’s storied past to learn a bit more about these vintage sets. In a way, it will be like remembering the aluminum cans that became a swing set or, perhaps a better analogy, the 1957 Chevy that became a batch of die-cast elephants (because the companies are generally taking beautiful and original designs and recycling them into common junk). To kick things off, let’s take a look back at the legendary 1894 Mayo set:

In 1894, the P.H. Mayo tobacco company produced the first ever set of collectible cards to feature only football players, the 1894 Mayo Cut Plug set. The 35-card set only contained players from the “Big Three” Ivy League schools, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, as these colleges were by far the most dominant in the young sport at the time. The simple cards were small by modern standards, measuring just 1 5/8″ x 2 7/8″ and featured a sepia-toned portrait on a black frame that contained the player’s last name and school and the Mayo Cut Plug logo. The card backs were completely blank and black and the cards were not numbered in any fashion. One of the cards did not identify the player shown and early checklists simply listed this card as “Anonymous”, although the player has since been identified as John Dunlop of Harvard. The cards were distributed in tins of P.H. Mayo chewing tobacco.

1894 Mayo Grey1894 Mayo Morse1894 Mayo Greenway
1894 Mayo Cut Plug cards featuring Harvard, Princeton, and Yale football players

Over 100 years later, card companies began creating sets that paid tribute to the 1894 May Cut Plug set. The first to do so was Donruss in 2002 when they created the Donruss 1894 set that was inserted into packs of 2002 Gridiron Kings. The set actually holds fairly true to the original design. The card fronts feature a black-and-white portrait (rather than sepia-toned) of the player on a black frame that contains the player’s full name (rather than his last name), position (in place of the player’s team/college), and his team’s logo (in place of the Mayo Cut Plug logo). This set also replaced the “For Chewing and Smoking” motto in the lower right-hand corner with “For Collecting & Trading”. Rather than plain black backs, the 2002 Donruss 1894 set featured a foil stamped serial number #/1,000, a card number (MC-#), and various manufacturer logos. For a great side-by-side comparision, please click here. Donruss repeated the set in 2003 Gridiron Kings, with the only notable change being the cards were serial numbered to 600.

2002 Gridiron Kings Donruss 1894 #MC-7 Emmitt Smith

In 2008, Topps created a new 1894 Mayo throwback set. While standard-sized, the card fronts actually held fairly true to the original set with the only notable changes being full color player portraits and the retention of “For Collecting and Trading” motto used by Donruss rather than the original “For Chewing and Smoking” motto of the original 1894 Mayos. Similar to the hugely successful Allen & Ginter baseball set, 2008 Topps Mayo included many short print subjects and a host of various insert cards. One of these inserts was a mini parallel that replicated the small size of the original 1894 set and included a black-and-white portrait. The product was however marred by an inability to follow through with pre-release checklists, especially for autograph subjects.

2008 Topps Mayo2008 Topps Mayo Mini Parallel
2008 Topps Mayo & 2008 Topps Mayo Mini #111 Adrian Peterson

In 2009, Topps again made a Mayo throwback set, only this time they did not hold true to the classic set. The standard sized base set features full-color portraits on a white frame that barely resembles the 1894 design. The set much more closely resembles the popular Allen & Ginter baseball releases. Topps once again included a mini parallel that brought back the correct card dimensions and black-and-white photo, but the new white border was still present. Similar to 2008 Topps Mayo (and Allen & Ginter), the set included a plethora of short prints and various inserts.

2009 Topps Mayo2009 Topps Mayo Mini
2009 Topps Mayo & 2008 Topps Mayo Mini #191 Michael Crabtree

While no modern throwback set has been able to quite recapture the magic of the 1894 Mayo Cut Plug set, it is nice to see companies pay tribute to the founding father of football card sets, even if they are just recycling a classic design (and failing to get it right).

For more information on the original 1894 Mayo set, please visit these sites:
Nearmint’s Vintage Football Card Blog
The Harvard-Yale Football Gallery
Vintage Card Prices – 1894 Mayo Gallery
(very nice gallery of all 35 card images, except for the Anonymous/John Dunlop card)

One of My Favorite Sets


Much to the chargin of some readers, this post has nothing to do with cards that have been produced in the past decade:

Like a lot of collectors, I believe the Hobby hit a sort of peak in the late 90s. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that this was my first personal peak in collecting. I was in middle/high school, had a 2 part-time jobs (if you consider mowing grass once every two weeks for a small apartment building a job, if not, then I only had 1 part-time job at a local car wash), was completely dependent on my parents, and had nothing else on which to spend money (sadly, a girlfriend at this point in my life was a figment of my imagination). I bought all sorts of retail wax and saw many different concepts. One that I found fascinating was a box of 1997 Donruss Preferred football. The “box” was actually a large tin featuring Barry Sanders. When I eagerly ripped off the celophane wrapping and removed the metal lid, I was shocked to find 24 much smaller tins inside, the “packs” each featuring different NFL players. COOL! (it was the 90s, “cool” was en vogue then). Obviously I was thrilled to find several Emmitt “packs” amongst the 24. I tried to open just a few of the tins thinking that I would keep the rest sealed so they would be worth tons of money in the future when I opened my card shop (I was a bit dillusional, what can I say?). After flipping through the very well designed cards, I came to a sweet Barry Sanders insert card that Beckett said was worth $20. Needless to say, those remaining tins did not stay sealed for much longer.

When I returned to the hobby in 2008, I bought a bunch of new wax and while I was happy (ignorance is bliss), I realized that I never quite recaptured the joy of that box of 1997 Donruss Preferred. After a little searching online, I found a sealed box for sale and immediately purchased it. When it came in the mail, I was stoked beyond belief to find that the box I bought was none other than the Emmitt Smith box! COOL! (I still say “cool”, get off my back). I pulled some more great inserts and then headed back to the Internet card shops to track down a few elusive Emmitts to add to my collection. Below, I have listed each part of and an explanation of why this is one of my favorite sets of all time. NOTE: All images below lead to larger views

1. The Box
A lot of current and old sets have featured players on their product packaging. What 1997 Donruss Preferred did was transcend a basic package that would ultimately be thrown away (unless bought by me, but I am hoping to change that trend soon). They created another collectibility aspect to their product. Not only did you want the coolest cards of your favorite player(s), you know you HAD to get the tins, too. But more than a groovy concept, the metal box also doubles as a great storage container. When I received my Emmitt box, I immediately put my entire Emmitt collection in it. Granted, now that my collection continues to grow, I am struggling to find a way to still incorporate the box’s storage capacity and yet keep my entire collection all together, but I digress. To make matters better, there was even a parallel to the blue box: a gold box, adding yet another collectability factor. The box was awesome. Hands down.

1997 Donruss Preferred Tins Blue Box

2. The Packs
Similar to the box concept, Donruss made each pack it own collector’s item. The small tins were wrapped in celophane and contained 5 cards, which were also wrapped in a clear plastic wrapper. Similar to the boxes, the tins had parallels available. Each player had silver and gold tin variations and there were special “double wide” red tins that were literally twice as wide and featured two players on the front and 10 cards inside. In a day before serial numbering was out of control, the tin parallels had a serial number stamped inside the hinged lid. And you thought wrapper redemptions were cool.

1997 Donruss Preferred Tins

3. The Base Set
In a time when inserts were reaching ridiculous heights (and some, I admit, were just ridiculous), 1997 Donruss Preferred felt like an entire set of inserts. The 150-card set was printed on all-foil cardstock and featured micro-etching on the surface and sides. The set was broken into 80 bronze cards (5:1 odds), 40 silver cards (1:5), 20 gold (1:17), and 10 platinum (1:48), with obvious studs being platinum, stars being gold, and so forth. Granted, that meant pulling a card of the superstars was harder than ever, but prices for those stars flew off the charts, especially for a “base set” card.

1997 Donruss Preferred Base (Platinum)

4. The Subset
Given the fairly scarce odds of pulling a gold or platinum base card, and therefore a superstar, Donruss made it a easier for moderate collectors to obtain their favorite player(s) by creating the National Treasures subset. The 30-card subset (#118-147) featured the day’s best players and was part of the Bronze portion of the set. That took the odds of pulling an Emmitt Smith or Brett Favre from about 1:480 to around 1:16 (based entirely on product averages). Maybe that’s why I have almost 10 copies of this card.

1997 Donruss Preferred National Treasures Subset

5. The Parallel
As parallels were picking up steam in 1997, obviously Donruss included a parallel in Donruss Preferred. Although rather than create 18 parallels of various scarcities a la modern sets, Donruss Preferred had just one parallel set to the main set: Cut to the Chase. This was a die-cut parallel set and each level of the base set featured a different intricacy from a basic side notch for Bronze cards to a very nice curve and square design for Platinum cards. Odds for pulling these parallels were 1:7 (Bronze), 1:63 (Silver), 1:189 (Gold), and 1:756 (Platinum). While I did pull quite a few bronze parallels and even a few silvers, I was not forunate enough to ever pull a platinum, let alone the Emmitt parallel (sorry, no picture).

6. The Insert
Not to be outdone by other sets in 1997, Donruss Preferred featured some awesome inserts, the first being Staremasters. This set featured close up portraits of 24 stars on all-foil board and holographic foil accents. Sequentially numbered to just 1,500 copies (scarce for that era), Staremasters added a little mysterious element to the some of the best NFL players of the day. Maybe it was that ghosted reflection…

1997 Donruss Preferred Staremasters

7. The Themed Insert
Chain Reaction, another insert of 1997 Donruss Preferred, added a team collector element to the set. The 24-card set featured 12 offensive teammate pairs that were sure to move the first down markers. If you laid the two teammates side-by-side, they would fit together to create a full set of chains. The set was printed on clear plastic cardstock and also featured holographic foil accents. Each card was sequentially numbered to 3,000.

1997 Donruss Preferred Chain Reaction

8. The Ridiculous Insert
As I mentioned above, inserts were reaching ridiculous heights in the late 90s. 1997 Donruss Preferred featured one of those inserts. Technically a partial-set parallel, Precious Metals was a 15-card set that contained 1 gram of actual silver, gold, or platinum. Not only that, but it was reported that no more than 100 copies of each card were produced. Talk about collectibility! Too bad I have never seen one of these cards in person, let alone own the Emmitt Smith card (sorry, no picture).

That pretty much sums it up. Great base set. Amazing inserts. Classy parallels. Innovative and collectible packaging. What could be any better? What do you think? Did you go nuts over Donruss Preferred in 1997, too? Have you never heard of it but think it sounds like a sweet product? Do you think it’s lame and totally uncool? Opinions are welcome…

Product Review: 2009 Donruss Threads


Of the three retail boxes I recently purchased, this was the one I was least excited about. I had seen card scans on other sites when the product went live and wasn’t real wild about them. I guess the allure of buying fresh wax was too much for me to turn away.

2009 Donruss Threads
2009 Donruss Threads – Retail Box

2009 Donruss Threads is available in retail boxes of 8 packs of 5 cards. I paid $19.99 (plus 6% sales tax) for my box from K-Mart, which calculates into around $0.53 per card. Not the cheapest per card rate out there, but by no means high-end either. Let’s jump to the breakdown:

Base Cards: 38
Rookie Cards: 1 (#150 Jason Phillips)
Inserts: 2 (College Greats Shonn Greene and Gridiron Kings Darrius Heyward-Bey)
Hits: — (none)
Duplicates: — (none)

2009 Donruss Threads
Click image for full sized scan

1st Down, Design: How would be the best way to put this? Awful? Dreadful? Just down right bad? This certainly is not the worst base card design, but it will never win awards to beauty, either. The very bold diagonal lines really draw attention away from the point of the card, the pictured football player. The player name plate cutting straight across the picture is also distracting and adds needless barriers. The one nice part? I like how the player pops out of the top of the design and then fades into and behind the design on the bottom. That nice subtle touch is lost, however, by the overall needlessly loud design elements. One last thought, I know serial numbers are all the rage now, but do we really need to number every rookie card produced? It’s great that I pulled one of 999 copies of Jason Phillips’ Donruss Threads rookie card, but honestly, who cares? If it’s more than 250 or so, don’t bother serial numbering these things.

2nd Down, Inserts: The College Greats insert is interesting. The design ties in nicely to the base card, although in this case that is actually a bad thing. I know that a lot of football collectors hate seeing college uniforms and logos in their NFL sets, but I do not mind it as much. What I do mind is having a set called “College Greats” and showing rookies. Granted, some of the rookie class of any year could be considered to have had great college careers. But why not show old time players? When the early football sets are released, collectors are excited to see the rookie class in their new uniforms and numbers. If you absolutely need to have a college themed insert, don’t use the rookie class. Period. In a nice contrast is the Gridiron Kings set. I have aways really liked these inserts, and this year’s effort is actually well designed. I like the painted image, the silver accents, and the overall clean appearance. Again, I don’t know that rookies should be included in sets like this (case in point Hey-Bey who has done absolutely nothing to be considered a king, even in lowly Oakland). At least he is in his new Oakland uni.

3rd Down, Collation: It’s tough to gauge a product line’s collation when you are only getting 40 cards. The biggest indication of a problem would be duplicates, which I did not have in my box. I only got two inserts, which is a little disappointing, but again, there were so few cards that it’s just too hard to say if the collation was good or poor.

4th Down, Overall Value: Retail boxes will never deliver great “value” as it is usually defined in the Hobby. The lack of good inserts and very rare “hit” pulls (that are not rare at all in hobby boxes and are therefore not valuable in and of themselves) makes resale value tough. Donruss Threads did add Brett Favre’s very first Vikings card as a retail exclusive. Those base cards sold for as much as a lot of good autographs, so certainly that adds a level of value. However, overall, you are almost always going to get what you pay for in the retail portion of the Hobby. At $20 for a box, that’s just not very much.

RED ZONE RESULTS: KEY PLAYER EJECTED, LEADS TO A TURNOVER ON DOWNS I thought of this red zone result right after I decided to add this element to my product reviews. I wanted to save it for a “deserving” product. To me, 2009 Donruss Threads is that product. The base card design is just unforgivable with today’s highly advanced graphic design technology. Maybe I was close minded, but I was unable to get past the use of rookies in college themed inserts and the overall lack of value . Sorry Donruss/Panini, you struck out with this one. Enjoy the early shower.