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1996 Studio Baseball Review

studio96In its heyday, Donruss Studio was known for an all portrait-style base set and some incredible inserts (Heritage and Masterstrokes being some of my all-time favorites). Each studio set had its own unique design and background. Some background examples included a city skyline, the player’s locker, an actual studio backdrop, and Old Glory itself. Oh yeah, there was also this ridiculous idea. I recently broke a box of the 1996 edition of Studio. The background for this set? Extreme close-ups of the players! This box contained 24 packs of 7 cards each. I paid $24 for this box. According to the wrapper, inserts are found 1 in every 9 packs. Here’s the good stuff…

Base cards: There are 150 cards in this set including a couple checklists. I completed the base set with 14 duplicates left over. Doesn’t the Big Unit look weird without a scowl on his face?

Bronze Press Proofs (2,000 made): There are 3 parallels which mirror the entire set: Bronze, Silver, and Gold. The print runs for these are 2000, 100, and 500 respectively. It sounds odd that the Silvers would be rarer than the Golds, doesn’t it? The Silver Proofs were a retail exclusive. I didn’t find any Gold Proofs in this box but there were 2 Bronzes: Jeffrey Hammonds and Latroy Hawkins. :yawn:

Stained Glass Stars (1:24 packs): The Stained Glass Stars inserts fall at a rate of 1 per box. This was a very creative 12-card “see through” insert by Donruss/Leaf which depicted the player in front of a stained glass window with his team’s name on it. I pulled a Hideo Nomo. Leave it to Topps to take this idea and expand on it with the Gallery of Heroes insert the following year. Yeah, that’s Gallery of Heroes, not “Beam Team” like in the brand new “Stadium Club” joke of a product.

Hit Parade (5,000 made): Hit Parade is another example of 1990’s creativity. Limited to 5,000 (and falling roughly in every other box), this 10-card set has the design of a vinyl record coming out of its sleeve. Very cool! I pulled an Albert Belle. The back of the card shows his stats from 1995 and features an in-depth analysis of his .317 batting average that year. This card lets me know his specific average when facing a lefty, facing a righty, at home, on the road, during a day game, during a night game, when swinging at the first pitch, when facing a two-strike count, with runners in scoring position, and after successfully clobbering Fernando Vina.

What WASN’T Pulled: Like I mentioned earlier, I did not receive a Gold Proof card. I also did not receive a Masterstrokes card (link in opening paragraph). Masterstrokes is an 8-card set printed on canvas. They are limited to 5000 copies. Beautiful stuff.

Final Thoughts: I love this set. This box just reminded me of how awesome Studio was at one time. I finished the base set and got some sharp, unique inserts. I probably won’t be busting any more ’96 Studio, but I’d sure love to get my hands on some boxes from other years!

As always, thanks for reading and good luck with your own breaks!

1997 Leaf Series 2 Baseball Review

Hello everyone! Remember me?? I’m finally back from vacation and ready to resume with the box breaks. Today, we’ll examine 1997 Leaf Series 2. 1997 Leaf was a dual series set, each of which contained 200 cards. A box of Series 2 contained a mixture of inserts, parallels, and contest tickets for an actual 1948 Leaf Jackie Robinson card. Boxes contained 24 packs of 10 cards each and inserts can be found in every 6 packs on average. I found a box for about $23 and here’s what I pulled:

Base cards: The base cards in this set feature a border which runs vertically on both sides of the front. In Series 1 this border is gray. In Series 2, the border is white, as evidenced by the John Olerud card above. There are tons of subset cards in this set. In fact, out of the 200 cards in Series 2, there are only 147 regular base cards. Following these are a 20-card subset called Legacy, a 30-card subset called Gamers, and 3 Checklists. In this box, I received 196 out of 200 cards to the set. The ones I am missing are: 214, 229, 244, and 397. I pulled 33 duplicates, which was a bit of an annoyance.

Fractal Matrix (randomly inserted): Fractal Matrix is a parallel that mirrors the entire set. These cards have a metallic finish to them and come in variations of bronze, silver, and gold. In addition, each card comes in a different axis: X, Y, or Z. Every card has only one specific color/axis combination. As far as the colors go, there are 100 Bronze cards, 60 Silver cards, and 40 Gold cards. Here’s a breakdown of the axes for each color:

BRONZE: 75 X-Axis, 20 Y-Axis, 5 Z-Axis
SILVER: 20 X-Axis, 30 Y-Axis, 10 Z-Axis
GOLD: 5 X-Axis, 10 Y-Axis, 25 Z-Axis

There is also a rarer die-cut parallel to each of these Fractal Matrix cards. Each axis has their own unique style of die-cut. The card in the scan is an example of a X-Axis cut. In my box, I received Fractal Matrix cards of Darren Dreifort and Ed Sprague. I also pulled a die-cut of Curtis Goodwin. All three were of the Bronze X-Axis variety. I should note that I tried desperately to find some sort of print runs on these cards, but was only able to find them for the 1998 set. I figure they probably shouldn’t be too far off so check out this tidbit from Twins Cards.

Warning Track (numbered to 3,500): Warning Track is a landscape-designed insert with a canvas surface. This set is filled with outfielders and depicts the players in front of an outfield wall (complete with distance marker in the background). The name of the set is featured on a road sign design. These are limited to 3500 and are just another example of a creative insert from the 1990’s. My pull was of Albert Belle.

Gold Stars (numbered to 2,500): Without question, Gold Stars is a classic Leaf insert. These cards are colored almost totally in gold and feature the player’s jersey number in giant font in the background. The insert’s logo is a circle containing a star that says “22 Karat Gold Leaf Stars” and hovers directly over a golden bar nameplate. They are limited to 2500 and I was able to find a Barry Bonds in my box. Unfortunately, it came out of the pack with a scratch near the top.

What WASN’T Pulled: Needless to say, each Series in 1997 Leaf has their own exclusive inserts. I will quickly go over the inserts from Series 2 that I did not pull. The first is entitled Leagues of the Nation. These attractive inserts are dual-sided and feature a pair of marquee players who faced off in an Interleague matchup in 1997 (remember when it was only East vs. East, West vs. West, Central vs. Central). They are numbered to 2,500. The other Series 2 insert I did not pull any of was The Thomas Collection. What’s that? You’ve never heard of this set? Perhaps that’s because there were only 600 total cards produced and if memory serves me correctly, these were the first baseball game-used cards made by Leaf. It was a 6-card set devoted entirely to Frank Thomas, each with a different swatch of game-used material (home jersey, away jersey, sweatband, hat, glove, bat). There were only 100 of each made! That was VERY rare for 1997! In fact, I’ve never even seen one of these cards in person. Check out the scans from They are SWEET!

Final Thoughts: Like the other DLP products at the time, you were all but guaranteed to get a set number of inserts per box on average. I should’ve had four in this box, but I was able to pull a fifth (even if it just meant another crappy Fractal Matrix). Boxes of both series can be had for cheap and can yield some nice stuff. For some strange reason, Series 1 boxes have 18 packs while Series 2 boxes have 24. If you’re looking for something cheap to rip, this product makes for a decent break. With some luck, you’ll have a finished base set and some great inserts. If you don’t like seeing subsets in every pack though, stay away.

As always, thanks for reading and good luck with your own breaks!