Too Many Big Macs: A Return to 1992 and the Donruss/McDonalds Cards

1992 McDonalds Donruss Display

1992 McDonalds Donruss Display

Back when I was a younger man and had a thirst for all things baseball, McDonalds partnered with Donruss to put out a set of cards for the Canadian market which would increase the sale of its sandwiches. The ’90s were a time when sports cards dominated the hobby market and baseball became a rival to hockey in Canadian collector’s minds. With the Blue Jays winning the World Series sales of baseball cards could be purchased at corner stores, gas stations, and hobby stores. Dealers carried commons to fill your sets and displayed insert and rookie cards along side their hockey counterparts. Yes it was a golden time for Canadian boys interested more in baseball than ice skates and hockey sticks.The honeymoon lasted a good four or five years before the Canadian market returned to its usual ways of leaving all sports cards except hockey by the wayside.

The 1992 Donruss McDonald’s set itself consisted of 33 cards which were identified as twenty-six MVP cards (one from each MLB team who they considered to be the team MVP), six Blue Jays Gold subset cards, and one unnumbered checklist card. These cards included stars and semi-stars and the following Hall of Famers: Cal Ripken Jr., Frank Thomas, George Brett, Nolan Ryan, Ryan Sandberg, Robin Yount, Barry Larkin, Kirby Puckett, Roberto Alomar, Ken Griffey Jr., and Ozzie Smith.

The 26 MVP cards were designed after Donruss’ regular issue of 1992 with an added MVP logo and the McDonald’s Golden Arches trademark shown on both sides of the cards. The six Blue Jays Gold cards show front full-bleed photos with gold foil stamping in a rectangular outline just inside the card edges. The backs of all 32 cards show player biographical information and recent yearly statistics and career statistics.

The cards came in a gold foil wrapper inside of which were four cards, three from the MVP set (included in the mix was also the Checklist card) and one Blue Jays Gold card. Packs could be aquired for thirty-nine cents (Canadian) with the purchase of a sandwich or breakfast entree.

Lastly, randomly inserted into packs was a redemption card which could be sent in to receive one of 1000 serial-numbered Roberto Alomar autograph cards.

1992 Donruss McDonald's MVP's Alomar Signature Card

1992 Donruss McDonald’s MVP’s Alomar Signature Card

The Alomar signature card came in a plastic holder and a letter (see the post: The Most Elusive Roberto Alomar Signature for more details).

Assembling this set was one of the highlights of my early ’90s collecting although once the promotion was finished I had a dislike for Big Macs and McChicken sandwiches. I frequented the local restaurant daily replacing my regular lunches with a McDonalds sandwich and a pack of baseball cards. I never found any redemption cards for the Alomar signature but I did accomplish both completing the regular set and gaining ten pounds.

 

 

A Love of the Minis

1952 Bowman #11 Ralph Kiner

I started seriously collecting baseball cards back in 1992. I was 26 yrs. of age and the catalyst was the Blue Jays winning the pennant and the World Series. Not that I was a Jays fan because I wasn’t (the Mariners and Expos were my teams) it was just that baseball, my favourite sport, was at the time, a rival to hockey for the attention of the nation (Canada).

With the added interest in baseball, cards were selling everywhere. It wasn’t as difficult to trade and collect baseball cards. Gas stations carried Upper Deck, Donruss, Fleer, Topps, and Score packs, department stores and corner stores carried boxes of product. And there seemed to be a new card shop opening in the city I lived every three to six months.

Like most people new to a hobby, I collected the new and hot products. But it didn’t take long before I realized that much of what was being sold was not worth the price. When boxes were sold at a higher price than you could get for the individulal cards inside them (unless you hit a rare insert or autograph card), especially when they were produced in the millions, it was time to move on to something different. Myself I looked backwards.

1952 Bowman Baseball Card Pack

1952 Bowman Baseball Card Pack

I wanted to collect a vintage card set. I looked at all the sets from the early 1900’s to the 1950’s and found only one set that would be inexpensive enough to collect, large enough to make it a challenge, and available enough not to wait months before finding any of the cards. That set was the 1952 Bowman set. The Bowman cards became my favourite cards because of this and two other reasons.

The first was that they were art cards rather than photographs. I like the combination of art and sport. Although some photos are skillful, most are routine and boring. But art cards, they show skill with every image.

The second reason was their smaller size. After opening thousands of packs of regular sized baseball cards, a set of smaller cards was a refreshing change. The 1952 Bowman set began my love for smaller cards.

Thirty years later I am still collecting the ’52 Bowmans, but I have in the past, and still do today, collect other mini card sets. Below are some of my personal favourites.

1993 Humpty Dumpty

1993 Humpty Dumpty Baseball

1993 Humpty Dumpty Baseball

The 1993 Humpty Dumpty Baseball set consists of 50 player cards and an unnumbered checklist card. They were only distributed in Canada. They were sold inside bags of Humpty Dumpty potato chips, one card per bag. The cards were sealed in a cellophane wrapper. The cards measure 1-7/16″ x 1-15/16″.

The fronts were full bleed images of 50 stars and semi-stars of the major leagues including Hall of Famers: Cal Ripken, Frank Thomas, George Brett, Kirby Puckett, Dave Winfield, Rickey Henderson, Nolan Ryan, Paul Molitor, Roberto Alomar, Tony Gwynn, Ken Griffey Jr. and Ozzie Smith. A mail in offer was available to attain a red plastic binder including five polypropylene twelve-pocketed sheets that hold the cards.

It was enjoyable to collect these cards except for the weight gain. The completion of this set was difficult though as you came across many duplicates before getting the complete run. I eventually stopped eating the chips and just took the cards from the bags. Once I was up to four cards on some of the players yet not receice any of a few others I stopped. I completed the set through trades online after that.

1991 & 1992 Cracker Jack Minis

1991 & 1992 Carcker Jack Mini Baseball Cards

1991 & 1992 Carcker Jack Mini Baseball Cards

These are actually two different sets. The 1991 set was produced by Topps and look like a mini version of their 40th Anniversary regular set. The 1992 set was produced by Donruss and they look similar to Donruss’ 1992 regular set.  Out of all the mini cards I have collected over the years these are the tiniest. They measure just 1 1/4″ X 1 3/4″ each.

Although the fronts look like the Topps and Donruss sets, the backs are completely different. Each of the two years came in two series of 36 cards each. That would be 72 cards each for 1991 and 1992. They came in specially marked boxes of Cracker Jack, one card per box.

1991 Topps Series II Cracker Jack Box and Surprize

1991 Topps Series II Cracker Jack Box and Surprize

The two years’ sets contain almost every Hall of Fame player from the era including Nolan Ryan, Paul Molitor, Ryne Sandberg, Cal Ripken Jr., George Brett, Rickey Henderson, Robin Yount, Tony Gwynn, Wade Boggs, Kirby Puckett, Ken Griffey Jr., Eddie Murray, Carlton Fisk, Andre Dawson, Barry Larkin, Frank Thomas, Ozzie Smith, Dennis Eckersley, Craig Biggio, and Tom Glavine.

A mail-in offer for a mini card album with six top loading plastic pages for $4.95 per album was available at the time.

Cracker Jack Mini Baseball Collector Album

Cracker Jack Mini Baseball Collector Album

2007 Fleer Mini Die Cuts

2007 Fleer Mini Die Cut #136 Carlos Beltran

2007 Fleer Mini Die Cut #136 Carlos Beltran

In 2007, Upper Deck put out the last set of cards under the Fleer name. This 400 card set had a mini parallel set that I enjoy collecting. The cards are the same as the regular set except that the border has been removed. The cards measure 2 1/8″ X 3″. In a typical box you will pull between 15-20 of these cards so although not extremely limited, you will need to buy a case or two to come close to finishing the set. I prefer to look to the secondary market for the cards where I occasionally found lots of 20 or more available for a reasonable cost. This set is also available in a gold version which is super tough to collect. You might pull one card from every few boxes if you are lucky. I busted open four boxes myself and found only one of these cards.

2012 Topps 1987 Mini Cards

2012 Topps 1987 Mini #TM38 Chase Utley

2012 Topps 1987 Mini #TM38 Chase Utley

This set of 150 cards is fun to collect if you were a fan of the 1987 Topps set. The cards measure 2 1/8″ X 3 1/8″ and come at approximately 8 to 10 per hobby box. I pulled nine from a box I opened recently. The 150 cards are split between three series. 2012 Topps Series One has the first 50 cards. Series Two has the second 50 cards, and the Update set has the last 50 cards. You would need a case of each series to complete the set.

There are many other tiny cards out there including all the pre 1954 Bowman cards and the original Cracker Jack cards from 1914. Most of the pre WWII cards were irregularly shaped including many in tiny format. Unfortunately, nice looking cards from that era can be quite expensive. If you really want a monster challenge and money is no object, the T206 cards from 1909-11 are tiny and very fun to collect. With over 500 cards in the set, including the Honus Wagner card you better be prepared to spend millions to complete that set. Personally, I will, with the occasional exception, stick with the cards mentioned above as those are the ones I can afford.

The Craziness That Is Kijiji

 

Kijiji Logo

Kijiji Logo

So I’m looking on Kijiji a couple weeks ago for baseball cards in the city I live. It’s good to check out Kijiji as sometimes you can get lucky and find cards at bargain basement prices and not worry about the cost of shipping. For example, I purchased five super boxes of cards plus five complete sets, all from 1985 to 1993 for $50.00 a couple months ago. It was over 20k cards and helped complete sets i was missing individual cards from. I also picked up five rookie and traded sets from Score from 1985 to 1989 for $20.00 last week.

But that’s not the main reason for this post. You ever notice that with the occasional bargain you find, you have to put up with guys who think their collections are worth more than their house and rarer than a Shoeless Joe Jackson autograph? And their cards are inevitably from the 1986- 1992 time period, the most overproduced era of baseball cards.

Here is an example of what I speak:

86 LEAF-DUNROSS BASEBALL “MINT-MINT!!!unopened/ 18 cents a card!

Baseball season is just around the corner …This is a LOT of 12 ( SUPER MINT CONDITION ) manufacturer sealed packs of the 86 Dunruss baseball cards ( there are NONE out there in better condition !!!!!).. The price works out to 17.5 cents a card ( based on the fact of how many cards are in each of the factory sealed packs ! JUST TRIED COUNTING them with a magnifying glass & it seems to come to 57 cards each pack )…PROFIT TO BE MADE !!! to the right, smart person into this …see the pictures … Check my other 5 pages of ads here on Kijiji too!! Might be something else you’ve been looking for..thanks

Yes that is right $120.00 for a complete set of 1986 Donruss for God’s sake.

I emailed the guy because I was interested in the set. I informed him that he had a complete set of ’86 Donruss that came from a factory set box. Donruss sealed the cards in cellophane inside a factory sealed box. Each of the 12 sealed groups contained 55 cards to come to a total of 660 cards. The factory set also included the Diamond King puzzle cards of Hank Aaron which he did not have. With both the sealed box and the Aaron puzzle inside the factory set, the package sells in the $25 to $40 dollar range. Since his has only the cards I offered him $20.00.

eBay Listing for 1986 Donruss Factory Sets

eBay Listing for 1986 Donruss Factory Sets

He replied, “I would rather give the whole set away for free with my car as a bonus than sell these cards for that price.” So I returned by saying, “Well you can keep the car but what time should I go by your place to pick up the free cards?” That’s when he lost it. Whenever you point out a person’s obvious lack of knowledge for selling something higher than what it’s worth, or on the other hand not so much his lack of knowledge but his obvious plan to try and rip off some schmuck who doesn’t know much about what he is buying, the person always gets angry at you.

I finally replied, “Dude your ad has been posted and reposed for the last 6 months on Kijiji. No one wants your cards except me. They are baseball cards, not hockey, you live in Canada not New York, and the cards are very common to find and are nothing special. When you decide to get your head out of your ass, send me an email and I will still buy them off you for $20.00.”

He gave me a final reply that included more expletives than regular words and we haven’t conversed since.

Although you can find lots of bargains on Kijiji, you better watch out and research the stuff you want to buy before you purchase it, otherwise you might pay $120.00 for a set of ’86 Donruss cards.

Before I leave you, here is an even more blatant example of a person trying to rip-off an ignorant public. I took a screen shot of five offerings he posted:

Kijiji Baseball Card Ads

Kijiji Baseball Card Ads

Not only did he get the year of the cards incorrect (they are from 1991 not 1990), he misleads people that Johnson was a Mariner before an Expo, when the exact opposite is true. Anyone who collects baseball cards knows these 1991 Donruss and Upper Deck cards are practically worthless. They were overproduced and if they would ever get sold, it would be for pennies not multiple dollars.

The Most Elusive Roberto Alomar Signature

1992 Donruss McDonald's MVP's Alomar Signature Card

1992 Donruss McDonald’s MVP’s Alomar Signature Card

1992 Donruss McDonald's MVP's Alomar Signature Congrat. Letter

1992 Donruss McDonald’s MVP’s Alomar Signature Congrat. Letter

If you are an autograph collector, especially for autographs on baseball cards, and you also like Hall of Famers, then the 1992 Donruss/McDonald’s Roberto Alomar signature card is something you may want to pursue. Not only is it Alomar’s first signature card, it is also one of the rarest. Back in 1992, Donruss and McDonalds teamed up to distribute four card packs of “MVP” cards. This set consisted of 26 regular cards (one player from each MLB team), a checklist card, and 6 “Blue Jays Gold” insert cards.

Randomly inserted into these 4-card packs was one of 1000 redemption cards good for an Alomar signature card. Only 1000 of these signed cards exist. They are very rare. In the last 5 years on ebay I have only seen the card appear three times. the back of the card has a hand written number beside a printed 1000, so the cards are serial-numbered.

1992 Donruss McDonald's MVP's Alomar Signature Card Encased

1992 Donruss McDonald’s MVP’s Alomar Signature Card Encased

It is hard to gauge a proper price for the card as I said due to it rarely showing up. But also because it is a Canadian card. Like O-Pee-Chee cards, many American buyers avoid cards printed outside the USA because of their thinking that they are all odd-ball cards.The first time I saw the card (2011) it sold for $100.00. The second time I saw it (2013), it listed at $300.00 but went unsold. The third time I saw it (presently), it has a list price of $499.95. Myself, I would think it’s worth around $100.00-$150.00. What would you pay for it?

Remembering Dick Perez and the Diamond Kings

Dick Perez will always be remembered by collectors as the artist behind the original series of Donruss’ Diamond Kings subset. Perez spend a decade and a half creating these portraits for collectors to enjoy until he was released from his duties after the 1996 set. Each year, for fifteen years, collectors anticipated the Donruss sets to see who Perez pictured in the subset. After Perez left the DK name had less luster and by at least my account lost much of it’s appeal. 1992 foreshadowed the loss of Perez and collector’s interest in the DK series when Donruss made the cards more difficult to collect, but more on that later. After 1996, the DK’s lost their history. Dan Gardner replaced Dick Perez, the tradition of representing each Major League Franchise with a DK player was dropped, the sets were made more and more scarce until it became quite difficult to find all of the the cards each year. But while Perez was working the set was an institution.

I thought it might be fun to write a short history of the sets to introduce the younger collectors to them (if there are any young collectors left in the hobby anyway) and to bring the rest of us on a short trip down memory lane.

1982 Donruss Diamond Kings

1982 Donruss Diamond Kings

1982 Donruss Diamond Kings

One year after joining Topps and Fleer in the baseball card market, Donruss was looking to add some nostalgia to it’s second release of cards. They contacted then hired artist Dick Perez to create 26 portraits of MLB players, one from each franchise, in order to bring art back into baseball card collecting. Donruss decided it would start off the 1982 set with these paintings and with that a tradition was born.

An unnumbered Diamond King checklist card was also included in packs. The DK checklist card would be included in each years packs and would remain unnumbered until 1987’s set. Alan Trammell’s DK card has an error and corrected version. Trammell is spelled Trammel on the error card (both front and back). The checklist card also got Trammell’s name incorrectly as Trammel so there is a error and corrected version of that card as well. See below:

1982 Donruss Diamond Kings Alan Trammell Error

1982 Donruss Diamond Kings Alan Trammell Error

 

1983 Donruss Diamond Kings

1983 Donruss Diamond Kings

1983 Donruss Diamond Kings

The 1983 DK’s were created with the same design as the 1982 cards, just the player selection changed. The unnumbered checklist card shows a photograph of artist Dick Perez. It has two versions, an error where “Check List” is missing from the back bottom of the cards, and the corrected version where “Check List” was included. See below:

1983 Donruss Diamond Kings Checklist Error

1983 Donruss Diamond Kings Checklist Error

1984 Donruss Diamond Kings

1984 Donruss Diamond Kings

1984 Donruss Diamond Kings

The 1984 set was new and improved from the previous two years. Donruss decked out the cards in red, white and blue parade-ribbon style as if the cards were to be given out on the 4th of July. Each card has an error and a corrected version. The error, where “Perez-Steele Galleries” on the back of the card is actually spelled “Perez-Steel Galleries” were found in wax packs. The error was corrected for all the factory sets. See the example below of Robin Yount’s card back:

1984 Donruss Diamond Kings Robin Yount Error

1984 Donruss Diamond Kings Robin Yount Error

 

1985 Donruss Diamond Kings

1985 Donruss Diamond Kings

1985 Donruss Diamond Kings

1985 saw the DK’s return to the design of its first two years except that the 1985 cards were given a black border and the team and position designation was not given with the player’s name. Donruss would continue with this design, mostly just changing the border colors until 1992 when the design went borderless and then in 1994 when the whole design was dropped for something best described as more imaginative.

1985 also marked the beginning of the Super Diamond Kings. These are 5×7 versions of the smaller DKs and were available through a mail-in offer. You mailed three 1985 Donruss wrappers plus $9.00 to get the 29 card set (26 DKs, the Checklist card, the Lou Gehrig puzzle card and a “History of the Diamond Kings” card of artist Dick Perez). The Perez card is below:

1985 Donruss Diamond Kings Dick Perez Card

1985 Donruss Diamond Kings Dick Perez Card

The Lou Gehrig Super DK puzzle card was the same image as its counterpart that you could assemble from the 63-piece, 3-piece per card, cards that you received from the wax packs. But the Super DK version was 12 pieces rather than 63, and it measured 5″ X 7″ rather than the larger 11″ X 7 3/4″ that the assembled puzzle from the wax packs would measure. An example of both puzzle cards are below:

1985 Donruss Diamond Kings Lou Gehrig Puzzle

1985 Donruss Diamond Kings Lou Gehrig Puzzle

1986 Donruss Diamond Kings

1986 Donruss Diamond Kings

1986 Donruss Diamond Kings

The 1986 set continued with 26 cards (one from each franchise). The border of the cards were blue with black lines. Although Perez is very good at creating a likeness of the player’s image, with his Andre Dawson portrait in the 1986 set, he really captured “The Hawk”‘s likeness. Just as in all previous years the set included a unnumbered checklist card.

For the second year in a row there was available a redemption mail-in offer to receive a Super Diamond Kings set through Perez-Steele Galleries. Three 1986 Donruss wrappers plus $9.00 would get you the set. The set consisted of the 26 DK player cards, the unnumbered checklist card, a Hank Aaron Puzzle card, and a Pete Rose “King of Kings” card. The puzzle card as well as the other cards in the set measured 4 7/8″ by 6 13/16″. The Super Diamond King puzzle card was exactly the same as the one you could put together from the puzzle pieces from the wax packs except that it was smaller. When you assembled the puzzle from the 3-piece wax pack cards it measures 11″ X 7 3/4″.

The Pete Rose “King of Kings” card was the first of a series of special Super DK cards that celebrated a certain player’s great achievement in the history of baseball, the normal version of the card was #653 in regular set.

1987 Donruss Diamond Kings

1987 Donruss Diamond Kings

1987 Donruss Diamond Kings

The 1987 version of the DK’s have a black and gold border and as with each previous year, show player portraits with a superimposed smaller action shot of the player. 1987 marks the first year that the DK checklist card was included in the numbering of the set. Previous years sets had the DK checklist, as well as the other checklist cards, as unnumbered. The DK checklist card in this set was numbered #27.

There were three cards in the DK set that did not have the yellow coloring the ribbon on the top back of the card. These error cards were eventually corrected. The three error cards and their corrections are pictured below:

1987 Donruss Diamond Kings Errors

1987 Donruss Diamond Kings Errors

For the third year in a row a redemption mail-in offer (this time $8.00, 3 1987 Donruss wrappers, and $1.50 S&H) to receive the 28 card set of Super Diamond Kings (26 DK player cards, the checklist card, and the Roberto Clemente puzzle card).

1988 Donruss Diamond Kings

1988 Donruss Diamond Kings

1988 Donruss Diamond Kings

The 1988 DK’s had a black and blue border. There were no errors in printing the cards but there are two versions of every card in the 1988 Donruss set including the DK’s. When Donruss printed the cards for their factory sets they reversed the border design. An example (Ron Darling’s DK card #6):

1988 Donruss Diamond Kings Ron Darling Reverse Border

1988 Donruss Diamond Kings Ron Darling Reverse Border

For $8.00, three 1988 Donruss wrappers, and $1.50 S&H, you could again receive through the mail the 28 card Super Diamond King set (26 player cards, the checklist card and the Stan Musial puzzle card).

1989 Donruss Diamond Kings

1989 Donruss Diamond Kings

1989 Donruss Diamond Kings

The 1989 DK set had a rainbow of colors for its borders (black down the sides, with blue, purple and green interspersed on the top and bottom). There were no error card this year, and for the fifth year in a row you could redeem through the mail $8.00, three 1989 Donruss wrappers, and $2.00 S&H to receive the 28 card Super DK set (26 player cards, the checklist card and a Warren Spahn puzzle card).

1990 Donruss Diamond Kings

1990 Donruss Diamond Kings

1990 Donruss Diamond Kings

The 1990 DK’s came with a red border. There were two errors involved with the set. The first concerns Ruben Sierra’s card (#3) in which the difference between the error and corrected card is a small square black notch that is on the back of the correct version but missing on the incorrect version. The second error involves the Brian Downing card (#10) in which Donruss screwed up the negative and reversed the image on the front of the card, the correct version has the superimposed Downing in a batting stance on the right side of his portrait. Both errors are shown below:

1990 Donruss Diamond Kings Brian Downing Reverse Error

1990 Donruss Diamond Kings Brian Downing Reverse Error

The Super Diamond Kings set was available this year for $12.00 and three 1990 Donruss wrappers. The set include the 26 player cards, the check list card and the Carl Yastrzemski puzzle card. It also included the second “King of Kings” card this time saluting Nolan Ryan (the first saluted Pete Rose in 1986). Where the Rose card had on the back the corresponding number to its regular set card (#653), the Ryan card drops the number altogether (the regular card was numbered 665). The puzzle card and Ryan card are pictured below:

1990 Donruss Diamond Kings Ryan King of Kings and Yaz Puzzle

1990 Donruss Diamond Kings Ryan King of Kings and Yaz Puzzle

1991 Donruss Diamond Kings

1991 Donruss Diamond Kings

1991 Donruss Diamond Kings

The 1991 DK set featured blue borders. Error cards are found throughout the set but this year Donruss didn’t correct any of them. They mostly involved missing TM on team logos and mistakes in the descriptions written on the back of the cards. For the seventh consecutive year you were able to mail in to receive the Super Diamond King set ($12.00 and three 1991 Donruss wrappers). This year no puzzle or checklist card was included so the set consisted of 26 player cards only. 1991 also marked the end of the superimposed mini action shot of the player leaving only the portrait to grab the collector’s attention.

1992 Donruss Diamond Kings

1992 Donruss Diamond Kings

1992 Donruss Diamond Kings

For the first time since their inagrual set of 1991, Donruss did not start their regular set with the Diamond Kings subset. Instead the 27 cards (26 player cards and one checklist card) were randomly inserted into boxes. The insert set was upgraded. The pictures were full bleed and darkened. Gold trim was embossed into the ribbons and name borders making the cards stand out from the regular set unlike in previous years. Although the set was more difficult to collect, there were approximately four to five DK’s per box, they weren’t so rare that it turned off collectors in pursuing a complete set of the cards. No errors were detected from the set.

Donruss did not offer collectors a mail in option for a Super Diamond Kings set for the first time in eight years. Super Dk’s were made but not distributed to collectors. They were given to staff at a strategy meeting at Donruss and made it into the secondary market from there. No One really knows how many sets were produced but it’s guessed that very very few were made. The sets are extremely hard to find and command hundreds if not thousands of dollars to buy. When they were given out at the meeting the set came plastic-wrapped and in a sealed cardboard box. I found these images at www.calripkenjr.net

1992 Donruss Super Diamond Kings Employee Gift Package

1992 Donruss Super Diamond Kings Employee Gift Package

1992 marked the beginning of the end for the DK’s as they were produced previously. Perez is dropped as artist by 1997 and the cards themselves never re-enter the main yearly Donruss set instead being produced as inserts in more and more difficult to find numbers until eventually they are dropped altogether only to resurface first in 2001 as inserts and paralells in Playoff’s first Donruss product and then as a main set itself in 2002 called 2002 Diamond Kings.

1993 Donruss Diamond Kings

1993 Donruss Diamond Kings

1993 Donruss Diamond Kings

The 1993 set, just as in 1992 was randomly inserted into Donruss boxes. The set is a duplicate in design of the 1992 set. The set was expanded to 31 cards which included 30 player cards and one checklist. The first 26 cards are as per usual a player from each of the teams, Card 27 and 28 are the 1st round draft picks of the two expansion clubs (Florida Marlins and Colorado Rockies), and cards 29 and 30 are of the 1992 Rookies’ of the Year (the first time a DK was made for anything other than a team representative ballplayer). The two ROY cards are pictured below:

1993 Donruss Diamond Kings ROY Cards

1993 Donruss Diamond Kings ROY Cards

For the first time since 1985, no Super Dk’s were produced, not even in in-house gift form as they were the previous year.

1994 Donruss Diamond Kings

1994 Donruss Diamond Kings

1994 Donruss Diamond Kings

Big changes occurred in the design of the DKs for 1994. Left behind was the ribbon on the top of the card and the curve-ended rectangular shaped border for the player name. Donruss and Dick Perez decided to get funked up and surreal for the 1994 issue. Players looked like they were being painted in the sky during sunset or at dawn/dusk. This year there was no ROY cards as there was in 1993. You could look forward to pulling 4 to 5 DKs per box. The set consisted of 30 cards, 28 player cards (one for each team), a third “King of Kings” card (this year Donruss saluted Dave Winfield. 1986 it was Pete Rose, 1990 it was Nolan Ryan), and Card #30 was a checklist card with a Dick Perez self-portrait. The Winfield card and Checklist card are below:

1994 Donruss Diamond Kings Dave Winfield King of Kings and Dick Perez Cards

1994 Donruss Diamond Kings Dave Winfield King of Kings and Dick Perez Cards

1994 marked the return of the Super DKs after a year’s hiatus. It was also the first time the Super DKs were used as box-toppers for Series One and Two boxes. With each box you purchased, you received a Super DK.

1995 Donruss Diamond Kings

1995 Donruss Diamond Kings

1995 Donruss Diamond Kings

The design for the DKs changed again in 1995. Perez moved away form surreal sunset imagery to what could be called a kindergarten wallpaper background with different colors and shapes. The set consisted of 29 cards (28 player cards and a checklist). Unlike the previous year, the Super DKs were not inserted into boxes as box-toppers. In fact Donruss. like in 1993, dropped the Super DKs altogether. No errors were found in the set.

1996 Donruss Diamond Kings

1996 Donruss Diamond Kings

1996 Donruss Diamond Kings

Continuing the trend of wholly changing the design yearly for the DKs (started in 1994), Perez discarded colored backgrounds in order to enhance the player portrait. The cards have a simple marble-like border with a black background. This would be Dick Perez’s last work on the DKs he would be replaced in 1997 by artist Dan Gardner. This would mark also the last time the DKs stuck to the “one player from each team” formula as 1997 would issue only 10 DK cards. This year’s DK’s were serial numbered to 10,000 copies which further limited set builders ability to complete the set. Starting in 1992 when the DKs became inserts, and continuing this year with 10,000 copies, 1997 also with 10,000 copies and 1998 reduced again to 9500 copies, the DKs became scarcer and scarcer, leaving set collector’s feeling irritated. Where 1992 started the eventual decline in the desire to have sets of the Diamond Kings (at least in the minds of set builders) 1998 marked the end of the series entirely.

Along with Perez leaving, Donruss was undergoing significant change itself. By 1996 they were purchased by Pinnacle Brands, who then in 1998 declared bankruptcy which led to the end of Donruss baseball card issues. Playoff purchased Pinnacle and resurrected Donruss renaming their company Donruss/Playoff and issued a Donruss set in 2001. As for the Diamond Kings, they were reduced to 10 cards in 1997, then 20 cards in 1998. When Playoff issued their Donruss set in 2001, the Diamond Kings were resurrected. Three insert sets were produced, “1999” Retroactive Diamond Kings (5 cards serial numbered to 2500 copies with a Studio parallel numbered to 250), a “2000” Retroactive Diamond Kings (5 cards serial numbered to 2500 copies with a Studio parallel numbered to 250), and finally an All-Time Diamond Kings set (10 cards of HOF players serial numbered to 2500 copies with a Studio parallel numbered to 250 with the first 50 autographed).

in 2002, Playoff/Donruss changed the DIamond King name from a main series card (1982-1991), from and insert (1992-1998, 2001) to its own card set entirely. The 2002 Diamond Kings is a 160-card set released in two series. The first 150 cards were issued as part of the Diamond Kings set while the final ten cards were randomly inserted into packs of 2002 Donruss The Rookies. Designed to compete with Topps’ Gallery brand, all 160 base cards and inserts are painted. Below are three examples of the main set:

2002 Diamond Kings Base Set Examples

2002 Diamond Kings Base Set Examples

Donruss/Playoff would continue the Diamond King sets until 2006. Along the way they put out Donruss sets that included Diamond Kings until Donruss sets were discontinued in 2005. After 2006 I gave up on Diamond Kings, well more like in 1996. If anyone wished to continue with what happened with Diamond Kings post 2006 I invite you to post it here. Now that Panini owns Donruss/Playoff, and has no MLB licence to produce baseball cards (although they still do with only MLBPA licencing), perhaps the DKs are forever left in the annals of baseball card history. With almost every player now having Auto cards, the DKs are no longer really needed for autographs at stadiums and through the mail I guess. What once was an awesome set of cards is now reduced to ashes.