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Retro Review: 1997-98 Donruss Studio Box Break

February 9, 2011

A few weeks ago I bought a couple of cards for my 2006-2007 Upper Deck Artifacts Bronze parallel /25 project on eBay not realizing that the seller was also the owner of the only card shop left in town.  He got in touch and suggested that I just stop in to pick them rather than shipping to me.  Good call on his part because it netted him another sale in addition to what I had already paid for online.

I hadn’t opened any packs for quite a while and my itch to do so got the better of me when I went in to the store.  None of the new releases were all that interesting to me, so I decided to keep the impact on my wallet to a minimum and picked up a box of 1997-1998 Donruss Studio that he had on special at a relatively reasonable price.

As I have said in a couple previous Retro Review articles the involved Donruss/Leaf products (find them here and here), I was a fan of their products back in their original incarnation, and continue to be so to this day.

Studio was always an interesting product to me, mainly because it stood out as something different at a time when too many products from too many manufacturers – Donruss/Leaf included – were giving collectors too much of the same old, same old.

Though not everyone likes cards that don’t picture players in action, when used consistently throughout the product I think it has some appeal.  The design is a simple as they come and it’s nice and clean.  There is an action shot on the back of the cards to accommodate that element many collectors are looking for, along with a brief write-up about the player.  Statistical information of any sort is, however, glaringly omitted.

The “signable” 8” x 10” were a nice touch as well.  The Hard Hats and Silhouettes inserts were also unique ideas that had some visual appeal to them as well, though the Hard Hats were the lone area where the theme of the set strayed significantly from the theme of the product overall.

Each box of Studio contained 18 packs, with an 8” x 10” and five regular sized cards per pack.  With a 110 cards in the base set, it is not possible to complete a full set with a single box, though you can put a pretty decent dent in one and pick up a relatively minimal number of singles later to finish things off. 

The available inserts were a Silver Press Proof parallel of the base set limited to 1000 copies, a Gold Press Proof parallel limited to 250 copies, and the aforementioned Hard Hats and Silhouettes set, with the latter of the two also coming in an 8” x 10” variation. The packs stated that the odds of finding an insert card was one in 3 packs, meaning I was likely to find 6 inserts in my box if it stuck to the odds available across the production run.

Overall I feel as though my box gave me a decent enough return, producing a total of seven inserts when the 8” x 10” Silhouette is included in the mix.  Unfortunately no Gold Press Proofs were to be found, though from past experience with this product I figured that was likely to be the case.  I did pull three Silver Press Proof parallels, though none were of players that made me overly excited:


In the second pack that I opened I found my 8” x 10” Silhouette insert, serial numbered out of 3000 and featuring Jaromir Jagr.  When held up to a light or placed over a white background, the Silhouettes inserts reveal what amounts to a floating head of the player featured.  I have always really liked like the look of these cards for some reason.

My regular sized Silhouette insert was of Pavel Bure.  The smaller version is limited to 1500 copies and is also serial numbered.  The process used to create the cards definitely translates better to the 8” x 10” variation as you get a clearer picture of the player being featured.

Rounding out the insert haul was a pair of Hard Hats cards, also serial numbered and limited to 3000 copies.  While I could have done better than Pavel Bure and Teemu Selanne, based on some of the players included in the checklist I definitely could have done much, much worse than two of the more prolific goal scorers I have seen play the game.


When it comes to the base set, the trend of duplicates when there shouldn’t be in Donruss products continued for me.  I ended up with 77 of the 110 base cards as the box somehow contained seven duplicates.  This kind of collation issue is completely inexcusable from my point of view.  It’s bad enough when a collector cannot even hope to complete a set from one box, but rubbing salt in the wound by further increasing the number of cards they are left to chase down because of lacklustre collation is indefensible.

Aside from that my only other complaint about the set would be the near complete absence of rookie cards.  Granted, this was back in the era when any player who had appeared in a World Junior Hockey Championship had his “Rookie Card” produced by Upper Deck well in advance of their true rookie year, assuming they even made it that far (a problem since remedied by the NHL), and 97-98 wasn’t exactly a big year for newcomers to the league, so I guess I can’t place too much blame on the former Donruss for that.


Once again, as a whole I was pleased with my haul from this box.  Even at the price I paid for it, a quick look at sales trends on eBay tells me that it is unlikely that I’ll fully recoup the cost of the box, so in terms of its usefulness in pursuit of my goal of financial self-sufficiency that may end up making this box a bad purchase.  This box was exactly what I was looking for in terms of getting a bit of enjoyment out of my hobby by ripping packs and pulling some cool looking cards, though, so overall I’m still a happy collector.

One more box opened, one more set to chase singles for, and a few cards that hopefully I can make a few dollars off of to fund some more acquisitions, small as they may be.

What are you r thoughts on the Studio set?  Am I out to lunch when it comes to enjoying the design or do you agree that the change of pace from this product was something welcome?  What about the insert cards? 

Let me know what you think by posting a comment, sending me an e-mail at bb_bros [at] hotmail [dot] com, or dropping a message on Twitter (@bb_bros) or Facebook.

Even though my eight-part Toward Self-Sufficiency series now complete, the themes covered in those articles will continue to be the driving force behind my Sunday posts.  Check back on Sunday for the latest article updating the practices and processes that I am using to reduce, and eventually eliminate, any sort of impact my hobby has on my personal finances. 

Until then, all the best in your collecting pursuits!


One Comment leave one →
  1. October 3, 2011 11:52 PM

    I opened quite a few boxes and I’m looking for inserts & silver press proof like 3X # 110 ( P. Roy ).
    I love to trade…

    Mike Gagnon,
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.


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