Donruss: foil-wrapped, upmarket for '92

COLLECTORS NOTEBOOK

October 27, 1991|By Ruth Sadler

For baseball card collectors, 1992 looks as if it will be the year when Score's influence finally reaches cards at the lower end of the market.

Score arrived in 1988 with improved card stock, thoughtful and imaginative photos and colorful and interesting card backs. Premium cards made their debut the next year, with Upper Deck taking Score a step further with better card stock, anti-counterfeiting holograms and stunning photos. Donruss brought out a premium line (Leaf) in 1990, and Fleer (Ultra) and Topps (Stadium Club) added premium sets this year.

By next year, the whole business will be in more upscale territory. Fleer put color head shots on card backs last season, Topps has announced plans to upgrade its regular issue, and now Donruss is doing so, too. Score is likely to have a premium line next season. Spokeswoman Julie Haddon confirms that Score will produce a high-end football set this season and adds that details (name, size of set) are being worked out as are plans for similar sets in other sports.

Donruss has released details of its Series 1 baseball cards for 1992, a 396-card set due in early December. Donruss has improved card stock, promised larger and "more exciting" action photos for card fronts, livened up card backs with color photos, changed packaging from wax to foil and cut production "dramatically" from 1991 levels but won't reveal figures. Donruss also has added an anti-counterfeiting feature, the word "Donruss" repeated on the card back but visible only when the card is tilted to the light.

Special cards that will be randomly inserted in Series 1 and 2 include 5,000 cards autographed by Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken, 7,500 Rickey Henderson Legends cards and 10,000 cards of 10 Elite players (Wade Boggs, Joe Carter, Will Clark, Dwight Gooden, Ken Griffey Jr., Tony Gwynn, Howard Johnson, Kirby Puckett, Terry Pendleton and Frank Thomas).

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Superior Galleries in Beverly Hills, Calif., which sold about $1 million of sports memorabilia at auction Oct. 14, is planning another for mid-1992.

"I'm getting about 30 phone calls a day of people wanting to put items in our next auction," says Larry Goldberg, president of Superior Galleries and a grandson of its founder. Already consigned for that auction are Jack Dempsey's championship belt and the painting that hung in his restaurant.

"What we noticed was that very unusual items brought good money," says Goldberg. "There's a big demand for the unusual. . . . The more common stuff the strong buyers already have."

Among the marquee items sold were Joe Louis' championship belt ($100,000), Lou Gehrig's 1934 MVP trophy ($85,000, which Goldberg believes is the highest price ever paid for a trophy), Gordie Howe's second-year jersey ($25,000) and a mint-condition baseball autographed by Babe Ruth ($11,500).

Bids for Ruth's walking stick, shotgun and St. Mary's Industrial School jersey did not reach their reserves, and the items were not sold. The same thing happened with Frank Robinson's Topps baseball card contracts.

In all, according to Goldberg, 30 to 40 percent of the lots were bought back by the sellers. Goldberg says that level is comparable to what Superior is seeing in its coin auctions and can, in part, be attributed to the slow economy. More than 10,000 catalogs were sold, more than for any of Superior's coin sales.

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Upper Deck's first NBA cards were distributed last week at the McDonald's Open tournament in Paris. Each attendee received a pack containing five cards and a special hologram card. The cards featured members of the Los Angeles Lakers, and the biographical information was in French. The regular 400-card low-series set will be issued in mid-November. . . Look for Michael Jordan to be urging collectors to buy Upper Deck basketball. He's signed on as spokesman.

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Upcoming events:

Today, baseball card show to benefit Jimmie Richards Cancer Fund, Dundalk American Legion Post 38 (3300 Dundalk Ave.), 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 477-6872.

Friday, baseball card show to benefit Westminster West Middle School, West Middle School (60 Monroe St.), 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., 848-8411 or 346-7837.

Sunday, baseball card show, Comfort Inn-Airport (I-695, Exit 6A), 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 922-8366.

Sunday, baseball card show, Towson Quality Inn (I-695, Exit 26S), 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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