2003 Donruss Team Heroes Baseball Master Set Variation Comparison

2003 Donruss Team Heroes Master Set and Master Team Set Baseball Cards

2003 Donruss Team Heroes Master Set and Master Team Set Baseball Cards

The 2003 Donruss Team Heroes Master set is somewhat peculiar. Even more interesting is this pair of cards. The known information on the Master set is as follows:

Only 20 sets were produced, which were distributed via mail from exchange cards found in packs of 2003 Donruss Team Heroes. The Master cards parallel the base set with flat foil printed along the left side edge that states, "Master Team Set." The redemption deadline was June 30th, 2004.

Shown are two versions of the supposed 2003 Donruss Team Heroes Master set parallel.

  • Left: This example features a print run of 20 and flat foil text, "MasterSet."
  • Right: This example features a print run of 15 and flat foil text, "MasterTeamSet."

Now, let's reflect on a few lines of information from what you just read. According to the known information on the set, the description above accounts for a combination of characteristics showcased by each of the two cards shown. Here's where it gets interesting, neither card features the exact combination as stated in the description. According to the known information, the card should have a print run of 20 as shown on the card on the left and "Master Team Set" printed in flat foil as shown on the card on the right. Neither card shown features this combination, and yet here they are.

So the question then becomes, which is the authentic example if either are even feasible candidates?

There's another piece of information in the description. Remember, there were redemption cards seeded into packs of 2003 Donruss Team Heroes. However, wouldn't these redemption cards feature the same print run as the redeemed examples? If that's the case, and assuming one of these is the redemption card then why is it the card on the right has a print run of 15 instead of 20? Was this some sort of aftermarket gimmick to entice collectors for profit? It features the correct phrase but not the correct serial number so it's at least half right. In contrast, the card on the left features the correct serial numbering but not the correct phrase, so it too is at least half right. But which is the authentic example?

Now, we could circle back to the known information and assume that perhaps that information is what's erroneous, not the cards shown. In this case, either the phrase or print run is incorrect.

Something else to consider is the style or font of the serial number. The MasterSet version (left) features a very common font found on serial numbered cards during the late 1990s and early 2000s - more on this in a moment. During that time, serial numbers featured boxey zeroes and thick foil print. The serial number on the MasterSet card (left) has these same features. That and it appears to be printed in an accurate location. In contrast, the serial number on the MasterTeamSet card (right) features an atypical font style with more circled zeroes, a thinner foil print, and is printed somewhat off-centered in the designated area on the left side of the card.

To further validate my argument, I've compiled scans of serial numbers from 16 unique cards from 2003 that showcase multiple zeroes. Upon review of the following image, you'll notice the style of font for the zeroes in the serial number on the MasterSet example align with the style commonly used in other products released in 2003. All 16 serial numbered cards shown here feature the same boxey zeroes and thick foil print, which is the same style depicted only on the MasterSet example.

2003 Donruss Team Heroes Master Set and Master Team Set | Serial Number Font Comparison

2003 Donruss Team Heroes Master Set and Master Team Set | Serial Number Font Comparison

Conclusion: I believe the known information for the 2003 Donruss Team Heroes Master set is erroneous and in fact the phrase is "Master Set" not "Master Team Set." I also believe the print run is in fact 20 not 15. Given the font style accuracy for the time, I believe the MasterSet card (left) to be an authentic example from the 2003 Donruss Team Heroes Master set and the MasterTeamSet card (right) to be a crafty aftermarket production.

Updated 2/1/2018:

Will Clark collector, Nolan Ellis has offered the following information on the 2003 Donruss Team Heroes Master set.

Here are a few curveballs for you, Patrick. Both the 1 of 20 Master Set and 1 of 15 Master Team Set do exist in authentic formats. Your 2 of 20 Frank Thomas example is real, but your 1 of 15 Frank Thomas is a fake like you mentioned. However, there are Master Team Set cards (of 15) that are authentic. Master Team Set cards were redemptions for entire teams, not the entire 2003 Donruss Team Heroes set. In contrast, Master Set cards were redemptions for entire 2003 Donruss Team Heroes sets, not just one specific team. To confuse further, on the Master Set cards (of 20), authentic gold versions and authentic silver versions exist. Of the 20, the first 10 were gold, and the second 10 were silver.

To summarize Nolan's comments:

Master Set cards:

  • Serial numbered to 20: The first 10 copies were printed with gold foil, and the second 10 copies were printed with silver foil
  • Redemptions for entire sets of 2003 Donruss Team Heroes
  • Fakes exist so to confirm authenticity, look for similarities in the serial number font

Master Team Set cards:

  • Serial numbered to 15
  • Redemptions for entire team sets from 2003 Donruss Team Heroes
  • Fakes exist so to confirm authenticity, look for similarities in the serial number font

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