3 years. That’s how long it took me to complete the 10-card 1996 Ultra Hitting Machines Gold Medallion set.
Let’s look back to a time when insert cards were attractive and often possessed complex production technologies. This particular set fits the bill with a clever but condition sensitive machine-gear intricate die-cut and holo-foil text. The colors here work really well with the player photos. The green and blue tones promote a calm feeling. The player photo over such a background really provides for an authoritarian presentation. This set features some powerful images and they all say one thing, ‘we mean business’. This is simply a well-crafted design that lurks cunningly in the background of the day’s market fads and trends.
- Albert Belle
- Barry Bonds
- Juan Gonzalez
- Ken Griffey Jr.
- Edgar Martinez
- Rafael Palmeiro
- Mike Piazza
- Tim Salmon
- Frank Thomas
- Matt Williams
When I first discovered its significance back in the summer of 2008, I really hadn’t thought about what it was I was looking at exactly. Then I squinted my eyes and stopped for a moment as I re-considered the text entry I had absorbed at that moment on this particular issue. I then thought to myself, “how did I miss this back in ’96?” I collected heavily in the ’90’s. I used to attend card shows regularly and I got to know the many dealers in my area at the time. I bought lots of wax and pulled lots of nice stuff but in all that time, I was never exposed to this issue. To me, this release ranks among a small list of mid-high end ’90’s inserts. In their prime, these cards fetched $100’s if you could find them. Even today, with the availability of eBay, they still only surface rarely. However, due to where the market is right now, the highest premiums I’ve seen ballpark at $180 and that’s for the flagship card in the set, the Griffey. That price however must have been a fluke because I’ve seen that same card fetch $50-80 in recent months. At any rate, as we’ll see here in a moment, these cards *should* be worth $1,000’s!
To stimulate sales, companies would produce a number of insert cards. Each set limited and within the production run, the company would stamp a small portion, usually 10% with an added upgrade; in this case, a Gold Medallion (GM) stamp. These GM upgrades hold a 3x value multiplier and are ultra sparsely peppered in overall production output in an intensely conservative manner.
Let’s investigate the current model for 1996 Ultra Series 2 baseball cards.
- Box = $35 (24 packs)
- Pack = $1.50 (12 cards)
- Odds of pulling a base Hitting Machine = 1:288 packs
- Odds of pulling a GM Hitting Machine = 1:2880 packs
Model for Base Hitting Machine:
To scratch the surface, let’s look at a cost analysis for pulling one base version of the Hitting Machine insert, (option #1 from above).
Alright, so what we’re up against are odds of pulling one base version from a production insertion ratio of 1 in every 288 packs, (12 boxes). Cost for 12 boxes with an SRP of $35/ea comes to $420. And that’s just to pull one base version! Multiply that by a factor of 10 in order to pull any one particular player (cost required to complete a set of base versions). The math comes to $420 x 10 = $4,200
- Cost required to pull one base version of the Hitting Machine insert = $420
- Cost required to pull one base version of the Hitting Machine insert of a particular player = $4,200
And that’s just for the base version!
Model for Gold Medallion Hitting Machine:
This is where it gets interesting. Let’s dig deeper and look at a cost analysis for pulling one gold medallion version of the Hitting Machine insert, (option #2 from above).
Okay, so you’ve just spent $4,200 on 120 boxes of 1996 Ultra Series II and you’ve pulled an entire set of the base versions of the Hitting Machines. Now you want to test your ambition with an attempt to secure an entire set of the more difficult Gold Medallion (GM) parallels. Remember that the GM’s were inserted at a rate of 1 in every 2,880 packs, (120 boxes). Cost for 120 boxes with an SRP of $35/ea comes to $4,200. That’s just to pull one GM! Again, multiply that by a factor of 10 to pull any one particular player (cost requires to complete a set of GM’s). The math comes to $4,200 x 10 = $42,000
- Cost required to pull one gold medallion version of the Hitting Machine insert = $4,200
- Cost required to pull one gold medallion version of the Hitting Machine insert of a particular player = $42,000
At $42,000 to pull the 10-card GM set, each card should technically be worth $4,200.
This set it coveted by the educated collector but largely goes unnoticed in today’s general market. Although the 1996 Ultra Hitting Machines Gold Medallion inserts are incredibly rare, they are obtainable. If you’re in the market for this set, spend some time digging through the junk bins at your local shop. If you’re patient like me, you’ll wait until these cards surface on the secondary market and pluck them off one by one over the course of time. As I said earlier, it took me 3 years to complete this set and I never bought a single pack.
Other sports-related associations with $42,000: