I recently (finally) located and acquired this ultra pesky release from 1991 Upper Deck. This is the 1991 Upper Deck Hank Aaron AU. It only took me 19 years to see one in person and when I did, I jumped on it! To be honest, this is another famous auto that brothers the 1990 Upper Deck Reggie Jackson AU. Another white whale that still holds weight as one of the most important autos in the hobby to this day. The early days of pack pulled autos as discussed in earlier entries were ones of preposterous odds. I always used to joke around with the comparison in odds of pulling a card of this caliber and winning the lotto and being struck by lightning twice on the same day while in an underground lab at the north pole. I’m convinced that these early pack pulled autos will always survive the test of time. They will also always possess much more collectability than any (all?) of the autos being pumped out in mass quantity in today’s “hit” crazed market.
I’ve had numerous discussions with collectors over the years about these very issues and everyone seems to agree on one thing: these cards are extremely scarce and next to impossible to pull. The hobby today is vastly different than it was 19 years ago. This release, numbered to 2500, is still considered by some to be near impossible to locate while autos that are generated today are often numbered to just 5 copies can be found on the auction block any day of the week. So why the heck is finding a card that’s numbered to 2500 more akin to finding the holy grail? The answer lies in the quotient of production and insertion ratios. Let’s break it down with the following hypothetical (but realistic) example:
Before we dive into the analysis, we will need some basic assumptions. The following assumptions only exist in an ideal world. I’m not 100% positive of the accuracy of the stated output rate, it’s only an estimation. Furthermore, as with any large output rate, a complimentary large probability for duplicates exists. For the sake of this discussion and to paint a clearer picture we’ll require the following:
- Total production output = 800 million units (cards)
- No two packs are alike (assume no repetition)
- 1991 Upper Deck – production rate (output): 1,000,000 copies of each of the 800 cards in the set = 800,000,000. (That’s only assuming a 1 million production rate, the rate could vary well have been much higher (or lower but either way, nobody at Upper Deck will ever disclose that information)).
- 1991 Upper Deck Hank Aaron AUTO – production rate: 2500
- Boxes per case: 20; Packs per box: 36; Cards per pack: 15
- Given the packaging stats, let’s dig deeper. With these assumptions, we come to the following probabilities:
- Card per case: 10,800, percentage of total output = .00135
- Total number of cases produced: 74,074
Odds of pulling Aaron AUTO in a case: 1:30
- Cards per box: 540, percentage of total output = .0000675
- Total number of boxes produced: 1,481,482
Odds of pulling Aaron AUTO in a box: 1:593
- Cards per pack: 15, percentage of total output = .000001875
- Total number of packs produced: 53,333,333
Odds of pulling Aaron AUTO in a pack: 1:21,334
As we can see, pulling the Aaron AUTO out of a pack is a monster task! It’ll cost you roughly $3,600 give or take depending on how and where you buy your cases of 1991 Upper Deck. Assuming that it takes 20 minutes to open a single box, it’ll take you 12,000 minutes (200 hours or 8.3 days) to bust through 30 cases of 1991 Upper Deck and again, that’s assuming no breaks for sleeping or eating. Good luck to you if you are planning to attempt the triple iron man task of pulling this card from a pack!
These cards are numbered to 2500 and they still to this day fetch upwards of $200 on the secondary market. So why does this card hold so much weight if there are 2500 (2499 now) of them floating around out there? The answer is in the coefficient of output and insertion rates. In imprecise (but more comprehendible) terms, the harder they are to pull, the more sought after they will be to collectors (which is obvious of course). This very fact leads me to the following notion: if the hobby still created this type of quotient the following outcomes may result:
- The integrity of today’s autographed card may be strengthened significantly
- The values of today’s autographed card will potentially graduate from the $5 box to the showcase and potentially sell for much more on the secondary auction block
- Hobby cynics will retire their negative outlooks for more hopeful perspectives
- Common’s (base cards) won’t be affected because nobody collects them anyways
My hope is that the hobby will recognize the issues relating to collectability and value stability, the relation to production and insertion rates and how they respectively affect demand. In closing I’ll leave you with the following questions to consider: Can there be a combination of the hobby in 1991 and that in 2010? Can there be a compromise between over-saturation and inserts with integrity? Is the hobby headed for a roadblock with market over-saturation of guaranteed hits?
Is there still hope?
To see the current eBay auctions for the 1991 Upper Deck Hank Aaron, click here.
Pat, amazing take on the Aaron piece. And, congrats on nailing one of your chase cards!
Dan! Welcome back! Thanks for the praise. As you can see, that one took some work.
WOW. I guess I never realized just how lucky I was. When I was 11 I bought a pack of 1991 Upper Deck cards, this was in 1991. To my surprise I was holding card number 870. 20 years later I still have it, the crown of my collection.
Very nice! That’s an impressive pull indeed!
I puled 912/2500 at a garage sale when I was like 8. The funny thing is I didn’t even realize that it was autographed until I went through the cards again later. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that the BV was $400.00
Oh wow! I bet you were stoked when you discovered the value. That’s a pretty insane card in terms of scarcity. The odds of you pulling one from a garage sale purchase are somewhat astronomical. Talk about being in the right place at the right time! Nice work!
I got a box of Upper Deck for Christmas in ’91. I got lucky and got number 2223. I put it in a hard case and still have it.
Congrats! That’s a really rare experience. I’ve heard of collectors opening cases of the high series and never seeing a single signed card.
I notice you Hank is signed accross the bottom of the card like mine. I see a few signed to the far right, did he sign all over the card, most sign in 1 place. My cards number is #425?
That is interesting to hear. I’ve seen auto’s on this card in various places, which seems to be common for this card. I’m curious, however, to know more about why your card is #425. This card has always been #27.
I sorry to not make myself clear I have #425/2500. Thank you for your reply it good to know my cards is real I think a PSA grade would be a good thing also. Thanks again.
Good call. I had mine graded by PSA; it came back a 7 (auto grade only), which I think was a result of the auto being ever so slightly faded. Good luck on your submission. Let us know how it turns out.
I will let you know I will send in for a full grade and see what I get, let you know.
I will get a full grade and let you know
Hi, I pulled 499/2500…..unfortunately it was damaged out of the pack so I contacted Upper Deck, they replaced it with a perfect conditon card and Ofcourse autograph, with a letter authenticating what transpired, I still own the card.
Wow! I would never have thought to have done that would I have been in a similar situation. I’m glad to hear that Upper Deck helped you out.
I pulled #869/2500 back in 1991 when I was 13 yrs. old. I have shoe boxes full of 1991 upper deck. Loved buying those packs, too bad they’re worthless for the most part now days.
Nice! Pulling that card must have been a huge rush at 13 years old.
I was 9 years old and had just cashed in some bottles and used the money at the store which had a card shop in it and got one pack. I was lucky to snag the hank autograph you guys are talking about. I put it in a hard casing and it currently sits in a relatives safe. I would love to trade it for the ted Williams autographed insert I believe upper deck put out the following year. Life long red Sox fan and teddy ball game is my all time favorite player.
Wow! Congrats on pulling this statistically monster card. The Williams AU is another epic addition.
I just bought a box of 1991 UD baseball cards and the very first pack, very first card I see is #753 out of 2500. I was pretty and pleasantly surprised.
Wow! Can’t ask for anything better than that. Buy a lottery ticket. 😀