1998 Donruss Elite Prime Numbers Baseball Cards

1998 Donruss Elite Prime Numbers Baseball Cards

The 1998 Donruss Elite Prime Numbers set is one of the most supreme releases of the 1990s. It doesn’t get nearly the same level of coverage as some of the other sets from the same era but it’s aggressively more ambitious in scope and rarity.

Introduction:

1998 Donruss Elite Prime Numbers is a unique and confusing set. The set consists of 12 cards, each with three unique version for a total of 36 cards. Each of the 12 cards carries a different number in the denominator position of the stated print run, and each of the three versions of each of the 12 cards carries a unique print run. To make matters more confusing, die cut versions of each of the 36 cards in the set were made with again unique print runs and carry the same number in the denominator position of the stated print run as found on their non-DC parallel. What this equates to is 6 different cards for each of the 12 cards in the 36-card set, each with a different print run.

Confused yet? Don’t feel bad; it took me years to make sense of the Frank Thomas cards in the set.

Print Run Origins:

The print run for each card made reflects the player’s particular statistic up to 1997. Below is product info complete with print runs and stat. reflections. It’s generally considered common place to feature a statistic from the player’s immediately previous playing year, or overall career. For career statistics, those numbers have grown up over the years, which is why you won’t find them in the associated player’s overall statistics.

#PlayerTotal1997, or up to 1997 Stat ReflectedBase Print RunDie Cut Print Run
1AKen Griffey Jr.294Career Home Runs94200
1BKen Griffey Jr.294Career Home Runs20490
1CKen Griffey Jr.294Career Home Runs2904
2AFrank Thomas4561997 OBP56400
2BFrank Thomas4561997 OBP40650
2CFrank Thomas4561997 OBP4506
3AMark McGwire387Career Home Runs87300
3BMark McGwire387Career Home Runs30780
3CMark McGwire387Career Home Runs3807
4ACal Ripken Jr.517Career Doubles17500
4BCal Ripken Jr.517Career Doubles50710
4CCal Ripken Jr.517Career Doubles5107
5AMike Piazza576Career SLG76500
5BMike Piazza576Career SLG50670
5CMike Piazza576Career SLG6706
6AChipper Jones489Career SLG89400
6BChipper Jones489Career SLG40980
6CChipper Jones489Career SLG4809
7ATony Gwynn3721997 BA72300
7BTony Gwynn3721997 BA30270
7CTony Gwynn3721997 BA3702
8ABarry Bonds374Career Home Runs74300
8BBarry Bonds374Career Home Runs30470
8CBarry Bonds374Career Home Runs3704
9AJeff Bagwell4251997 OBP25400
9BJeff Bagwell4251997 OBP40520
9CJeff Bagwell4251997 OBP4205
10AJuan Gonzalez5891997 SLG89500
10BJuan Gonzalez5891997 SLG50980
10CJuan Gonzalez5891997 SLG5809
11AAlex Rodriguez534Career SLG34500
11BAlex Rodriguez534Career SLG50430
11CAlex Rodriguez534Career SLG5304
12AKenny Lofton354Career SB54300
12BKenny Lofton354Career SB30450
12CKenny Lofton354Career SB3504

This set was released at a time when companies were still tinkering with serial numbering strategies. Some were simple with stated print runs representing the actual print runs of the associated cards. Other times, stated print runs weren’t so obvious. In the latter instances, the print run might reflect the total number of cards printed for a given run with the run being made up of several different cards, each with print runs of some portion of the total number stated. The 1998 Donruss Elite Prime Numbers set uses this confusing print run strategy.

Base:

Each of the 12 cards in the set possesses some number in the denominator of the print run for that particular card in the set. Each card has three unique cards in the set – 2A, 2B, and 2C – and each card contains a different print run. As you’ll notice in the set data, the base versions of card “A” have the smallest print runs.

1998 Donruss Elite Prime Numbers Baseball Cards
1998 Donruss Elite Prime Numbers Baseball Cards

Card 2A remained on my Most Wanted list for many years. It wasn’t until 2019 that I finally found it. You’d thank for a card with a print run of 56 I’d have seen this card at least one other time. Nope; this was a first appearance for me. The A’s are just very hard to find.

Die Cuts:

Each card is also found with a Die Cut parallel, and all have the same number in the denominator position in the serial number printed on the backs of the associated cards. As displayed in the set data, the Die Cut versions of card “C” have the smallest print runs with “B” not all that far behind in rarity.

1998 Donruss Elite Prime Numbers Die Cut Baseball Cards
1998 Donruss Elite Prime Numbers Die Cut Baseball Cards

The print runs for C Die Cuts are some of the smallest found in the 1990s. Every C Die Cut has a print run below 10 and Tony Gwynn’s is the smallest at just two (2) copies. If you collect a player in this set, there’s a very good chance you may never get, or even see your player’s C Die Cut and that’s okay, most people are rowing in the same boat with you.

Samples:

Also included are Sample versions of each of the three Base versions of the cards and they have the word “SAMPLE” printed across the backs. While these cards don’t possess print runs, they’re generally considered at least moderately rare. They were initially distributed one per wholesale dealer order.

1998 Donruss Elite Prime Numbers Sample Baseball Cards
1998 Donruss Elite Prime Numbers Samples

Executive Master Set Editions:

Finally, and as with many/most insert sets by the DPL umbrella, Executive Master Set Editions exist. For this set, they were made for both the Base and Die Cut versions. They are identical to the regular 1998 Donruss Elite Prime Numbers cards with the exception of having “XXX” in the numerator position of the stated print runs. Also, the print run text is printed in flat black instead of flat silver foil. These are exceedingly rare since they were made exclusively for in-house production review.

1998 Donruss Elite Prime Numbers Executive Master Set Edition Baseball Cards
1998 Donruss Elite Prime Numbers Executive Master Set Editions | Image Credit: Justin Deperoni

If Executive Master Set Editions were made for every card in the set, player collectors will have to track down 6 more cards, which brings the total number of cards to collect for any one player in the set to 15.

Conclusion:

Due to its production design, 1998 Donruss Elite Prime Numbers is one of the most ambitious and paramount sets to come out of the 1990s. While it certainly doesn’t generate the same conversational value as some of the other sets produced that same year, 1998 Donruss Elite Prime Numbers is significantly more difficult to collect and as such should command attention.

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