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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.