Fellow collector, Chad Lazar, posed this question via email and with his permission, I thought it would be helpful if I shared my answer publicly. The question was posed in relation to how hard it would be to pull the Cal Ripken Jr. 1992 Donruss Elite AU. Chad’s the owner of a vary rare version of this card.
Here’s Chad’s question:
Hey Patrick- I hope you’ve been well. I wanted to circle back with you in regards to the Ripken donruss Signature Series /5000 card. As you know I actually pulled a copy of this as an adolescent back in the early 90s so the card holds a lot of importance to me. Another Collector who also loves these cards and I have both been wondering what the odds would be of pulling this Ripken auto. We know that this product was mass produced but we don’t have any numbers to back it up. I was reaching out to find out if you had any information in regards to the odds of pulling the elites or the Cal Ripken autograph card. Or maybe you may know how much of the product actually was produced or how many cases were produced and we could extrapolate the odds from that? -Chad Lazar
There’s a bit to unpack here so let’s start with what I know.
To my knowledge, there’s never been any documented confirmation on total production yield of 1992 Donruss, or any Junk Wax era (1986-1993) release, with the exception of 1989 Upper Deck. In the book Card Sharks: How Upper Deck Turned a Child’s Hobby into a High-Stakes, Billion-Dollar Business (amazing read btw), the author confirms a production output of 1989 Upper Deck at 125,000 cases, which equates to 90,000,000 packs, or 1,440,000,000 cards. Now, mind you, this is just for 1989 Upper Deck, which was a premium and likely limited release compared to its competitors. That said, it would be at least minimally conservative to assume comparable total yield of 1992 Donruss to be some-x more than that. It wouldn’t surprise me if 5-10x the yield of 1989 Upper Deck was made of 1992 Donruss but I have no way to confirm this; it could be much more but I doubt it’s any less than 125,000 cases.
To see what’s currently available on eBay from 1989 Upper Deck, click here.
To see what’s currently available on eBay from 1992 Donruss, click here.
How Hard is it to Pull the Cal Ripken Jr. 1992 Donruss Elite AU?
While there’s no way to know for sure how much 1992 Donruss was made, for the following calculations, we’re going to use the same production yield as 1989 Upper Deck – 125,000 cases. With that figure, let’s begin.
- Boxes per case: 20
- Packs per box: 36
- Cards per pack: 15
- Cards per box: (15*36) = 540
- Cards per case: (540*20) = 10,800
- Boxes in 125,000 cases: (125,000*20) = 2,500,000
- Packs in 125,000 cases: (2,500,000*36) = 90,000,000
- Cards in 125,000 cases: (90,000,000*15) = 1,350,000,000
The Cal Ripken Jr. 1992 Donruss Elite AU was inserted in Series 1 and Series 2 boxes.
- 125,000 cases equates to: (125,000*20*36) = 90,000,000 packs
- 5000 copies of the Cal Ripken Jr. 1992 Donruss Elite AU exist.
- (90,000,000/5000) = 18,000 packs
- (18,000/36) = 500 boxes
- (500/20) = 25 cases
In a perfect world the math would mean the odds of pulling the Cal Ripken Jr. 1992 Donruss Elite AU would be 1:18,000 packs, or 1:500 boxes, or 1:25 cases.
Just for fun, let’s calculate the cost.
The current price of a box of S1 or S2 1992 Donruss is around $30 so we’ll just use $30 as our figure to calculate how much it would cost to purchase 500 boxes of 1992 Donruss.
- (30*500) = $15,000
Hopefully, the seller will shave off a few bucks if you’re buying in bulk.
Finally, let’s look at how long it would take to open all those packs.
So you have to open 500 boxes. If it takes 30 minutes to open a box (common time required, give or take, to open a 36-pack box), you’d have to spend:
- (30*500) = 15,000 minutes
- (15,000/60) = 250 hours
Let’s say we spend 8 hours a day without any off days opening boxes. At this rate it would take:
- (250/8) = 31.25 (32) days, or just over a month
If it takes 30 minutes to open a single box, it would take 32 days to open 500 boxes of 1992 Donruss.
To pull the Cal Ripken Jr. 1992 Donruss Elite AU, you’d have to open 500 boxes, which would cost you $15,000, and take you 32 days to open them (on a normal 8-hour day schedule with no days off).
::Yea, right… Like we’re gonna bother with any of that::
Or, you could just save all that time and money and grab a raw example on eBay for <$400. Click here.
Again, this data was produced using the same output figure as 1989 Upper Deck, which was printed in likely limited quantities compared to its competitors from the same year/era. It’s very likely 1992 Donruss was printed in much higher volumes but there’s no way to know for sure. That said, this data could very well be much higher.
This is all hypothetical since you could possibly pull the card from the next pack you open; there’s really no way to be certain. The math here is just meant to illustrate the possible extreme difficulty in pulling the Cal Ripken Jr. 1992 Donruss Elite AU, which is one of the toughest pulls of its era. At the end of the day, you can save yourself thousands of dollars and over a month of your life by just grabbing a raw example on eBay for <$400. Click here to see the current eBay auctions.