It was clear by year three that Donruss-Leaf liked the concept of its Studio line of baseball cards and sales were good enough that it seemed collectors did too. Behind the scenes, though, the company was looking to step up its design game. 1993 Leaf Studio Baseball drastically improved the quality of the cards produced and their presentation as a whole. This release was an upgrade across the board, literally top to bottom and front to back.
This time around, the set was cut down to a 220-card base offering from 264. Pound for pound, the set is more impactful and has a much higher end feel that its two predecessors in 1991 and 1992.
Wax boxes were smaller too. Gone were the 48-pack Hobby boxes in favor of a more standard 36 packs with 12 cards per pack. Another area that Studio upgraded was the box artwork. We went from pretty underwhelming logo and text to full color box art, beautiful premium looking card examples featured with a Studio logoed shrink wrap. Just seeing that classic Ryne Sandberg card makes you want to go buy a box right now.
Jumbo boxes were back, carrying 24 packs with 20 cards per pack, eight fewer than in ’92.
As for the cards themselves, marked upgrades included a glossy finished card and foil stamped facsimile signatures as well as an improved higher tech Studio logo in the upper right or left hand side. The design was now borderless with a clean, full color photo of the player that is cut out and superimposed on a high quality image of the embroidered team logo.
In some cases the embroidered logo on the backdrop is clearly from a team hat and other times it appears to be from a team jersey but either way it was a creative move that really stood out in 1993.
A great example is the Cal Ripken, Jr. number #80 card that features an up close picture of Cal looking off to his left with a bat on his shoulder.
That coupled with the beautiful facsimile signature that adorns the bottom of the card and the backdrop of the big full color embroidered Oriole makes this a prime example of how well this set is pulled off.
Maybe the most classic and iconic image of the mid-90s MLB era is one George Kenneth Griffey, Jr., with his hat on backwards. Well, card number 96 of the base set of “The Kid” features just that. The card front has a picture of Junior with his famous ear to ear smile, the backwards cap, the well known signature at the bottom of the card and the multi-colored Seattle Mariner logo embroidered in the background.
The equally iconic image on the card back also features Junior with his hat on backwards but with a far more serious look.
What was once the centerpiece of the design is now featured on the back of the card. The posed Studio style portraits are now the main attraction on the card back that still contains all of the fun information found in previous years including the “Up Close” section where we learned on the back of his card that Randy Tomlin might have been a park ranger if he had been an athlete. We also discover that Bo Jackson might have been an Air Force F-15 pilot had his two sport career not worked out at the professional level.
With the full color mug shots and the deep black backdrop with the bright white text popping off of it, you would be hard-pressed to find a prettier card back than 1993 Studio baseball.
The rookie class was rather light as only Montreal Expo Mike Lansing, California Angels first baseman J.T. Snow (who was hot at the time) and San Diego Padres Dan Walters had true RCs in the set. How spectacular would it be to have a Derek Jeter Studio rookie card? Imagine a young fresh faced Jeet with that iconic Yankees emblem and pinstripes in the background. The truth was that Jeter was still a couple of years away from the Yankees’ big league roster.
Heritage was back as a key insert set for the second consecutive year. The theme was the same as the first year with players being featured in uniforms their team’s wore in bygone eras. The card backs are similar to last year and feature a nice, brief history of the uniform worn on the front of the card.
Brand new for the 1993 campaign was the Superstars on Canvas insert set which was a 10 card collection that featured what appeared to be a painting on an easel of the superstars in the set. Superstars such as Ken Griffey Jr, Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco can be found in painted form.
We also saw the Frank Thomas Collection insert set for the first time this particular year. This consisted of a five card black and white studio-style photo session insert of the Big Hurt including cards with his unbuttoned jersey, lounging on a office chair and other interesting poses. Hey, it was mid 90’s baseball cards. Nothing is surprising. The card backs feature candid quotes from the Hall of Famer about different times in his career and aspects of the sport of baseball.
The final insert set in this product was called Silhouettes which featured a full color studio style photo of the featured player with a silhouette from an action photo as the backdrop. This ten-card set featured some of the biggest names in the sport such as Frank Thomas, Barry Bonds, Mike Piazza and Nolan Ryan with one card in every jumbo pack.
Sealed hobby boxes don’t set you back more than about $30 these days. Complete sets and inserts are also very modestly priced.
While it’s never going to be wildly valuable, 1993 Leaf Baseball is yet another mid-90s set that’s worth a few bucks in entertainment value or at the very least a great introduction to the hobby for a young fan.