Back in 1981, Donruss was one of the two new companies producing Major League Baseball cards. Frankly, among the three card companies in 1981, I liked the Donruss gum the best. Ah, but there were other issues with 1981 Donruss including the distribution of how the cards came into the hobby as well as distribution in the packs. It is entirely possible 1981 Donruss had the worst pack distribution pattern of any major release in baseball card history. With all that, many collectors still think fondly of the 1981 Donruss set because of the simple design and the being the first issue.
In its 2015 Donruss Baseball issue, Panini pays homage to that debut set with a short-printed 1981-themed subset. Some of the other subsets include Diamond Kings and Rated Rookies, with which collectors of old school Donruss Baseball sets are very familiar. There’s a Tony Gwynn tribute insert set and the late Hall of Famer adorns the boxes and packs.
Without an MLB license, you won’t find team logos or nicknames but that didn’t seem to bother some collectors last year, who bought into this product in numbers strong enough that Panini seemed anxious to release this year’s version.
The rest of the set has the player photos surrounded by white borders. The player’s name and team affiliation is on the card bottom and the Donruss logo is in the upper right. The horizontal backs have biographical information, the previous season and career statistics as well as a short bio.
When I checked in at my local card store (Triple Cards in Plano TX) he mentioned he had sold a decent number of boxes at just under $75 and was going to make his second re-order. His other comment was that his customers appreciated the action photos which helped to obscure the lack of the MLB license.
The boxes contain 24 packs of 8 cards and Triple Cards reported just about all of his customers received three hits per box. Meanwhile leading online retailers are between $65-70 before shipping so the retail store price is very competitive.
Here’s what we pulled:
1981 Design SP’s (#d as part of the regular set): Bob Gibson, Ken Griffey Jr,.Don Mattingly. Nolan Ryan
Silver Press Proofs Parallel: Leonys Martin, Don Mattingly, Jose Reyes. Martin and Reyes are numbered to 199 while Mattingly is numbered to 299
Hot off the Press Parallel: Kirby Puckett
Stat Line Career Parallel: Sterling Marte (#d to 252): Francisco Rodriguez (#d to 348)
Elite Status Gold (#d to 49): Kris Bryant
Elite Dominator (#d to 999): Chris Sale
Elite Series: Jorge Soler
Tony Gwynn Tribute: #5
Preferred:Bronze (Base Preferred): Javier Baez, George Brett, Brandon Finnegan, Maikel Franco, Daniel Norris, Joc Pederson, Dalton Pompey, Kirby Puckett, Nolan Ryan, Jorge Soler. Michael Taylor, Kennys Vargas
USA Collegiate National Team: Chris Okey
Signature Series: Brandon Finnegan, Danny Salazar
Signature Series Red: Alex Wood
Getting four hits brought the cost down to average just a little over $15 per hit, not even counting the base cards and the inserts including the very nice Kris Bryant card we pulled.
If you insist on licensed cards, obviously this isn’t going to be for you, but it seems as if there’s a strong enough market for what is here that Panini will keep producing cards with the Donruss name.
You can see 2015 Donruss on eBay here.