Sunday, June 22, 2008
Card of the Day: 1996 Leaf Signature Autographs Frank Thomas
Donruss/Playoff has made several hobby landmarks over the years, but the 1996 Leaf Signature set may be the biggest influence they ever had.
While Upper Deck included the first certified autograph card in 1990, the Leaf Signature set included the first ever series of autograph cards that fell at least one per pack opening the door to the autograph rush that is still going on today.
At $9.99 per pack, Leaf Signature Series was also a product mainly geared towards experienced collectors, which caused some controversy when the 50 card extended series was released.
The first 100 cards were released in the middle of the 1996 card release calendar, but an extended 50 card series to the set hit store shelves in January of 1997. This has made some collectors feel that the set should belong in the 1997 category, but all major hobby publications still consider the set to be from 1996.
The real reason people still talk about this set though is because of the 252 card autograph set that was released with the first series (an additional 217 autographs were released in extended series packs).
Falling at the rate of one or more per pack and a total of 3,500 Bronze, 1,000 Silver and 500 Gold autographs per player, this set wasn't too difficult to master excerpt for the ten short printed cards. Roberto Alomar, Wade Boggs, Derek Jeter, Kenny Lofton, Paul Molitor, Raul Mondesi, Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, Frank Thomas and Mo Vaughn just signed 700 Bronze, 200 Silver and 100 Gold cards.
Additionally, six players did not return their cards in time to be released with the first series. Therefore, Leaf decided to put those six, Brian Hunter, Carlos Delgado, Phil Plantier, Terrell Wade, Ernie Young and the short printed Jim Thome into extended series packs.
The brand only stuck under the Leaf tag for one year before becoming Donruss Signature in 1997 and 1998. Those two brands included David Ortiz rookie year autographs in 1997 as well as a base rookie card of J.D. Drew in 1998.
While the original autographs have very limited trade value in today's market, they still will forever be considered one of the most influential releases of all-time.