Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Card of the Day: 1996 Leaf Preferred Steel Randy Johnson

Last week, I discussed how 1996 Leaf Signature was a big player in the autograph rush of the early 2000s into today. However, there is another lesser known Leaf set from the same year that ushered in a different, short-lived era. That era was metal cards.

Leaf Preferred was introduced in 1996 as another Leaf offshoot, joining Signature and Limited. The 150 card series was sold in six card packs for $3.49 each. Press Proofs fell every 48 packs and Staremasters fell every 144 packs.

You were guaranteed one Steel card in every pack though. There was a regular Steel set that consisted of 77 of baseball's top stars of the time as well as a Gold parallel on all 77 cards that fell in every 24 packs. The Steel Power insert combined the steel cards with die cutting. The eight card set, highlighted by Ken Griffey Jr. and Cal Ripken Jr., was limited to 5,000 copies.

Sadly, the idea of metal cards never gained to much following as the only other major issues released that I can recall were Topps Stars N Steel in 1998 and 1999. Donruss and Pinnacle technically released metal cards as packaging with Donruss Preferred Tins in 1998 and 1999 and Pinnacle Inside Cans in 1997 and 1998. Upper Deck also produced cans for some retail "packs" of UD Choice.

Does anyone think a metal set would go over well with collectors today? An all metal regular 90 or so card set would probably be popular with several collectors after its initial release, but I don't think it would hold too much strength after that. Who really goes out looking for Stars N Steel or Leaf Preferred Steel cards nowadays?

I think the only way that would be successful is if the companies put autographs on the metal set. A relic set incorporating metal cards would be very interesting but I would think it would cause a lot of headaches for any company to produce. But, in today's card world, I suppose anything is possible.

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