By the numbers: 1991 Donruss

Products from the late 80s and early 90s are called junk wax for a reason.  They were produced in ridiculous, almost inconceivable amounts.  Exactly how much was produced of any given set is hard to calculate.  To determine a print run requires one of two things.  One, an estimate from the manufacturer.  Or, two, both a serial-numbered card and an insertion rate.  Most products from the junk wax era have neither.  An exception is 1991 Donruss.

In 1991 the Donruss flagship set included the Elite set.  A total of 8 cards were included in the basic Elite set, and each was numbered to 10,000.  Two other Elite cards, the Signature and Legend single-card sets, totaled 12,500 cards.  That is a grand total of 92,500 cards in the full press run of the 1991 Elite insert set.

What was the insertion rate of the Elite cards in 1991 Donruss?  Well, nobody knows for sure.  The figure has been estimated by the folks over at BaseballCardPedia at around 1 Elite card per 75 boxes.  With 36 packs per box, the overall odds of finding an Elite card in a pack of 1991 Donruss is 1:2,700.  Wow.  Those are long odds.  What does that mean for the total production of Donruss?

1991 Donruss
Total boxes: 6,937,500 (92,500 Elite cards * 75 boxes / 1 Elite card)
Total packs: 249,750,000 (36 packs / 1 box)
Total cards: 3,746,250,000 (15 cards / 1 pack)

That is nearly 4 billion cards.  What can you do if you place 4 billion cards end-to-end?  Lots, because 4 billion 3.5-inch cards cover a total distance of over 220,000 miles.  That distance would allow one to…

  • travel between New York and San Francisco over 80 times (2,600 miles).
  • circle the Earth at the equator almost 9 times (25,000 miles).
  • almost reach the Moon (240,000 miles).

Let’s go with another measure – surface area.  Each card measures 2.5″ x 3.5″.  With those dimensions, 4 billion cards would cover an area of 27 million square yards.  That area would cover…

  • a football field over 4,200 times (160′ x 360′).
  • Central Park in New York City nearly 7 times (843 acres).
  • Key West over 1.5 times (3,370 acres).

The 1991 issue of Donruss had a crazy production run.  That’s why you can pick up a box of this stuff for $10 or less without trying on eBay.  Buy two or more boxes, and you can get the price down to $7.50 without searching too hard.  This truly is junk wax.  Don’t be fooled though – buying enough to get an Elite card is no picnic.  Keep in mind that the least expensive Elite cards can be bought for under $10.    They are numbered to 10,000 after all.


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