AMOUNT SPENT ON 2012 TOPPS BASEBALL: $0.00

Monday, April 19, 2004

Test Post: 2004 Diamond Kings -- 2 box break

Donruss-Playoff takes Diamond Kings to the proverbial "next level." But did it really need to go there?

Two boxes of 2004 Diamond Kings baseball. (paid $75 each)
12 packs per box, five cards per pack (MSRP $5 per pack)

The Details


Base Set: 175 cards
Broken Down by Short Print Scheme:
Short Set: 150 cards
Flashback/Legends: 25 cards (odds not stated)

Parallels:
Flashback/Legends Sepia (25 cards)
Bronze (175 cards, numbered to 100)
Silver (175 cards, numbered to 50)
Platinum (175 cards, one-of-one)
Framed Bronze (175 cards, 1:6)
Framed Silver (175 cards, numbered to 100)
Framed Gold (175 cards, numbered to 25)
White Framed Platinum (175 cards, one-of-one)
Gray Framed Platinum (175 cards, one-of-one)
Black Framed Platinum (175 cards, one-of-one)

Inserts:
Gallery of Stars (15 cards, 1:37)
Heritage Collection (25 cards)
Timelines (six cards, 1:92)
Team Timelines (19 cards, 1:29)
Hall of Fame Heroes (35 cards*, production varies)

* The checklist Donruss provided in the box is wrong. There are 23 different players in the Hall of Fame Heroes set. Each player has a card numbered to 1000 copies, and the set is sequenitally numbered from 45 to 67. Seven players (Brett, Schmidt, Ryan, Clemente, Snider, Musial and Campanella) have a variation card numbered to 500. Four of those players have a second variation card numbered to 250 (Brett, Ryan, Clemente and Musial). Lastly, Clemente has a third varation numbered to 100.
Based on my research the complete checklist for the Hall of Fame Heroes is:

45 George Brett
46 Mike Schmidt
47 Nolan Ryan
48 Roberto Clemente
49 Carl Yastrzemski
50 Robin Yount
51 Whitey Ford
52 Duke Snider
53 Carlton Fisk
54 Ozzie Smith
55 Kirby Puckett
56 Bobby Doerr
57 Frank Robinson
58 Ralph Kiner
59 Al Kaline
60 Bob Feller
61 Yogi Berra
62 Stan Musial
63 Jim Palmer
64 Johnny Bench
65 Steve Carlton
66 Gary Carter
67 Roy Campanella

Level One Variation (numbered to 500)
45 George Brett
46 Mike Schmidt
47 Nolan Ryan
48 Roberto Clemente
52 Duke Snider
62 Stan Musial
67 Roy Campanella

Level Two Variation (numbered to 250)
45 George Brett
47 Nolan Ryan
48 Roberto Clemente
62 Stan Musial

Level Three Variation (numbered to 100)
48 Roberto Clemente

Autogamers:
DK Materials Bronze (200 cards, numbered to 150 or less)
DK Materials Silver (200 cards, numbered to 50 or less)
DK Materials Gold (200 cards, numbered to 50 or less)
DK Materials Platinum (200 cards, one-of-one)
DK Signatures Bronze (200 cards, numbered to 200 or less)
DK Signatures Silver (200 cards, numbered to 100 or less)
DK Signatures Gold (200 cards, numbered to 50 or less)
DK Signatures Platinum (200 cards, one-of-one)
DK Combos Bronze (200 cards, numbered to 30 or less)
DK Combos Silver (200 cards, numbered to 15 or less)
DK Combos Gold (200 cards, numbered to 5 or less)
DK Combos Platinum (200 cards, one-of-one)
Framed DK Materials Bronze (200 cards, numbered to 100 or less)
Framed DK Materials Silver (200 cards, numbered to 50 or less)
Framed DK Materials Gold (200 cards, numbered to 50 or less)
White Framed DK Materials Platinum (200 cards, one-of-one)
Gray Framed DK Materials Platinum (200 cards, one-of-one)
Black Framed DK Materials Platinum (200 cards, one-of-one)
Framed DK Signatures Bronze (200 cards, numbered to 50 or less)
Framed DK Signatures Silver (200 cards, numbered to 25 or less)
Framed DK Signatures Gold (200 cards, numbered to 5 or less)
White Framed DK Signatures Platinum (200 cards, one-of-one)
Gray Framed DK Signatures Platinum (200 cards, one-of-one)
Black Framed DK Signatures Platinum (200 cards, one-of-one)
Framed DK Combos Bronze (200 cards, numbered to 25 or less)
Framed DK Combos Silver (200 cards, numbered to 15 or less)
Framed DK Combos Gold (200 cards, numbered to 5 or less)
White Framed DK Combos Platinum (200 cards, one-of-one)
Gray Framed DK Combos Platinum (200 cards, one-of-one)
Black Framed DK Combos Platinum (200 cards, one-of-one)
Diamond Cut Jersey (50 cards, numbered to 100 or less)
Diamond Cut Clubs (50 cards, numbered to 100 or less)
Diamond Cut Signatures (50 cards, numbered to 50 or less)
Diamond Cut Combos - Materials (50 cards, numbered to 50 or less)
Diamond Cut Combos - Signatures (50 cards, numbered to 35 or less)
Heritage Collection Materials - Jerseys (25 cards, numbered to 50 or less)
Heritage Collection Materials - Bats (25 cards, numbered to 50 or less)
Heritage Collection Signatures (25 cards, numbered to 20 or less)
Timeline Materials - Jerseys (six cards, numbered to 25 or less)
Timeline Materials - Jerseys "Prime" (six cards, one-of-one)
Timeline Materials - Bats (six cards, numbered to 25)
Team Timeline Materials - Jerseys (19 cards, numbered to 25 or less)
Team Timeline Materials - Jerseys "Prime" (19 cards, one-of-one)
Team Timeline Materials - Bats (19 cards, numbered to 25 or less)
Hall of Fame Heroes Signatures (35 cards, numbered to 35 or less)
Hall of Fame Heroes Materials - Jerseys (35 cards, numbered to 25 or less)
Hall of Fame Heroes Materials - Bats (35 cards, numbered to 25 or less)
Hall of Fame Heroes Combos (35 cards, numbered to 25 or less)
Gallery of Stars Signatures (15 cards, numbered to 10 or less)
Recollection Collection

The Pulls:



Base Set:
Box 1: 55 of 175 (31.43%)
Box 2: 54 of 175 (30.86%)
Combined: 97 of 175 (12 doubles)

Broken Down by Short Print Scheme:
Box 1
Short Set: 51 of 150
Flashback/Legends: 3 of 25

Box 2
Short Set: 50 of 150
Flashback/Legends: 3 of 25

Combined
Short Set: 89 of 150
Flashback/Legends: 6 of 25


Parallels:
Box 1
1 Legends Sepia: J. Palmer
2 Framed Bronze: W. Young, J. Bagwell
1 Framed Gold: S. Carlton /25

Box 2
1 Legends Sepia: R. Campanella
2 Framed Bronze: A. Pujols, K. Griffey, Jr.
1 Bronze: R. Henderson /100

Inserts:
Box 1
1 Gallery of Stars: A. Rodriguez
1 Heritage Collection: D. Mattingly
1 Hall of Fame Heroes: C. Yastrzemski /1000

Box 2
1 Heritage Collection: M. Piazza
1 Gallery of Heroes Level One Variation: R. Clemente /500


Autogamers:
Box 1
1 DK Materials Bronze: M. Mussina /100
1 Framed DK Materials Silver: M. Byrd /50

Box 2
1 Framed DK Materials Bronze: T. Hudson /100
1 DK Signatures Bronze: P. Konerko /8

The Review:


Diamond Kings is the latest Donruss-Playoff product that ignores the time honored axiom: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Diamond Kings wasn't broke, but D-P decided to fix it anyway.

One of the few aspects of this year's DK that they didn't fix (fortunately) is the composition of the base set. Like last year, it's 175 cards with 25 short-prints. Yeah, I know last year's DK was 176 cards, but they added that Contreras late in the production run so it doesn't count. Just kidding. Kudos to Donruss-Playoff for not monkeying around with the integrity of the base set, like they did with 2004 Donruss and Leaf. Unfortunately, as with the aforementioned Donruss and Leaf, the fact that the 25 Legend/Flashbacks cards are SPed is not mentioned anywhere on the box or on the wrapper. A very disturbing trend that D-P MUST end immediately.

As usual the Diamond King base set cards are spectacular, but not without fault. Foremost among these faults is the design of the card. While the artwork is, as it has always been, spectacular, the "framework" of the card leaves much to be desired. In another review I read that it reminded the writer of an Old West "WANTED" poster. A pretty apt description as any I've seen. Unfortunately, the actual artwork as laid out is so small that you can't really see any of the details. Don't get me wrong, the artwork is stunning. Well, what little I could make of it. And by the way, if anyone at Donruss is reading this, could you please bring back Dick Perez? No offense to the artists you've hired, but the DKs haven't been same since he left in '96.

And now from the sublime to the ridiculous; or, the parts they decided to "fix." Normally, in my reviews I follow up the base set with the parallels. Normally. I'm going to deviate from this a little bit (you'll see why later) and go straight to the inserts. The Gallery of Stars, Heritage Collection cards and Team Timelines inserts carry on the same theme of last year's similarly named subsets. Nothing of real distinction here, however, there is a bit of a twist to the Timelines. The 19 card "Team Timelines" follow on the same concept of the "Timelines" inserts in 2002 and 2003 Diamond Kings (two players of different era from the same franchise on the same card). However, the six card "Timelines" series have six active players depicted with two of the teams they have played for.

The final non-parallel, non-game-used insert is, by far the most confusing insert scheme I've seen since another Donruss related fustercluck, Fractal Matrix (although you could place the 2004 Leaf Exhibits as a close second in the "fustercluck" category): The Hall of Fame Heroes. Confusing because, although the checklist provided in the waxbox says that the cards are sequentially numbered from 1-35. Now, there are 35 total cards in the set, but they're are only 23 players depicted, and the set is sequentially numbered from 45-67. About the only logical explanation for starting at 45 is that the 1983 Donruss Hall of Fame Heroes set on (which this series is based) had 44 cards, and that these inserts are meant as an extension. Never mind the minor detail that the '83 HOF Heroes were its own standalone product and not a serial numbered insert in another product. To add even more confusion, last year's DK also had an insert set based on the '83 HOF Heroes called the "Hall of Fame Heroes." However the 2003 edition were reprints and the 2K4's are original artwork. The structure of this series is way too confusing to explain, but it involves as many as four different cards of selected players, and all produced at different levels of scarcity. Just see the chart I've produced in The Details section of the review.

And now to the part of Diamond Kings that everyone is talking about: the parallels and game used. For the record, since most of the game used and autographs are, for all intents and purposes, parallels, again, I'll be deviating a bit from my usual review formula. Nobody ever accused me of being inflexible. In a recent Beckett article explaining the 2004 Leaf Exhibits inserts, Steven Judd, Donruss-Playoff's baseball brand manager, said that D-P wanted to take many of the same concepts of their high-end brands (like Leaf Limited), and bring them to their base-brands. Judd, whom for the record, has convinced me by his efforts that he had never opened up a pack of baseball cards in his life prior to his employment at D-P, wanted to take products like Donruss, Leaf and Diamond Kings to "another level." Whatever that is supposed to mean.

Well, we all know what "another level" means: more "contrived scarcity" than you can shake a stick at. If you include the autographs and game used cards as a "parallel," (technically they're not true parallels, but work with me here) than each of the 175 base set cards has anywhere from 33 to as many as 79 different versions, twenty of which are "one-of-ones." Yes, 79 different versions of what is, essentially, the same card. Stephen Judd was right, DK takes it to the "next level:" a level bordering on self-parody. Just like with the Hall of Fame Heroes, it would take me way too much time and effort to explain each and every one of the 79 different versions, so just check the list above.

The Bottom Line:


After the 2004 Donruss and Leaf debacles, I promised myself that I wouldn't be purchasing, much less collecting, any further 2004 Donruss-Playoff products. Unfortunately, the "buzz" regarding Diamond Kings was just too great for me to resist. In retrospect, I should have used that $150 to pay down my credit card.

One thing about 2004 DK that I haven't heard in other reviews is the increase in price by $2 a pack. Whereas last year, you could have purchased a 24-count waxbox in the $65-$70 range, the MSRP for a 12-count box was $60. Since then, Hobby hype has driven this product to the $75-$90/box range. Individually, each box yielded roughly the same: no base set doubles, three short-prints and a "sepia" variation, two framed bronze parallels, and three cards (two autogamers and a parallel) numbered to 100 or less. On the surface, if you plunked down $75 for a product (any product), and received three cards serial numbered to 100 or less, you would think that you got your money's worth. Unfortunately, as with most of it's other recent efforts, D-P has made it easy, too easy, to pull really low serial numbered inserts and game used cards.

In addition to complete ignorance to the workings of The Hobby, I am also convinced that Judd (as well as 95% of people drawing a paycheck from The Hobby), know little, if anything, about the basic theories of economics. Then again, you could make a compelling argument that 95% of the population in general is economically illiterate. Getting back to my point, you don't have to have a Ph.D. to figure out that if you increase the supply of a commodity (for shits and giggles let's just call this commodity, "game used trading cards numbered to 100 copies or less"), and the demand for said commodity remains stagnant, the market forces will cause the value of the commodity to decline. Kind of ironic, isn't it? In their haste to deliver "value," manufacturers like Donruss-Playoff have flooded the market with game used cards. But along the way the powers of supply-and-demand come along to bite The Hobby in the ass.

Product Rating: 2 Gumsticks (out of five)
This is the best Donruss-Playoff baseball product released to date. That's not exactly saying much, but it is.
Collation Rating: 4 Gumsticks

Do I recommend this product?


At the current market prices ($75-$90/box), no. Of the three game jersey cards (Tim Hudson and Mike Mussina each numbered to 100 and a Marlon Byrd numbered to 50) and one autograph (Paul Konerko numbered to eight) I pulled from these two boxes, I bet you that if I put them all on eBay, I would get much more than $50 for them all. Combine that with all the other cards inserts, parallels and base set cards I pulled, and clearly this collector didn't get his $150 worth. On the other hand, if you are just looking to collect the base set, you're probably better off avoiding wax and piecing together your set by buying singles.