Friday, June 02, 2006

Just how many Donruss Albert Pujols RCs are there?

Have you seen me?
I came across Albert Pujols' 2001 Donruss Rookie Diamond King card last weekend. Being that this was another card I needed towards the goal of completing a 2001 Donruss master set, I bought it -- paying well over Beckett HI in the process. This was the first time ever I had seen a copy of the Rookie Diamond King, but what about his regular Donruss rookie card? Five years after the issuance of this card, I have never actually seen one. It got me wondering: Just how scarce is the Donruss Pujols RC? And, more to the point, just how many were made?

The Donruss Pujols RC I speak of was serial numbered to 500 copies. This alone would make it amongst his scarcest cards. But that's not the whole story. You see, the Donruss Pujols RC was only available via a redemption card. First some back-story.

The 2001 Donruss set had 50 "Rated Rookies" on the checklist, each numbered to 2001 copies. Two of the cards on the provisional checklist had to be pulled due to licensing restrictions, and were replaced with redemption cards for Ben Sheets and Albert Pujols. The problem was, instead of inserting 2001 Sheets and Pujols redemption cards, they only printed 500.

Which leads me to this question: Just how many of those 500 Albert Pujols cards actually made it into circulation? One of the little-known secrets of The Hobby is that not all redemption cards go claimed. Some have estimated that anywhere from one-third to one-half of all redemption cards go unclaimed. So does that mean that 50% of the Donruss Albert Pujols rookie cards were unclaimed? Maybe. Maybe not.

So how can we get an accurate figure as to the number of 2001 Donruss Albert Pujols are actually out there? With the advent of professional grading services, one big positive has been the population report -- a count on exactly how many cards a particular company has graded. Armed with a web browser, I have discovered that the three main grading houses (PSA, BGS, and SGC) have graded a grand total of 70 copies of the 2001 Donruss Albert Pujols card. That's only 14% of the 500 that were produced.

Of course not all collectors like their cards slabbed (including this particular collector), and prefer to keep their cards in raw condition. How can we determine, with certainty, just how many Donruss Pujols cards made it into circulation?

By comparing the population reports of other serial-numbered Pujols rookie cards to the Donruss, we can make a strong guess as to what percentage of Donruss rookie cards were graded and not graded.

Sampling the population reports of ten of the most widely collected Albert Pujols RCs (Bowman Chrome, Bowman's Best, Donruss Elite, Fleer Platinum, Fleer Premium, SP Authentic, SPx, Studio, Sweet Spot, and Ultimate Collection) I discovered that of the 13,198 copies of these ten cards, a grand total of 3581 have been professionally graded. That works out to about 27%.

What exactly does this statistic mean? If 27% of the ten most popular Albert Pujols rookie cards have been graded, why have only half as many (14%) of the Donruss Pujols cards been graded?

Remember, not all redemption cards are actually redeemed. Think about it, if 27% of the ten most popular Pujols RCs have been graded, you could also assume that the same percentage of '01 Donruss cards in circulation have been as well -- provided that the card was inserted into packs.

But if only 14% of the stated 500 copies have been slabbed, that must mean that fewer than 500 of the Pujols cards were redeemed. Why so few?

First deals with the product itself. 2001 Donruss was an awful product and has not not been as well collected as other 2001 products. Which leads to theory number two: At least half the Pujols cards were never redeemed.

Therefore (assuming that the same 27% of Donruss Albert Pujols cards in circulation have been professionally graded) according to my calculations, only 260 copies of this card have been produced. (70 / 0.27 = 259.25)

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