2002 Donruss Studio Took on Patriotic Flair

Studio Baseball was back with a very patriotic 275-card base set in 2002.

As a change of direction from the previous year’s higher pack price and the resulting sales decrease, the 2002 product was reconfigured and offered at a much lower MSRP.

Configuration and Base Set

Hobby boxes consisted of 18 packs per box with six cards per pack with a retail price of $4. There were 16 boxes per case with a reported 1,200 cases produced in total–a relatively small amount by any standard.

The retail product was a 24 pack box with five cards per pack and an MSRP of $2.99. the 16 box retail cases were produced to the tune of a reported 1,430 cases.

The box art featured the Stars and Stripes as the backdrop with the silver Donruss Studio logo at the forefront. Chicago Cubs prospect Mark Prior was the cover boy for the product. There was a lot of text on the box promoting the Spirit of the Game, Patriotic 1 of 1 inserts, Studio Stars credit card styled cards, Leather & Lumber inserts were mentioned as well as a few other items. The foil card packs mirror the box art.

And in what was undoubtedly a response to the horrific terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the American flag was represented on just about every inch of the Studio product.

The base set featured a posed photo of the player with the American flag in the background and a film strip style image of key city specific monuments, places and attractions. The full bleed cards only had a small box at the bottom of each the player’s name and position. The Donruss Studio logo is featured in the upper left hand corner and the small team logo was featured in the upper right hand corner of the card.

The card backs featured the flag once again is the backdrop with, the player’s in-action shot on a film roll on the left hand side of the card running to the center of the top of the card. The right hand side of the card lists the player’s name at the top with basic bio info below and some pretty straightforward baseball related text followed by the player statistics toward the bottom. The vast majority of the fun information found on the backs has disappeared.

Cards numbers 201 to 250 for a part of a rookie heavy subset with each rookie card serial number to1,500 cards. Some of the better actual true RCs were Dodgers pitcher Kazuhisa Ishii and light hitting Cardinals prospects So Taguchi. Yes, in hindsight, that is quite the stretch to find the best two rookies in the subset. At the time both players were international stars who followed in the footsteps of Hideo Nomo, Ichiro and near the time Hideki Matsui made his debut in Major League Baseball. 

Cards numbered 251 through 275 in the base set were actually randomly inserted in packs of 2002 Donruss The Rookies, again, with each card serial numbered to 1,500 copies. This was odd in the fact that the cards were numbered as a part of the base set but technically they were inserts in another product, which made for a little bit of confusion. The majority of the cards were true rookie cards with Cleveland Indians pitcher Cliff Lee being the biggest and most well known.

The Studio Proofs were back once again with all 275 base cards available in the Proof Parallel with all being serial numbered to just 100 copies. The last 25 cards in the set were also randomly inserted into packs of 2002 Donruss The Rookies.

Parallels

An interesting insert, by happenstance, was the previously unannounced Silver Flag Parallel. The cards had a silver foil stamped American Flag on the front lower corner.

The company later stated that the cards were intended for some type of contest but the contest was scrapped before the release of the product. There are only a handful of the Silver Flag cards and many of them were numbered to less than 200 with some as low print runs such Jeff Cirillo’s card with 43 copies and Eric Munson’s card with only 32 copies in existence.

Donruss Studio cards were everywhere that year– even at the 2002 MLB All-Star Game in Milwaukee. Fans who attended the game and opened a box of Studio at the corporate booth received an All-Star Game parallel which has each card stand with the All-Star Game logo. The All-Star Game stamped cards crossed over to 250 of the base cards for the special promotion.

As it was last year, collectors who opened a box of Studio at the Donruss corporate booth at the the 2002 National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago who  received a special parallel card. Each card has an embossed 2002 Chicago logo as well as being serial numbered to a minuscule five copies. There are Chicago National editions of all 250 base cards in the set.

Speaking of the product being everywhere, inside the September 2002 Beckett Baseball Card Monthly magazine you could find a Studio sample card. The Studio sample set coincides with the first 200 cards in the base set. Each card has the word “Sample” stamped in foil on the back.

 As an added bonus, 10% of the production run was stamped in gold foil. 2002 Absolute Memorabilia samples were also found in the guide that month.

Inserts

Studio had a new insert simply called Classic, which was created in the style of the 1991 Studio set and serial number to 1,000 copies each. Each card is also available in a First Ballot parallel, which is numbered to the year the player was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame… minus 1900. Yes, I know that’s rather odd but it makes for some fairly rare numbered inserts of several all-time greats including Roberto Clemente (73 copies), Stan Musial (69), Ernie Banks (77), Ted Williams (66), Jackie Robinson (62), Lou Gehrig (39) and others.

Diamond Collection is back once again with a very average design. It features a diamond in the background in black and white with a full color image of the player overlapping it. The left hand side of the card is the team logo in a diamond with the Diamond Collection logo below. The player’s name, position and team are listed on the bottom right hand of the card. You can find Barry Bonds, Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols and many other superstars in the set.

Next up is a perennial insert in Studio called Masterstrokes. This year, it features a picture of the player with what appears to be a paint palette with the team logo smack dab in the center with the Masterstrokes logo on the bottom of the card. Look for Alex Rodriguez, Frank Thomas, Mike Piazza and other stars of the time.

Spirit of the Game is a new, patriotic insert that features the backdrop of an embroidered American Flag with a small studio shot of the player featured in the square towards the top of the card. Each picture features the player with their hat in hand over their heart, as if they were hearing The National Anthem played before a ball game. You will find stunning cards of Curt Schilling, Derek Jeter, Chipper Jones and many others in the set.

Back by something other than popular demand is an insert set called Stars which is a 50 card set much in the spirit of the horribly received 1995 Studio set, meaning they are in the design of a credit or debit card. I’m not sure whose idea this was but for some reason this design will not go away.

There are Gold parallels number to 250 copies and Platinum parallels numbered to just 50 cards. Look for Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Vladimir Guerrero, Derek Jeter and other stars of the day.

A special Nolan Ryan Heroes Icons Texans was an unannounced insert card. It was a single card paying homage to one of the greatest, most durable pitchers the game has ever seen. There was a blue version numbered to 500 copies, a red version serial numbered to 100 copies and a special autographed version numbered to 32 copies.

The card itself features The Ryan Express getting ready to hurl the fastball past some poor batter when America’s Stars and Stripes again find their mark as the backdrop for the card.

Memorabilia Cards

The aforementioned Diamond Collection is first up in the memorabilia inserts category for the set. The 25 card insert set features jerseys and bases of some of the biggest stars in the game including Ken Griffey, Jr., Derek Jeter, Roger Clemens and others. All are serial numbered between 150 and 200 copies.

Leather & Lumber makes its return again with each card featuring an authentic, real, true game used item. Of the 25 cards all are serial numbered to 200 or less, with some being as low as 50. You will find bats and balls as the mem on said cards. There is also an Artist Proof parallel which is serial numbered to 50 copies.

Masterstrokes Artist Proof is next up in the memorabilia category. The 25 card set features game used bats, jerseys and other items found on the artist’s palette. The design is identical to the Masterstrokes insert with the exception of the obvious memorabilia and the words “Artist Proof” below the Masterstrokes logo. All cards in the set or serial numbered to 200 or less.

Next up is the memorabilia version of the Spirit of the Game Hats Off insert. Each Hats Off card is serial numbered to 100 issued copies and uses game-worn memorabilia.  There are 1/1 MLB logo patch and USA Flag versions, too.  

There’s also a Spirit of the USA insert, which is a 1 of 1 featuring the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Curt Schilling, Edgar Martinez and lesser known players as well.

Autographs

Private Signings makes its return with sticker autos for various cards in the set. Many have incredibly low populations including the Chipper Jones, Frank Thomas and Pedro Martinez cards at just 15 copies each.  Barry Larkin’s card is numbered to 25,  

Some of the Classic inserts have autographed versions, which were produced in very limited quantities. Look for icons such as Nolan Ryan, Mike Schmidt, Reggie Jackson, Brooks Robinson, Stan Musial, Ernie Banks and more. There is a 1/1 First Ballot parallel version, too.

2002 Donruss Studio was an honorable and well-timed release in the wake of what our country was going through at the time. Baseball, our nation’s pastime, was instrumental in bringing folks together and finding an outlet, offering some joy and entertainment in very dark times. Boxes offered quality base cards, some solid inserts, autographs and memorabilia cards.

Today, boxes are fairly scarce but you can find plenty of singles on eBay.

All things considered, it’s hard not to consider this product to be one of the most significant and important releases in the brand’s history.

About Tony Reid

From the time he was a little kid, Tony has been a huge sports fan. If he could play sports, watch sports and talk about sports it was a great day. From as early as he was drawn to sports, Tony was drawn to collecting sports cards. Not much has changed over the years. He collects RCs of star players in baseball, basketball and football. He also has a soft spot for first autographs of MMA stars. If you want to talk to Tony about the greatness of Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson or Ken Griffey, Jr. you can reach him at [email protected] and @OffCenterTR on social media.

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