2003 Donruss Studio Baseball Goes Right to Stadium Steps, Offers HOF Autos, Dugouts of Memorabilia

The 2003 Donruss Studio Baseball offering is a 211 card set released in two separate series. The first series consists of 200 cards and was issued in June of 2003. As was Donruss’ method at the time, the final 11 cards were found in another of the company’s products. This time the second series was inserted in packs of 2003 DLP Rookie Traded, all with serial numbered to just 1,500 copies.

Configuration

Hobby boxes consisted of 18 packs per box with seven cards per pack with a suggested retail price of $2.99. Retail boxes consist of 24 packs per box with six cards per pack with the same MSRP of $2.99. You will find 20 boxes per case with a total of 1,200 cases produced.

Inserts are found at a rate of one in every two hobby packs and one in every three retail packs. Autographs and memorabilia are found one in every 18 hobby packs and one in every 24 retail packs.

The hobby box art was similar to the 2002 issue with the deep red color, the Donruss Studio logo and Alex Rodriguez as the cover boy once again. There are a number of inserts promoted on the box art including Masterstrokes, Artist Proofs, Studio Stars and others.

Base Set

Studio outdid itself again with the base set design. In the foreground of the base cards you will find a crisp studio session photograph of the player while in the background you will find a nice shot from outside of that player’s home stadium. Once again, the cards are borderless which adds to the showcasing of the top tier photography.

The Donruss Studio logo in foil form is in one of the top two corners of the card and you will find a name bar that has the player’s name and position towards the bottom of the card with the team logo to the right. To see Derek Jeter in front of Monument Park and the classic white Yankee façade was a really unique look.

The card backs feature a small photo of the player in the center with their height, weight and other stats to the left hand side. On the right hand side of the picture you’ll find some specific game stats. At the bottom of the card you will find career stats for the player. 

 

The personality has been taken out of the product a bit over the years but if you look hard enough you can still find it. One of the best in the set is Royals outfielder Michael Tucker’s cowboy hat offering.

A new subset this season is Dual Player cards, which feature two teammates photographed together in a studio setting with the backdrop being notable aspects of the players home stadium.

The horizontal cards are a really nice addition to the base set and you basically get two for one with great photographs of some of the better players in the game pictured with their teammates.

Aforementioned card numbers 201 through 211 that are found in the DLP Rookie and Traded series are all true rookie cards. There are two standout rookies in Yankee pinstripes in Japanese power hitter Hideki Matsui and Cuban defector Jose Contreras. That might not sound like much now but they were big deals back in ’03.

Proof Parallels are back again with each base card featuring the foil proof logo and the serial number to a mere 100 copies.

Inserts

Someone within the company had a real affinity for credit cards as the design makes yet another appearance in an insert set now called Stars. The acetate credit card looking cards pay homage again to our favorite electronic payment methods and feature some of the bigger stars of the time including Ken Griffey, Jr., Frank Thomas and 48 others.

You can find gold parallels numbered to 100 and platinum parallels numbered to just 25 issued cards.

A Spirit of the Game insert is back again this year with a 35 card set with each card being serial number to 1,250 copies. This horizontal design features some of the same imagery as the notable insert in years past with many players photographed with the hats over their hearts, with others offering more personality such as St. Louis Cardinals 3B Scott Rolen presenting you with a baseball.

Masterstrokes is back again with a 25 card, 1,000 serial numbered artsy set. Similar to previous issues, its an artistic interpretation of the player featured. The player appears in an actual photograph with abstract brushstrokes and paint being the artistic backdrop of the card. There is also an Artist Proof Parallel numbered to 50 copies.

Enshrinement was a new insert set for 2003 and pays homage to the year that many of the all-time greats were enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Serial numbered to 750 copies, there’s also a Proof Parallel numbered to either 20 or 21 copies available. You’ll find such all time greats as Roberto Clemente, Brooks Robinson, Johnny Bench, Rod Carew and others in this 50 card set.

Next up is Big League Challenge which is a 50 card set that features highlights from the Big League Home Run Challenge, which was a made for TV Home Run Derby like event organized by the MLBPA in the early 2000s. The card backs feature highlights from the players performances in the old Derby challenges. This event and inserts are a full color version of the derby that takes you back to the old, grainy black and white footage of the show you could see on TV in the late 1950s and early 60s.

The 50 card set finds each card numbered to 400 with Proof Parallels again serial numbered to 25 copies.

As in previous years, 2003 Studio made (sample) appearances in the August issue of Beckett Magazine, at The National in Atlantic City and more familiar stops. 

Autograph and Relic Cards

Big League Challenge Materials features jerseys, pants, bases and home plates from those players featured in The Home Run Derby. You will find multiple cards of Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and other superstars.

A cross promotional issue, Player Collection Red, was part of a large Donruss-Playoff release involving Donruss Studio (Red), Playoff Absolute Memorabilia (Teal), Playoff Piece of the Game (Blue) and Playoff Prestige (Black). Serial numbered to 300 copies, this insert features game used from some of the best in the game. 

Prime Materials is a featured insert set once again, featuring the player from the Home Run Derby challenge. You will find jerseys numbered to just 100 copies of many of the participants in the Derby including Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Jim Thome and more.

Leather & Lumber is back again as a 40 card set in which you can find bats and balls from games that were used by the greatest superstars of the day including Mike Piazza, Nomar Garciaparra and Slammin’ Sammy Sosa to name a few. The card backdrop literally features a glove and a bat as if there was any confusion on the design and layout of the subset.

There is also a Leather & Lumber Combos which features multiple game used material on a single card. Check out the Don Mattingly bat, batting glove, glove and the Jim Edmonds bat and shoe card, the Nomar Garciaparra bat and ball card numbered to 25 are a few great examples. These cards are all numbered to 50 or less and are some of the prettier inserts in this year’s offering.

You also find Spirit of MLB, which features the popular Logoman taken from the back side of the players jersey. All of these beauties are one of ones and the 35 card set features Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero and other stars.

Private Signings makes another entry into the Studio lineup. It’s basically an autographed parallel of the base card with each card serial numbered anywhere from 200 copies down to single digits. We hope you like sticker autos as that’s what you’ll find in this set.

The Enshrinement insert set also has a sticker autograph parallel with many of the all-time great signing less than 100 copies. The design is the same as the Enshrinement set with a sticker auto and a low serial number on the reverse of the card. Some of the biggest names in the set have autos serial numbered to five including George Brett, Robin Yount, Ozzie Smith, Reggie Jackson, Tom Seaver, Stan Musial and Carlton Fisk. Warren Spahn has autograph that’s a one of one in the set.

Last up is the 2001 Studio Recollection Autographs. One of these beautiful 5×7 autographs are sealed into each hobby case. Each card has a Recollection stamp on the front and the corresponding serial number on the back. Nearly all of the cards have print runs of barely double digits including a few /3s and 1/1s.

Donruss Studio continues it’s beautiful imagery and the inclusion of the stadiums in this product is a very nice change of scenery, literally. The insert sets keep growing in size and quantity and, to their credit, the quality remains very high.  

Boxes have largely dried up but expect to pay around $150 if you do find one. You can see all 2003 Donruss Studio listings on eBay here.

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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