After a two year hiatus, 2001 Studio Baseball was back now under the Donruss/Playoff banner. This was the first set released for the brand after a two year absence due to the bankruptcy of Pinnacle.
The 18-pack hobby boxes had two game used memorabilia cards, a single rookie subset card and one 5×7 Private Signings autograph card packaged as a box topper. The pack prices came were an eye-popping $10 per, which was a bit of a turn off to many collectors at the time. In addition, it was very difficult set for collectors to build.
The box art features Alex Rodriguez, then with the Texas Rangers, with a very rich and deep red color and bright gold and white fonts and text. The text promotes the Private Signings insert.
Design and Base Set
The card design falls in line with previous Studio issues. The card offers a thick white border with a Donruss Studio logo at the top center with the year included. As a hallmark of Studio, there is a nice a posed shot of the player in the foreground and the team’s logo on what appears to be an embroidered baseball cap as the background image.
The player’s name and position are featured in the bottom center with the team name below towards the very bottom of the face of the card.
The card backs offer a small action shot on the upper left hand side with the card number at the top. The right hand side offers a “Personal Stat” category that has a few bullet points followed by a small paragraph talking about the player. Below that you will find the player’s name, position, team name and MLB stats. Not quite the Studio backs we came to know and love but no the worst Studio backs, either.
All 200 base cards come in a Studio Proof parallel which are serial numbered to just 25 copies. The cards feature the holo-foil Studio Proof stamp on the front.
Studio wasn’t exactly known as the home of the rookie card by any stretch of the imagination, but they brought the rookie-ish thunder in 2001 in a big way, with the final 50 cards of the 200 card base set making up a pretty solid rookie subset with each rookie serial numbered to 700 copies. The highlights of the rookie subset include true RCs of Ichiro and Albert Pujols, both of which typically sell for $150 and up depending on grade.
Now to the downside of the rookie subset. The vast majority of the players in the subset weren’t true rookies and, in turn, these cards weren’t rookie cards at all. On top of that, very few of them made an impact at any point in their careers with some never even reaching the majors but when a base set hits on the two biggest rookies of the year and two of the most impactful of the decade with a low serial number, you can’t really complain.
There was also a very interesting Chicago Collection parallel for collectors who made it to the 2002 Chicago Sun-Times card show. Collectors got a chance to open packs of 2001 Studio at the Donruss- Playoff corporate booth. Each Chicago Collection card is serial number to five copies but the promotion was limited to the first 150 base cards in the set. There’s a special logo stamp on the left side of the cards that were part of the promotion.
Inserts, Memorabilia Cards
Big props to Studio in 2001 as all of the cards with memorabilia pieces were actually game-used–or at least the company stated they were. First up is Diamond Collection which features a game worn jersey of the player featured.
The Diamond Collection jersey is also available in a Diamond Cut Collection with a lights out swatch and parallel numbered to 75 copies. This insert set features legitimate game-worn jerseys of some of the all-time greats including Cal Ripken, Jr., Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Tony Gwynn, Rickey Henderson and a rookie year Pujols. As an added bonus, six players signed the first 25 copies of their Diamond Cut Collection card including Pujols, Vladimir Guerrero, Scott Rolen and others.
The Leather & Lumber insert set features a piece of an actual game used bat and is also available in a combo parallel which is serial numbered to 25 copies. The Leather & Lumber Combos feature a piece of a game used bat and either a piece of a game-used batting glove or game used baseball.
The card design is a vertical one that features a baseball as the upper half of the background image and what appears to be wood or lumber on the lower half the background. The game used items fall in accordance to that design. Again, you will find the biggest stars of the time featured in the set.
In a new and interesting insert set, we next come upon Warning Track which features a piece of the Pittsburgh Pirates Three Rivers Stadium outfield wall. Growing up sitting in the seats at Three Rivers Stadium, these next few insert sets are near and dear to my heart.
Three Rivers was demolished after the 2000 season with the Pirates finding the new, picturesque home of PNC Park along the riverfront. There is also an Off the Wall parallel set numbered to a mere 25 copies which is where you will find Hank Aaron’s card. The Warning Track autograph insert set is numbered to 25 copies and includes Rafael Palmeiro, Shawn Green, Juan Gonzalez, Lance Berkman, Vladimir Guerrero, Roberto Alomar and Tony Gwynn. As a side note, not every player featured in the set actually played at Three Rivers Stadium.
The Masterstrokes insert set is back again but in a much improved way. The always constant set now features both a piece of a game used jersey and a piece of a game used bat with all copies serial numbered to 200 with an Artist Proof parallel serial numbered to 25 copies.
The company still sticks to its theme of an artist rendering but it stays in the background as the team logo and in the foreground lies a crisp in action shot of the player.
Next up is Round Trip Tickets, which features a piece of Three Rivers Stadium’s home plate with each card being serial number to 25 copies. Five cards in the set are autographed including Vladimir Guerrero, Todd Helton Cal Ripken, Jr., Tony Gwynn and Ivan Rodriguez. The set also includes some of Pittsburgh’s finest including Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell.
The card design offers would appears to be a ticket with a player action shot on the left hand side and ticket information on the right hand side and the lower right hand corner you will find a piece of home plate in the shape of a home plate.
Last but not least is the Private Signings 5×7 box toppers. These are larger images of the actual base cards featuring autographs of some greats of the time.
Greg Maddux, Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken, Barry Bonds and Pujols were among those who signed but those players all autographed 200 or fewer copies. Lesser known players are far more common–and very inexpensive.
As a whole, the collecting community welcomed Studio back with open arms after its short hiatus.
Today, boxes have dried up somewhat and there is still fairly strong interest in the singles, inserts, autographs and memorabilia cards. You can see what’s currently available here.
In true Studio form, Donruss hopped right back into making some of the nicest looking cards on the market. Thanks to new ownership, they also took their go-to inserts, autographs and memorabilia to an entirely new level, producing some of the nicest memorabilia and autographed cards from some of the biggest names in baseball.
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.