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Do these production numbers for Topps/Donruss/Fleer/etc from 70s-90s sound about right?

https://www.net54baseball.com/showthread.php?t=281357

I'm not sure exactly how these numbers were arrived at but this would be amazing if this mystery was finally solved as back in the day production numbers were kept about as top secret as nuclear launch codes!

WISHLIST
Dimes: 54S, 53P, 50P+S, 49S, 45D+S, 44S, 43D, 41S, 40D+S, 39D+S, 38D+S, 37D+S, 36S, 35D+S, all 16-34's
Quarters: 61D, 52S, 47S, 46S, 40S, 39S, 38S, 37D+S, 36D+S, 35D, 34D, 32D+S
74 Topps: 37,38,46,47,48,138,151,193,210,214,223,241,256,264,268,277,289,316,435,552,570,577,592,602,610,654,655
1997 Finest silver: 115, 135, 139, 145, 310
1995 Ultra Gold Medallion Sets: Golden Prospects, HR Kings, On-Base Leaders, Power Plus, RBI Kings, Rising Stars

Comments

  • West22West22 Posts: 224 ✭✭✭
    edited December 24, 2023 6:38AM

    Yes and no. The post is very interesting and informative, especially in regards to inserts where the pack odds are stated. Those represent some of the best estimates you could get based on the information available. I would say that for base sets, the estimates for vintage seem fairly accurate, but with all due respect to the work of the OP compiling these together, for junk wax 1987-1992, they are underestimated. I contributed to the estimates in the comment section and the numbers that the OP listed in the first post are too conservative IMO. In the first post where all the estimates are compiled, he lists 3 million each for 1991 Topps. However, as detailed in a newspaper source from early 1991 when Topps released the Desert Shield set, they printed Desert Shield at a ratio of 1/1000th of base production - 6400 of each card. That would be 6.4 million of each base and we know from many instances in that era that Topps was notorious for understating production.

    I used that statement for Topps about 1991 as a base case to extrapolate out for the rest of the years based on anecdotal evidence and historical availability on the secondary market. Therefore I would assume 1990 Topps was around 8-10 million. I'd guess 1987 Topps could approach number that as well. Donruss and Fleer from that era would be similar if not more.

    Another data point that was understimated was for 1989 UD. I think the post is conservative on 1989 Upper Deck, stating 1 million of each card. The book Card Sharks details that the initial release of 1989 Upper Deck was for around 125,000 cases. That's 1.4 billion cards which equals 2 million of each card in the 700 card first series. And we know from anecdotal accounts from hobby insiders and dealers that they ran those printers like crazy to keep up with demand after that first series. So I put 1989 UD easily over 4 million of each card rather than the 1 million the OP states.

  • EstilEstil Posts: 6,846 ✭✭✭✭
    edited December 24, 2023 7:00AM

    I remember in a Beckett Almanac they planned and intended to do a million of each 1989 Upper Deck card but went up to double that because of demand. I tried to use pack odds on the Ultra autograph and the 15% of Ultra announcement to guesstimate how many 1993 Flair cases there might have been:

    https://forums.collectors.com/discussion/881873/1993-finest-was-4000-cases-12-boxes-each-how-many-cases-of-1993-flair-happy-30th-anniversary/p1

    I remember how in 1993 a HUGE deal was made about 1993 Finest being the first to publicly announce production numbers (4000 cases; or just a little over one for each US county!) and so I was curious about its main competitor (while Finest was like the Corvette and refractors were like Ferraris, Flair was like the Cadillac of baseball cards!) and I'd say 20-25K cases sounds about right. I'd say 1993 Flair is by far among the most underrated sets in the entire hobby...it's unreal that at BBCE you can get a MASTER set for just $50!

    I'd like to read that Card Sharks book but sadly I don't think Internet Archive (archive.org) offers it...

    WISHLIST
    Dimes: 54S, 53P, 50P+S, 49S, 45D+S, 44S, 43D, 41S, 40D+S, 39D+S, 38D+S, 37D+S, 36S, 35D+S, all 16-34's
    Quarters: 61D, 52S, 47S, 46S, 40S, 39S, 38S, 37D+S, 36D+S, 35D, 34D, 32D+S
    74 Topps: 37,38,46,47,48,138,151,193,210,214,223,241,256,264,268,277,289,316,435,552,570,577,592,602,610,654,655
    1997 Finest silver: 115, 135, 139, 145, 310
    1995 Ultra Gold Medallion Sets: Golden Prospects, HR Kings, On-Base Leaders, Power Plus, RBI Kings, Rising Stars
  • 1948_Swell_Robinson1948_Swell_Robinson Posts: 1,587 ✭✭✭✭

    Knowing how many were made is a key piece, but in the end, it is how many that survived that really matters now.

  • olb31olb31 Posts: 2,867 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I purchased a card in the last couple of weeks, I think it was a 1974 topps. And the seller listed it a one of 4,000,010 pop. I found it interesting that it was listed this way. Not sure how the person arrived at that number but it did make me think some.

    My guess (and this purely a slightly educated guess) is that from 1986 - 1989 the Topps pop per card had to be in the 8-10 million range. Factory sets, rack packs, cases, etc. When you start adding it up in you head, the totals mount pretty quickly. The dude I bought the 1974 card from, his pop sounds kind of decent to me.

    Work hard and you will succeed!!
  • craig44craig44 Posts: 10,267 ✭✭✭✭✭

    numbers were huge. way bigger than most would think. I am sure many have been lost through attrition.

    did the author of the post on net54 mention his methodology for arriving at those totals? or are they just guesses?

    George Brett, Bobby Orr and Terry Bradshaw.

  • West22West22 Posts: 224 ✭✭✭
    edited December 25, 2023 2:59PM

    @craig44 said:
    numbers were huge. way bigger than most would think. I am sure many have been lost through attrition.

    did the author of the post on net54 mention his methodology for arriving at those totals? or are they just guesses?

    In my opinion, many of us contributed well sourced info from publications of the era and that wasn’t reflected in the numbers in the original post. I’m not sure what his methodology was.

    Yes the numbers are staggering. You’ve been in the game long enough to know that. It was a business, demand was huge and the presses ran 24/7. Just ask the print men getting paid overtime at the factory in Rhode Island. I think the true numbers would really blow people’s minds. Wouldn’t be surprised if it was twice what Ken Liss used to tell reporters at the heights of the junk wax era (13 million of each card).

  • EstilEstil Posts: 6,846 ✭✭✭✭

    Interestingly, even in the peak over production years (1991) where you see production figures of 3.5M of each card...that sounds like a lot but even that would be about a million short of having enough for everyone in KY (population ~4.5M)! True you could order from dealer catalogs but how are you supposed to know in those pre-Internet days which dealers were the best and which ones you could count on to sell you top consistent quality sets? That was hard enough in the early 2000s! Let's just say the then "Strictly Mint" Card Company charged full Beckett for their sets...and it turned out they weren't even close to being "strictly mint" :(

    WISHLIST
    Dimes: 54S, 53P, 50P+S, 49S, 45D+S, 44S, 43D, 41S, 40D+S, 39D+S, 38D+S, 37D+S, 36S, 35D+S, all 16-34's
    Quarters: 61D, 52S, 47S, 46S, 40S, 39S, 38S, 37D+S, 36D+S, 35D, 34D, 32D+S
    74 Topps: 37,38,46,47,48,138,151,193,210,214,223,241,256,264,268,277,289,316,435,552,570,577,592,602,610,654,655
    1997 Finest silver: 115, 135, 139, 145, 310
    1995 Ultra Gold Medallion Sets: Golden Prospects, HR Kings, On-Base Leaders, Power Plus, RBI Kings, Rising Stars
  • jayhawkejayhawke Posts: 1,286 ✭✭✭

    @Ironmanfan said:
    Donruss is still printing '88 cards

    IMF

    Don’t forget about 1989 UD😃

  • West22West22 Posts: 224 ✭✭✭

    @Estil said:
    Interestingly, even in the peak over production years (1991) where you see production figures of 3.5M of each card...that sounds like a lot but even that would be about a million short of having enough for everyone in KY (population ~4.5M)! True you could order from dealer catalogs but how are you supposed to know in those pre-Internet days which dealers were the best and which ones you could count on to sell you top consistent quality sets? That was hard enough in the early 2000s! Let's just say the then "Strictly Mint" Card Company charged full Beckett for their sets...and it turned out they weren't even close to being "strictly mint" :(

    Agree on all this and I would just say that the 3.5m per card number quoted in the thread is still pretty far off. Topps PR explicitly stated to the Pittsburgh Gazette that 1991 base production was 6.8 million per card. They had no reason whatsoever to overstate production but every reason to understate it.

    One of my posts from the thread, sourcing the info dug up by a long time 1991 DS collector:

    “ Net54 member Zach Wheat regarding 1991 Topps and Desert Shield -

    "The Feb 4, 1991 issue of The Pittsburgh Gazette indicates that "...the Topps cards were issued 2 Months prior..." (so Dec 1990) and that Topps had actually planned the shipment before the war (ie Desert Storm)
    began. Timing dictated that Operation Desert Shield was over almost as soon as the cards arrived. In an article in the Myrtle Beach Air Star News, Topps spokesman Timm Boyle again mentions that approximately 5,400,00 cards were produced and that the entire allotment meant for the Air Force was returned to the base at Myrtle Beach unopened. This shipment accounted for approx. 1,500,000 cards. Boyle also mentioned that the production run was approx. 6,800 for each player (my math) or approx. 1/1,000th that of normal production."

    If those quoted numbers are accurate, 5.4 million cards*1000 = total press run for 1991 Topps of 5.4 billion cards. 5.4 million / 792 = 6.8 million/card in 1991.“

  • ReggieClevelandReggieCleveland Posts: 3,854 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Just speaking about the Topps/Donruss/Fleer numbers from the 1980s (or inception, with Fleer & Donruss) to the early-'90s I think the numbers are wildly off; not just in terms of how high or low they are but also in terms of from one year to the next.

    When I did my Donruss research I was able to find a cache of internal documents online from the early-'80s to the late-'80s. While there was obviously no hard production numbers, they went into the sales data rather extensively. Donruss saw increased sales every year in those early years and then proceeded to double its sales on a yearly basis into the junk wax era. I hate to be a broken record but '84 Donruss isn't short printed, they just focused their sales in the South and in the West where they had seen success before with earlier products. With none in the northeast, well, we all know the squeaky wheel is correct on the internet.

    There is 0% chance that production numbers stayed the same for any company from one year to the next in that decade. From as early as 1982 we saw at least Topps and Fleer branch out into stickers and as the years went on each company continued to introduce new product lines each and every year. That happens when you seemingly cannot saturate a market and need other products to pull more revenue out of it.

    A cursory search turned up nothing but I recall Donruss doubling sales year-to-year from 1986 on. That's massive growth, and just throwing up the same number each year is just lazy research or apathy.

    Arthur

  • West22West22 Posts: 224 ✭✭✭

    Thanks for your post, Arthur. I appreciated the motivation behind the OP’s efforts and the attempt to get the research down “on paper” so it was preserved. In the end I was baffled by his conclusions for the junk era as I thought the case was clearly stated.

  • ReggieClevelandReggieCleveland Posts: 3,854 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @West22 said:
    Thanks for your post, Arthur. I appreciated the motivation behind the OP’s efforts and the attempt to get the research down “on paper” so it was preserved. In the end I was baffled by his conclusions for the junk era as I thought the case was clearly stated.

    I didn't mean to take a shot at the OP (although I did, mea culpa). He's obviously undertaking a gargantuan project that we know won't result in hard, concrete numbers. I admire his dedication and willingness to embark on such a journey. I regret referring to it as lazy research or apathy. In retrospect, it's obviously neither of those things. I just think he might be overwhelmed with the depth and breadth of the project he's undertaking. In the end, I can't fault him for just throwing numbers up there and letting those that have worked previously on the subject to chime in. That's quite humble of him. I wish him the best.

    Arthur

  • West22West22 Posts: 224 ✭✭✭

    I agree, and also hope the project continues. Revisions can always be made. My estimates were based on incomplete data as well, and i could be wrong.

  • EstilEstil Posts: 6,846 ✭✭✭✭

    @West22 said:
    Thanks for your post, Arthur. I appreciated the motivation behind the OP’s efforts and the attempt to get the research down “on paper” so it was preserved. In the end I was baffled by his conclusions for the junk era as I thought the case was clearly stated.

    Just for clarification I personally have nothing to do with this whatsoever...I'm only reporting what this forum and the guys(and girls?) that are doing this kind of project have come up with so far. I'm only the messenger, nothing more.

    WISHLIST
    Dimes: 54S, 53P, 50P+S, 49S, 45D+S, 44S, 43D, 41S, 40D+S, 39D+S, 38D+S, 37D+S, 36S, 35D+S, all 16-34's
    Quarters: 61D, 52S, 47S, 46S, 40S, 39S, 38S, 37D+S, 36D+S, 35D, 34D, 32D+S
    74 Topps: 37,38,46,47,48,138,151,193,210,214,223,241,256,264,268,277,289,316,435,552,570,577,592,602,610,654,655
    1997 Finest silver: 115, 135, 139, 145, 310
    1995 Ultra Gold Medallion Sets: Golden Prospects, HR Kings, On-Base Leaders, Power Plus, RBI Kings, Rising Stars
  • West22West22 Posts: 224 ✭✭✭

    Sorry for the confusion, when I say “OP” I am referring to the person on the other thread that started the project.

  • ReggieClevelandReggieCleveland Posts: 3,854 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Estil said:

    @West22 said:
    Thanks for your post, Arthur. I appreciated the motivation behind the OP’s efforts and the attempt to get the research down “on paper” so it was preserved. In the end I was baffled by his conclusions for the junk era as I thought the case was clearly stated.

    Just for clarification I personally have nothing to do with this whatsoever...I'm only reporting what this forum and the guys(and girls?) that are doing this kind of project have come up with so far. I'm only the messenger, nothing more.

    Arthur

  • BLUEJAYWAYBLUEJAYWAY Posts: 7,817 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @1948_Swell_Robinson said:
    Knowing how many were made is a key piece, but in the end, it is how many that survived that really matters now.

    There's the rub. We just don't know.

    Successful transactions:Tookybandit. "Everyone is equal, some are more equal than others".
  • BLUEJAYWAYBLUEJAYWAY Posts: 7,817 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Over on the coin side trying to determine the number of coins outstanding is difficult for silver coinage 1964 and back. Despite posted mintage numbers many of those coins have been and maybe still are being melted. So posted mintage numbers may be accurate,but don't reflect the actual surviving pieces. Another case of not knowing for sure the number of actual survivors. Same with the cards. How many are actually there or have been dumped,destroyed etc. even if we knew the exact printed numbers. So prices can only be determined by what is bought/sold in the market place.

    Successful transactions:Tookybandit. "Everyone is equal, some are more equal than others".
  • West22West22 Posts: 224 ✭✭✭

    @BLUEJAYWAY said:
    Over on the coin side trying to determine the number of coins outstanding is difficult for silver coinage 1964 and back. Despite posted mintage numbers many of those coins have been and maybe still are being melted. So posted mintage numbers may be accurate,but don't reflect the actual surviving pieces. Another case of not knowing for sure the number of actual survivors. Same with the cards. How many are actually there or have been dumped,destroyed etc. even if we knew the exact printed numbers. So prices can only be determined by what is bought/sold in the market place.

    Agree and this is how it should be. On the most basic level this is exactly like a company's floating shares vs total shares outstanding in the stock market. Price is set on the margin and is based on shares available for purchase at any given time. I don't really care if they made 5 million 1952 Topps high numbers if 4.9 million of the Mantles got loaded on a Brooklyn barge and dumped in the Atlantic ocean.

    It is also the reason why I invest the majority of my hobby dollars in unopened material vs singles. I view unopened market dynamics as similar to how a Berkshire Hathaway or Apple stock performs. Both Berkshire and Apple have significant share buyback programs. When unopened boxes are cracked by hobbyists or youtube breakers, it has the effect of share buybacks, which reduce float and support price. There is no way to reduce the population of singles other than destroying or losing them.

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