1991 Donruss – The Elite Quest

When I was in the 9th grade (1991), I was obsessed with a PC game called Space Quest Chapter 2 – Vohaul’s Revenge.  This was before a lot of the RPG games were released and I thought it was really cool.  All of the Nintendo games at the time were basically “games with a little story” and this was a “story with a little game”.  Before Nintendo, the Atari just had games that were nearly impossible to beat unless you were some sort of genius that could figure out patterns and tendencies of the CPU opponent.  Up until SQ2, the closest I had gotten to an RPG was Bedlam on the Tandy 1000.  Bedlam was a text only game that gave you options throughout the experience and your survival was based on the choices you made.  Does anyone remember this game or am I dating myself?Back to SQ2. This game sticks in my mind because I discovered it the first year I took keyboarding in high school.  We would learn how to type for half of the class and then play games like Space Quest and Oregon Trail (another great one) for the other half of the class.  We could even get extra credit if we came in before school or during lunch to work on the computer.  I used my lunch period for basketball but I did make it in to the keyboarding class a few times before homeroom to work on Space Quest.  I was offered extra credit to play PC games!  Who wouldn’t have taken advantage of that?  I wish my Trigonometry class had offered such a sweet deal!My goal was to complete SQ2 before the end of the semester.  I have always been somewhat of a completionist with video games and try to finish what I start.  That has been detrimental at times because I will spend too much time focused on one game and miss something else that comes out.  I’ve been playing Borderlands 2 since Christmas 2016 and am painfully close to finishing it.  I got 3 games for Christmas and haven’t even cracked the wrapper on the other 2.  Granted, I don’t have as much time to play video games anymore but I still enjoy getting lost in the pixelated world of make believe.As I played through SQ2, I found myself stumped at various intervals.  You controlled your player, Roger Wilco, with the arrow buttons but you had to type what you wanted him to do, i.e. pick berries.  The berry picking came during the maze screen which had a living plant with roots stretched out over the screen.  You had to navigate the roots to get to the berries.  I remember being on this screen for about a week!  I would wander aimlessly from screen to screen and just command Roger to do certain things until it worked.  I was totally flying by the seat of my pants.  I would learn that the berries were to be smashed and rubbed all over Roger so he would be able to walk through a swamp where a creature was waiting to eat him.  The berries would cause a bad aftertaste and allow him to survive.  That protective action of smashing the berries took about 3 weeks to figure out.I played this game for 9 solid weeks.  I played this game every day for over 2 months and didn’t finish it.  I made it through the jungle planet, found my way to the escape ship and flew back to Vohaul’s Asteroid.  Once on the asteroid, I even made it to Vohaul’s chamber and was shrunken down and placed in a glass globe.  It was here that I realized that I missed something along the way.  I missed the item that would free me from the glass globe.  My mission and semester ended with me completely unfulfilled and wondering what finishing the game was like.  Not until today did I go to YouTube and watch the last few minutes of the walkthrough and realized that I was mere moments from completing the game.  A glass cutter on Level 3 in the janitorial closet cost me success.  One small oversight!Sometimes we take for granted what little decisions we make or don’t make can ultimately cost us.  Because I had grown weary of the minutia of aimlessly wandering Vohaul’s Asteroid, I lost sight of the goal. I just wanted to be done.  Enter another quest that started in 1991that I have yet to complete.  I had a golden opportunity to complete it very early on but a small decision that I made cost me.  When ’91 Donruss hit the market, they introduced a new “chase card” in the hobby that has driven me crazy for the last 26 years; The Elite Series.  I have one in my safe, a ’92 graded Ken Griffey Jr, but I bought it off of eBay because just like in SQ2, I had grown weary of the minutia of aimlessly searching packs for that golden ticket.I would buy small pack lots online or I would pick up loose packs when I would find them at the LCS or a junk store.  I’ve opened what feels like 1,000,000 packs of 1991 Donruss but I’ve never pulled an Elite Series card.  I did pull a Robin Yount Legend Series from 1992 but I am still looking for that beautiful marbled design of ’91 Elite.  Like throwing the switch on Vohaul’s Life Support System, the satisfaction of pulling this card has eluded me.  Unlike SQ2, I don’t have to have an old school computer and floppy disks to finally realize that dream.  In the case of this particular box, it cost me a solid .99 and $5.00 shipping.  That’s not a bad price to chase a dream!Before we get to this box and as I mentioned above, I had my chance in 1991.  My friend David and I used to stay over at each others house on the weekend and we were always begging for packs of cards at Wal-Mart so we could open and trade.  We would usually buy different products so we could spread out the different designs and pulls amongst each other.  I remember liking football cards more than David at the time but I still collected all sports.  I believe I bought several packs of Pro Line Football while he got the Donruss baseball packs on this fateful trip.  I was looking for the Pro Line autograph insert at the time.  I never pulled that either but David did uncover an Andre Dawson Elite Series in one of those Donruss packs and I will forever remember the day that I passed on Donruss to go after an autograph of Santa Claus!So here I am back at the well again and going to take a stab at a box of ’91 Donruss.  The cards themselves are a much improved version from 1990, which was the deep ketchup red.  The new design includes a blue border that is much easier on the eyes.  The name and position is at the bottom of the card and is no longer in the cursive font from the previous year.  There is a definite ‘90’s flair with the neon tire tread marks and random hot colored lines on the blue border but that is part of the retro allure for me when I go back to ’91 Donruss.  The set was broken up into two series’ with 386 cards in Series 1 and 384 in Series 2 for a total of 770 cards.  This was a massive set to say the least.  The box held 36 packs with 15 cards and a puzzle piece in each.  The puzzle for 1991 was Willie Stargell.Diamond Kings returned as a Donruss staple.  I collected most of the DK set with this box break missing only Ramon Martinez, Edgar Martinez, Dave Righetti, Pedro Guerrero and the Checklist.  There are some big 90’s names here with Clemens, Larkin, Bonds and Sandberg.  The best name is obviously the Ron Gant!The Rated Rookie Class was actually pretty solid at the time this set was released.  Bernard Gilkey, Derek Bell, Moises Alou, Tino Martinez and Ray Lankford were all desirable names.  The biggest name was Phil Plantier.  He was highly sought after in 1991.Series 1 included the American League All Stars and I pulled; Steve Sax, Ken Griffey Jr., Jose Canseco, Sandy Alomar Jr., Cal Ripken Jr., Rickey Henderson, Bob Welch and Wade Boggs.  The A’s were well represented.I also pulled several players that were pretty high on my prospect board in 1991.  They were high on most everyone’s board as a matter of fact.  These players included Alex Fernandez, Jerome Walton, Jerald Clark, Jim Abbott, Gregg Jefferies and Eric Anthony.The ’91 set was loaded with stars from the 80’s and 90’s.  I can’t list them all but look at this spread!  Jr., Ryan, Clemens, McGwire, Glavine, Big Unit, Boggs, Brett, Wizard, Cal, Gwynn and Doc are just a handful of the names available here.Finally, it wouldn’t be 1991 without a terribly miscut card.  Here is a Craig Biggio DK for your viewing pleasure.  I wonder how this would grade out!Alas, no Elite Series found within this box.  I did find the hero and the goat from Braves Playoff lore.  It was a box that was still sealed in the Donruss packaging so should be pretty clean for the most part.  I have seen odds ranging from 1 in 4-5 cases.  Think about that for a minute.  There were 8 Elite Cards numbered to 10,000.  There were 2 other Elite cards that included a Ryne Sandberg Auto (#’d to 5,000) and Nolan Ryan Legend (#’d to 7,500).  That is 92,500 cards spread out over approximately 4 cases per.  That is 370,000 cases with 20 boxes per case.  Using my trusty calculator, that is at least 7,400,000 boxes for a total of 266,400,000 packs!!  Now, break that down into the card total of 3,996,000,000!  So the pull rate for 92,500 Elite Cards spread out over 4 Billion??  That means that 1 in every 43,000 cards was potentially that sweet Elite insert!  My head is spinning right now!As for the set itself, the design is good and the checklist is loaded with former stars.  The rookie class in Series 1 didn’t really pan out with the exception of Moises Alou and Tino Martinez.  Diamond Kings were run of the mill but would get an overhaul in the very near future.  I can only give this set a Dub Score of 3.  If the Elite Cards weren’t quite so elusive, maybe it would get a 4 but I need odds better than one in every 80 boxes to feel like I have a good shot.  It’s not a bad set but it’s nothing that I go crazy over when I see it sitting on a shelf.  If it’s under $10, I’ll probably buy just for the chance of the Elite Card.  Maybe one day I’ll pull one and I’ll bump the score up.  But until then, this is an improvement from ’90 and a better effort than ’91 Score and Fleer.  Nothing more, nothing less.

J-Dub

Scoring Scale

1. Let me be the sacrificial lamb so you don’t have to buy these cards.  Just read the post and thank me later.

2. There is worse but there is much better – not worth the effort though.

3. Middle of the road – I wouldn’t talk you into buying these but I certainly wouldn’t talk you out of them.

4. You should probably go out and buy a box and enjoy the rip – I did!  It has some downside but worth the ride.

5. Stop reading and find a box to buy and get to Breaking!  What are you waiting on?

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