In the late 80s and early 90s, at the height of the ‘junk wax era’ manufacturers like Topps, Donruss, Score and Upper Deck mass produced their packs and boxes by the millions. Literally. As the early 90s rolled by, these manufacturers added special inserts — rare autographed cards, for example — to entice consumers to purchase in volume. It worked.

30-years later. It worked again.

1991 Score Baseball is the epitome of the junk era. Cheaply made cards, cheap packaging, little difficulty in finding the stars of the day and they were manufactured in such a volume that your head would hurt if you knew how much they made.
Wait, can we figure that out? I think we can!

1991 Score Series 2 Baseball packs and boxes had 2500 randomly inserted cards that Mickey Mantle signed. They looked like this:

Pretty cool, right? What a fun hunt that would be. Or so we thought.

We bought an entire case of 1991 Score Series 2 Baseball, and ripped it open with the hope of finding an autographed Mickey Mantle card. Sounds like a fun hunt, right? This is what the boxes looked like as we prepared to rip some packs.

Let’s begin.
But wait, let’s do some math first. In the fine print, on the side of the packs it states “Find one of 2500 randomly inserted Mickey Mantle autographed cards into packs.” OK, so far so good. It continues, “Odds of finding a Mickey Mantle autographed card are NO LESS than 1 in 30,000“. UH. What?

1 in 30,000 packs — the percentage chance of pulling the autographed card if you open one pack is:

Oh, that’s not good. What if we open a full box. 36 packs. That improves the odds, right?? So we have 36 chances.

Ok that’s a littttle better, but I’m still not happy.
Ok, we ARE ripping open an entire case. 20 boxes x 36 packs per box = 720 packs. 720 chances at 1 in 30,000. Which give us:

There we go. We have just over a 2% chance of pulling a Mantle auto, given that we are opening AN ENTIRE CASE of this stuff! Unreal.

Let’s get cracking.

First pack.
Excitement. We’re on a quest that few embark upon. It’s all green meadows and blue skies ahead. Who knows what the journey will bring. Smiles on our faces… like the Fellowship of the Ring as they left The Shire. Sure, this might be a tough journey, but there’s a saying about anything worth doing being difficult… I can’t think of it right now. I’m too excited.

……

36th pack.
Spirits are still high. We’ve completed one box — rations of Tostitos are still plentiful. Marching forward. This is exciting stuff. It’s not every day you get to set off into the wild and explore new territory. We are Magellan. That doesn’t make sense.
But. It does, also, somehow.

…..

180th pack.
Frustration has set in. Troop morale is dangerously low. Food rations have been depleted. No sign of the elusive Mantle. But, we trudge ahead. We are pioneers after all!

…..

360th pack.
Shots have been fired. I feel a mutiny is being planned among the ranks. My fingers hurt. My feet hurt. The water supply was exhausted 140 Cory Snyder’s ago. We are so sick of seeing the Kirby Puckett Dream Team card that we’ve begun throwing them at each other like ninja stars. It doesn’t hurt. I can see on their faces they wish it would inflict pain upon me as it bounces off my shoulder. People are starting to cry. My wife checked in on us and quickly walked away. I feel I’m bringing her down. My dog won’t look at me. There’s nothing good on TV to pass the time. Everyone is staring at me like I drug them to a 6 hour church service. Send reinforcements now!

540th pack.
If I see one more dang Dream Team card I am going to walk to Mr. Score’s house and punch him in the face. The troops have abandoned me. I’m all alone in this foxhole. No food. No water. I’ve resorted to watching TruTV, that’s how delirious I am. It’s seems anyone can get a TV show these days — but that’s not the point.
Wait, it kind of is. These reality TV stars are uneducated and not even experts in their field.
I know more about baseball cards than these idiots do in whatever-they-are-talking-about. God my head hurts. I can’t think straight. Where are my shoes. Oh, they’re on my feet. Where are my feet?
What are feet?
Why are feet?
That doesn’t make any sense.
Neither does opening (quick math) eight thousand six hundred and forty cards (so far) and not caring about a single one of them.
I’m starting to doubt Mickey Mantle signed anything.
I’m starting to doubt Mickey Mantle even existed.
Why are we here? My lips are chapped. I’d kill for an orange Gatorade — room temperature. Why is it so much better at room temperature? What IS room temperature? Whose room are they referencing? When the Oracle created my room did he/she set a standard temperature?
OH, HEY — did you hear Oracle is leaving California for North Dakota? Wait. That doesn’t sound right.
There are two Dakotas?!
I mean, they are leaving California for Texas. Crazy times. We could do some quick math — to figure out how much they will save just from no state income tax. But I can’t do that right now. I have 5 more boxes to open. Must. Open. Another. Pack…

720th pack.
I hate Chipper Jones. I used to feel giddy when I’d see his cards. Now I have a stack of them that mocks me in my failure. Sure, I could sell them to someone on a Facebook group. But they’d just lowball me. “Interested in those Chippers,” he might say. I’d reply with interest, tell them to make an offer and they’d disappear. Seems people don’t want to part with their money — they just want to talk about parting with their money. I guess that’s cheaper.
Anyway.
Frank Thomas. He’s a big dude. Even on this card, as a rookie, he’s massive. Ken Griffey Jr. is in here too. A LOT. He’s also a Rookie. That’s a weird word. Rookie. *looks up origins of the word* Seems that it might be a derivative of ‘recruit’. That makes sense.

Speaking of derivatives. We can make an index of some of these players. Let’s make one for Ken Griffey Jr. and let’s make it update in real-time:

Oh that’s wicked. I should have just invested in Ken Griffey Jr. collectibles this year. He’s gone parabolic. What was I doing in 2020? Complaining. Oh yeah.
Back to the cards.

I’ve sorted all the stars and have them in a pile. It doesn’t help.

My wife has called it a night. I am all alone. TruTV seems to have shut itself off, letting me slip away into this seemingly bottomless chasm – alone. Abyss. Another cool word. A-byss. A-bissssssssss.
I sound like a snake.
I AM a snake.
NO. 1991 Score is a snake!
Giving me (and kids) false hopes of finding a real treasure when they know gosh-darn-well there’s basically no chance.

My math brain still works: If the odds are NO LESS than 1 in 30,000 packs, that means the odds are probably worse. But, let’s say it’s actually 1 in 30,000. If they made 2500 Mickey Mantle autographed cards that means there are 2500 of these 30,000’s out there.

Oh my dear Lord. Conservatively, Score created 75 MILLION packs of Series 2 baseball. And they made a Series One. I guarantee in the same volume.
75 million packs x 16 cards in a pack=

Oh you know. No big deal. They just printed 1.2 BILLION 1991 Score Series 2 cards. That’s 2,083,333 boxes!

Whatever cards we unearth from this search – there are literally millions of others just like it. All hail the wax era!
I’d say the 1 in 30,000 odds are conservative. I’d venture a guess that 1.2billion cards and over 2 million wax boxes of 1991 Score Series 2 baseball is low.
NOW, do the same for Topps, Donruss, Upper Deck.

OH HEY! I have a case here of 1992 Upper Deck Baseball. They inserted Ted Williams autographed cards into those boxes as well.
Dare I?

Oh yeah. I dare.

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