Leaf Trading Cards
Leaf Baseball Cards first hit shelves in 1990 as an addition to the new premium market created by Upper Deck in 1989. That 1990 Leaf set is one of my all-time favorites and remains one of the most well-liked sets from the 90’s. It is probably in most collectors’ Top 5 for sets in the “Junk Wax Era”. That ’90 design is reused by Leaf today in some of its retro or “look-back” sets. The design was clean with a white border and only a silver stripe blasted team logo and Leaf logo on the front. I would call the design iconic!
At the time 1990 Leaf was released, there were no exclusive licenses so several companies were competing with each other in each sport. Leaf quickly became a high-end product with Upper Deck and provided collectors with relative high dollar versions of their favorite players. Adding to the overall pizazz of the set, 1990 was the year that Frank Thomas, Sammy Sosa, Larry Walker and John Olerud were rookies. The Frank Thomas still sells for a couple hundred dollars if in mint condition. There aren’t many sets from 1990 that can boast that type of value.
Leaf had been around the hobby during the 80’s but not as a standalone product. Leaf Branding was used for the Canadian release of Donruss and in many cases held less value than the Donruss labeled cards. That all changed in 1990 when Leaf and Donruss were each primary sets offered to all collectors. I like to think that because they spent so much time getting 1990 Leaf right; it somehow explains how 1990 Donruss went so wrong. I have long been a staunch opponent of 1990 Donruss and its visually maddening red border. There are some who hold ’90 Donruss in a different light for nostalgia reasons and some even like the design. I am not one of those collectors.
Turning back to Leaf, they maintained a firm grip as one of the premium products for much of the 90’s but eventually merged with Donruss Playoff and Panini America. Brian Gray was the owner of a line of sports cards under the name Razor and he found out in 2010, that while the Leaf name was being used, it was no longer a trademark owned by Panini. He didn’t waste any time in purchasing the trademark and began operating under the Leaf name, giving him a more recognized name and bringing immediate brand loyalty. He didn’t stick to baseball cards alone though as he opened up the company’s exposure by offering multiple sports and even entertainment cards. One of the most popular sets for Leaf today is the Pop Century set that includes some of the biggest names in the entertainment business.
Leaf has produced some amazing sets over the last 7 years. The only drawback for these products is that Leaf doesn’t hold some of the major licenses in the sports card industry. But what the company has been lacking in the licensing area, they have more than made up for in the innovation department. Here are some of my personal favorite Leaf sets over the last few years.
- Leaf Army All-American Bowl – This is my favorite Leaf product because it offers autographed cards of incoming college freshmen who played in the Army All-American Bowl. I try to collect all of my Georgia Bulldogs and have signed cards of Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Jake Fromm, DeAndre Swift and Trent Thompson while they haven’t played a single snap in the NFL yet. This set has some amazing patches and I will surely be reviewing the 2018 product here in the Bags Unlimited Newsletter very soon.
- Leaf Q Multi-Sport – This set includes autographs and relics of some of the biggest names in sports. The 2017 checklist includes Pete Rose, Brett Favre, Floyd Mayweather, Hope Solo, Jenny Finch, Lionel Messi and many more. My favorite Leaf Q autograph is that of Al Bundy wearing his Polk High uniform.
- Leaf Originals Wrestling – With yet another stellar checklist, this set includes art cards of some of the greatest wrestling stars in history. The names include Barry Windham, Jim Ross, Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart, Mick Foley, Chris Jericho and more.
- Leaf Pop Century – As mentioned above, this set has some of the world’s most recognized entertainers among its checklist. With this set, you have the chance to pull autographs of Al Pacino, Conor McGregor, Megan Fox, Richard Dreyfuss and Norman Reedus, among others. The 2017 set also includes an In-Memoriam insert set with autographs of Carrie Fisher, Alan Thicke, Gene Wilder and Roger Moore.
Holds 1 card. 3-1/2 x 4-1/2 x 1/4″. Display cards vertically or horizontally.
2017 Leaf Valiant Baseball
Leaf still produces baseball cards as well and the set I want to review today is the newly released Leaf Valiant. This marks the return of a previous baseball offering that spent a couple of years in hiding. This year’s hobby box includes only autograph cards with 4 in each box. However, as a bonus this year, each box includes a 5th autographed card that is a BGS Grade 9.5, 10 or Black Label 10. So altogether, the box has 5 autographed cards with the 5th being graded by Beckett. The box is running around $90 so I think the value is certainly there for a box configuration like this.
While 2017 Leaf Valiant is a true prospecting product, there are some big names included in the checklist as well, such as Cody Bellinger, Gleyber Torres, Ronald Acuna and Kevin Maitan. There are multiple parallels and insert cards available in each box as well. I recently picked up a box at my LCS to take a look at what Leaf Valiant had to offer.
My first card was this Domingo Acevedo numbered to 99. Acevedo is the Yankee’s #6 prospect for this year. In Double-A in 2017, he threw 79.1 innings and finished with a 2.38 ERA and 3.19 FIP. He averaged a 9.30 K/9 ratio, which is more than a K per inning! This card was the base Valiant design.
The next card was numbered to 35 and is a Ticket to the Show insert. JB Bukauskas was the Houston Astros 1st Round Pick (15th Overall) in 2017. The righty went 9-1 at UNC, striking out 116 batters in 92 2/3 innings.
Tristen Lutz was the 34th overall selection in the 2017 Draft for the Milwaukee Brewers. He is a 6’3 power hitter from Arlington, TX who was playing high school baseball this time last year. Though he also had a scholarship to the University of Texas, he ultimately signed with the Brewers and suited up for 40 minor league games. He hit for a .311 average and hit 9 home runs in 161 at bats. This particular card is the Moon Shot insert and is numbered to 25.
The lowest numbered pull in the box was this 1/1 Printing Plate of James Nelson. He was a 15th Round selection for the Miami Marlins in 2016 but played very well in Greensboro in 2017, hitting for a solid .309 average with 7 home runs and 6 stolen bases. A printing plate is always a fun pull!
The final card was the Beckett Graded Card. This was a base Alex Lange numbered to 99 and was graded a 9.5. Lange was the 30th pick in the 2017 Draft by the Chicago Cubs. He suited up for the LSU Tigers in college and only played in 4 games last year with the Eugene Emeralds, tallying a 0-1 record with a 4.82 ERA. I love a graded card and the Cubs Prospects are usually sought after so I am pleased with this card.
As you can see, the odds are you will pull 5 players you are going to have to research but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. These will go in my card box and I will wait to see if any of them make it to the show. I will likely have one of their first autographed cards available. That is the risk vs. reward of a prospect set and I don’t spend a lot of time in that arena. But for the price, these 5 autographs were worth the shot. What do you think of Leaf Valiant?
Holds a single 55 pt. card.