2018 Donruss Baseball Hobby Box Review

'...a lot of bang for your buck with Donruss' - J-Dub

2018 Donruss Baseball

by J-Dub

Donruss Baseball Cards and I go way back; all the way back to 1989 to be exact. I picked up occasional baseball cards before that time in toy trades with my buddies where cards were used as currency. I remember trading a Junkyard Dog WWE (or WWF at the time) Action Figure for Ozzie Smith’s Rookie Card in 5th grade and I don’t even know why, other than I liked Ozzie Smith and I was starting to play a lot of baseball. We would use Transformers, He-Man, WWE, baseball cards and marbles as currency like we had created our own little society because paper money didn’t really exist to us.

I remember trading some marbles for a Superstar Popsicle one time and thinking how huge of a score that was. I had buddies who traded a Panthor for some Funyuns or a G.I. Joe Jeep for the answers to a homework assignment. We were big business back then! As we got older, we would trade bigger dollar items like Nintendo games, hats and cassette tapes. This wasn’t until around 7th grade and by then I had stopped trading my baseball cards for non-baseball card items because I was becoming a full-fledged collector. This was a profound year for me as I turned 12 years old, got myself a girlfriend and started my entrepreneurial venture into sports cards.


Acrylic. Holds a 32pt. thick card. 4 screws. Recessed card area. 3-1/8 x 5-3/16 x 1/4″. Holds a card up to 2-1/2 x 3-1/2″.

In 1989, we all had visions of striking it rich and leaving behind the petty days of marbles and G.I. Joe trades. You see, if I wanted my Funyons, I would just buy them and then pay someone to feed them to me. I was going to be that rich! Keep in mind, this is how a 12 year old brain works sometimes. I had a couple of 1989 Future Star Gregg Jefferies put away and the only thing between me and my private island was patience. There were several cards in 1989 that I grabbed up to put away like a tax free bond for the future. I had the Jefferies, the Ozzie Smith RC, Bo Jackson’s FB/BB Score Card, Billy Ripken’s 1989 Fleer and most importantly, several Ken Griffey Jr. Rated Rookies from 1989 Donruss.

Donruss has somewhat of a cult following for those who really like it but there are others who just won’t buy the product as long as they don’t have logos.

Donruss was the most available card product in my area in 1989. We had some supply of Topps in baseball, Pro Set in Football and Hoops in Basketball, but Donruss was the king of my town. You could find them at Wal-Mart, Piggly Wiggly, Big B Drugs, Suwannee Swifty and just about anywhere else that had a cash register. When I found them, I begged my parents to get me a pack. I probably could have built the entire set twice through single packs that year but would put the good ones in a shoebox while I played with the others in fake baseball games. I knew the checklist like the back of my hand, I knew all the players to expect in Diamond Kings and MVP inserts and I knew which Rated Rookies were trending in Beckett. At the time, those names included Sandy Alomar Jr., Gary Sheffield, Pete Harnisch, Gregg Olsen and Tom Gordon, among others.

Donruss has had somewhat of an on again/off again presence in the hobby since those days thanks to market declines, license changes, etc. But they made a big return without team logos in 2014 under Panini as a flagship set and have produced sets each year thereafter, with each set introducing something new to try and compete with Topps and their MLB license. Donruss has somewhat of a cult following for those who really like it but there are others who just won’t buy the product as long as they don’t have logos. I’ll admit that the license issue can be a deterrent sometimes when I’m weighing the product against others and I can only pick up one box. But I make a concerted effort to include some new Donruss in my collection each year.

2018 Donruss Hobby Box

Some of that is because of the nostalgic hold Donruss has on me by being the first real set I focused on. But besides that, they do produce a very good quality product, sans the logos, for a very reasonable price. For instance, this year’s hobby box features 24 packs with 8 cards each and promises 3 hits (autographs or memorabilia). I have also seen multiple boxes with 4 hits, which has become a bit of a pattern with the product. The hobby box I picked up at my LCS was $74.95, which is half of what Heritage is currently selling for, provided you find a good deal on it. If you don’t get bogged down in the logo issue, there is a lot of bang for your buck with Donruss.


This year’s set includes base cards, multiple variations to those base cards, Diamond Kings, Rated Rookies, a subset of 1984 Retro Design cards, multiple inserts, autographs and memorabilia. Also, Donruss returns a major chase card that has collectors scouring packs like they did in 1992 for “Elite Series” cards. That chase card is the “Whammy”, which is a cartoon drawn player with a fathead design and a sparkling silver border. If you see one of these cards and don’t know to look for it, you’ll likely toss it in the Diamond Kings stack with other sketch cards. Don’t do that! These cards are found, on average, 1 per case and feature some of the biggest names in baseball.

Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images

Along with the Whammy cards, Donruss is including another hot item to chase in 2018. There is no player more hyped at the moment than Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels. Donruss was able to include Ohtani in the set and even has some autographs to search for. The favorite I have seen so far is an old school Diamond King version. There are some great looking inserts this year as well, such as Mound Marvels, Out of this World and Promising Pros.


Let’s take a look at what my first Donruss hobby box of 2018 held inside. Trust me, this is not going to be simple.


The base cards take a new spin on the old ’84 design with the swoosh at the bottom. The backs of the cards only have the 2017 season along with the career numbers. One of the negatives for Donruss over the years has been the lack of full career stats by year.


Diamond Kings look much more realistic than in years past. I personally like the cartoon-y Diamond Kings of old but each collector is different.

Topps has Future Stars, Fleer has Rookie Sensations and Donruss has Rated Rookies. These are as old as the Donruss name but still my favorite designation for a rookie.

As with years past, Donruss includes a nice selection of some of the greatest retired veterans to ever play the game. I always love to pull a Reggie Jackson in an A’s uniform!

The 1984 Retro Design makes the base set really worth trying to put together. I am a sucker for retro designs but the 1984 Donruss is above average in that category.

These are some of the dual player cards that are found in the early 200 section of the checklist. While I usually enjoy the dual player cards, these make the lack of logos even more apparent and are one of the least liked portions of the set for me in 2018.

One of the parallels/variations of the base cards is the Black and White versions. These are not hard to spot as the name speaks for itself. I prefer the color versions!

Along with the Black and White versions, there are also Sepia parallels to find.

A mainstay in Donruss is the Dominator Insert. These are flashy and numbered so will get a lot of collectors’ attention. This Joey Votto is numbered to 344.

Another flashy insert is “Foundations”. This particular insert is quite a bit reminiscent of the Transformers and Tron logo from the 80’s. With that being the case, count me as a fan!

One of my favorite all time chase cards was the Donruss Elite Series cards that started back in 1992. This particular card is numbered to 249 but I remember when the ’92 Elite’s were numbered to 10,000 and you couldn’t find them anywhere!

American Pride inserts showcase the players from Team USA and are very sharp cards! These are numbered to 999 and this was the only one I found in my box.

Here is where things start to get a little dicey. These are variations of base cards that feature player’s nicknames or full names on the cards. For instance, Francisco Lindor is “Mr. Smile” and Chipper Jones is “Larry Wayne Jones.” Cal Ripken’s card even has “2,632 Games” instead of the Baltimore team name.

Every single player doesn’t have a nickname card but there are a ton of them to be found. Here is Bryce “Mondo” Harper.

And of course, we all remember Ken Griffey Jr. being nicknamed “The Kid”! I will never get tired of finding Griffey cards in packs.


So is it Mike or is it Giancarlo? I will admit that when he first hit the big leagues, I thought he had to be related to the old Braves reliever, Mike Stanton.

I honestly had no idea that Mike Trout was also known as the Millville Meteor. Is this really a thing? I don’t know, this one kind of feels made up.

I’m not old enough to have seen Mickey Mantle play but I am almost certain that The Commerce Comet is a made up nickname. Somebody please confirm in the comments below!

And if two nicknames aren’t enough, some players have more than that! Aaron Judge is “All Rise”, “NY 12th Judicial District” and “ROY” here. All of these cards are the same number in the checklist but there are multiple variations.

The same can be said here for Mookie Betts. He has a full name card and also a “Perfect 300” variation. The Perfect 300 refers to his once bowling a perfect game. I’m not sure that’s worthy of a baseball card variation but here it is.

Much like a salesman on the Shopping Network might say, “But wait, there’s more!” The 1984 Retro designs have variations as well with no nicknames but different photos.

I’m not 100% positive what this variation is supposed to represent. Both are of Rizzo in the home white uniform swinging the bat. There is really no difference except for the color of the name border at the bottom.

Now this one feels like a good use of the variation. One card features Judge wearing his nickname jersey and is quite a striking card.

In my opinion, this is really where Donruss makes its mark in 2018. The silver and colored parallels are really beautiful when seen with the naked eye. The Press Proof is Gold and numbered to 99 and the Teal is a pretty good looking card. The Judge Diamond King looks especially good as well. The others are silver stat line parallels.

Finally, there are the traditional hits. While Donruss advertises 3 hits on the outside box, I have seen 4 hits being routinely found. The usual configuration is 2 autographs and 2 relics. One of the relics is a “Promising Pros Materials” with an up and coming player. This is Trayce Thompson of the LA Dodgers.

Another relic found in the set is the Diamond Collection patch. This is another Dodger, Corey Seager, but is another single colored patch. I have now pulled 5 patches in my Donruss breaks this year and all 5 have been single color.

Autograph #1 is of J.D. Davis with the Houston Astros. This is the Silver Signature Series and Mr. Davis has a very nice looking autograph by today’s standards.

The second autograph is a Blue Signature Series signature of Willie Calhoun of the Texas Rangers. Calhoun has a more common shorthand autograph found in today’s products. This Blue is numbered to 99 and Calhoun has some high expectations for the future.

Photo Pocket/Toploader Display Stands

SMALL. 2-1/2 x 3-3/8 x 2″ (W x H x D). Made for crystal clear lucite.

There is a lot to like about 2018 Donruss Baseball but there are some things that I think were misses as well. I like the nickname variations as they are produced in Topps Heritage because they are very difficult to find. In Donruss, you have as good, if not better, chance of pulling a nickname than you do the base version. The lack of logos is also a turn off for many collectors but I am not totally averse to non licensed products so it isn’t a tremendous issue for me. I do think it hurts the dual player cards but overall, not a big deal.  I haven’t opened enough of the product to be hyper critical of the patches yet but I would like to see something with a little more flair than what I have seen so far.

The area that Donruss really excels in this year is the inserts. Elite is always special to me but Foundations, Mound Marvels (not pictured), and Out of this World (not pictured) are some of the best efforts I’ve seen in a long time. The inserts have a very retro type vibe but are flashy like new cards as well. I love the promise of 3 hits in a box of this price so that is a plus as well. The chase for the “Whammy” is also reminiscent of the early Elite days. I have another box I will be ripping soon so I am going to keep plugging away on the set and will ultimately decide then if this year is a winner.


Donruss announced a wrapper redemption after boxes began releasing and they are offering 3 card packs of special cards to collectors who mail in 24 hobby wrappers. I don’t have all the details on what the special cards are but I am mailing my wrappers in and I would recommend you do as well. It could prove to be worth it for only the cost of two stamps. The address for the wrapper redemption is below. What are your thoughts on 2018 Donruss?


Panini America
2018 Donruss Baseball Wrapper Redemption
5325 FAA Boulevard
Suite 100
Irving TX 75061