Cheap Wax Wednesday Box Breaks: 1996 Leaf Baseball
1996 Leaf Baseball consists of a 220-card base set. For the first time, the set was released in a single series. By 1996, they had moved their focus from lengthy base sets to insert cards. Leaf dipped their toe into serial-numbered inserts starting in 1994. That year they had two different numbered insert sets, both with print runs of 10,000 cards. In 1995, they expanded their serial-numbered offerings to three insert sets. By 1996, though, they were all-in. The 1996 release features six different serial numbered insert sets: 22K Gold Leaf Stars, Frank Thomas Greatest Hits, Hats Off, Picture Perfect, Statistical Standouts, and Total Bases. Cards in each are limited to 5,000 copies or less.
In addition to all of the inserts, Leaf also debuted parallels in their 1996 set. Press Proof cards in three different tiers; Bronze (2,000 copies), Silver (1,000 copies) and Gold (500 copies). Though print runs were announced, the cards did not feature serial-numbering.
1996 Leaf Baseball Retail Box Break
Cards per pack: 12
Packs per box: 36
Price paid: $40
Pack 1 highlights:
Tony Gwynn & Alex Rodriguez
Tony Gwynn was 36 years old in 1996, but still managed to hit .353.
Greg Maddux CL, Fred McGriff, Albert Belle, Vinny Castilla & Jeff Bagwell
Deion Sanders & Gary Sheffield
Edgar Martinez, Pedro Martinez, Johnny Damon, Trevor Hoffman, Alan Benes GLR & Reggie Sanders All-Star Game MVP Contenders
The ASG MVP Contenders cards were redeemable if your player won the ASG MVP. Mike Piazza won the award in 1996. If you had his card, you could send it in for a full Gold set.
Barry Larkin CL, Tony Gwynn CL, Jeff Kent, Shawn Green, Rafael Palmeiro, Raul Mondesi & Roger Cedeno GLR
Juan Gonzalez, Bobby Bonilla, Moises Alou & Jeff Suppan GLR
Jim Edmonds, Jose Canseco, Bernie Williams, Chipper Jones & Mark Loretta GLR
Mark Loretta debuted for the Brewers in 1995, hitting .260 over 19 games. He would finish his career with a respectable .295 average.
Fred McGriff, Barry Larkin, Hideo Nomo, David Cone & Jim Edmonds Bronze Press Proof (limited to 2,000 copies)
Dennis Eckersley, Kirby Puckett, Dante Bichette, Tom Glavine & Jim Thome
Albert Belle, Vinny Castilla, Jeff Bagwell & John Smoltz
Albert Belle finished third in the AL MVP voting following the 1996 season after leading the league with 148 RBI. He also hit 48 home runs and scored 124 runs.
Raul Mondesi & Gary Sheffield
Edgar Martinez, Pedro Martinez, Johnny Damon, Rafael Palmeiro, Trevor Hoffman & Alan Benes GLR
Barry Larkin CL, Jeff Kent, Roger Cedeno GLR & Shawn Green
After not stealing more than nine bases in any one season, Cedeno burst out with 66 stolen bases in 1999. Tony Womack led the NL that season, with 72 thefts.
Jim Thome, Juan Gonzalez, Bobby Bonilla, Moises Alou, Mark Loretta GLR & David Cone
Tony Gwynn CL, Jim Edmonds, Jose Canseco, Ken Griffey, Jr. & Chipper Jones
Barry Larkin, Hideo Nomo, Fred McGriff, Carlos Delgado & Bobby Higginson Bronze Press Proof (limited to 2,000 copies)
Fred “The Crime Dog” McGriff knocked in 107 runs in 1996. Hard to believe, but that was the only time he broke 100 RBI with the Braves. He did so eight times total during his career.
Dante Bichette, Tom Glavine, Kirby Puckett & Cliff Floyd
Paul O’Neill & Jason Schmidt GLR
Paul O’Neill is having his number retired by the Yankees on August 21. Barring any changes in plans, this Red Sox fan will be in attendance for that ceremony.
Hideo Nomo CL, Garret Anderson, Andres Galarraga & Mike Piazza
Joe Carter, Carlos Baerga, Cal Ripken, Jr. & Greg Vaughn
Greg Maddux CL, Wade Boggs, Mo Vaughn, Mike Mussina & Greg Maddux
Roberto Alomar, Paul Molitor & Ruben Rivera GLR
Would you believe that Ruben Rivera was a hotter Yankees prospect than Derek Jeter at one point? True story. Rivera was ranked higher than Jeter in Baseball America’s prospect rankings prior to both the 1995 and 1996 seasons.
Cecil Fielder, Ken Caminiti, Will Clark & Alex Ochoa GLR
Eddie Murray, Barry Bonds, Larry Walker, Mark McGwire, Billy Wagner GLR & Will Clark Silver Press Proof (limited to 1,000 copies)
Lee Smith, Roger Clemens, Manny Ramirez, Craig Biggio, Andy Pettitte & Derek Jeter GLR
Jeter got the last laugh, though. In career major league earnings, Jeter edged out Ruben Rivera by about $262 million.
Tim Wakefield, Frank Thomas & Cal Ripken, Jr. All-Star Game MVP Contenders
Tony Gwynn, Mark Grace, Fred McGriff & Alex Rodriguez
Edgar Martinez, Pedro Martinez, Johnny Damon & Ozzie Smith
Martinez was selected to his first All-Star Game in 1996. The following season he would win his first Cy Young Award, going 17-8 with a league-leading 1.90 ERA.
Barry Larkin CL, Carlos Delgado, Shawn Green, Roger Cedeno GLR & Jeff Kent
Juan Gonzalez, Bobby Bonilla & Randy Johnson
Chipper Jones, Jim Edmonds, Jose Canseco & Tim Salmon
The original Angels fish, Tim Salmon, hit 30 or more home runs in three straight seasons from 1995-1997. He also hit 31 long balls in 1993, winning AL Rookie of the Year honors.
Barry Larkin, Hideo Nomo, Fred McGriff, Sammy Sosa All-Star Game MVP Contenders & Roberto Alomar Gold Press Proof (limited to 500 copies)
Dante Bichette, Tom Glavine & Kirby Puckett
Two smooth-swinging lefties; John Olerud & Paul O’Neill
O’Neill hit .300 or better during his first six seasons in New York. Overall, between 1993 and 1998, “The Warrior” hit .317.
Sammy Sosa, Ivan Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez & Dennis Eckersley
Dante Bichette CL, Kenny Lofton, Mike Greenwell, Alan Trammell & Tim Salmon 22K Gold Leaf Stars (0901/2500, 1:190 packs)
Lastly, the Kenny Lofton card back. Limited stats, which I don’t love. However, the great shot of Lofton makes up for it.
I definitely beat the odds finding the Salmon Gold Leaf Stars card. He is not the best name on the 15-card checklist — he may even be at the bottom — but it’s still an amazing pull. It looks great in-hand, too, and I don’t think photos do them justice.
I enjoyed this one. The shorter checklist made for more star pulls. The Press Proofs, while sometimes tough to differentiate between Bronze and Gold, still pop. There are some tougher inserts I didn’t find in this box, too. This one might be worth opening again if I can find a hobby box (this one was retail), which have exclusive Statistical Standouts and Total Bases cards.
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Want more installments of Shane Salmonson’s Cheap Wax Wednesday? Check out his other breaks in the archives.