Cheap Wax Wednesday Box Breaks: 1996 Leaf Baseball

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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

Shop for 1996 Leaf Baseball boxes on eBay.

Pack 1 highlights:

Tony Gwynn & Alex Rodriguez

Tony Gwynn was 36 years old in 1996, but still managed to hit .353. 

Pack 2:

Greg Maddux CL, Fred McGriff, Albert Belle, Vinny Castilla & Jeff Bagwell

Pack 3:

Deion Sanders & Gary Sheffield

Pack 4:

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. 

Pack 5:

Barry Larkin CL, Tony Gwynn CL, Jeff Kent, Shawn Green, Rafael Palmeiro, Raul Mondesi & Roger Cedeno GLR

Pack 6:

Juan Gonzalez, Bobby Bonilla, Moises Alou & Jeff Suppan GLR

Pack 7:

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. 

Pack 8:

Fred McGriff, Barry Larkin, Hideo Nomo, David Cone & Jim Edmonds Bronze Press Proof (limited to 2,000 copies)

Pack 9:

Dennis Eckersley, Kirby Puckett, Dante Bichette, Tom Glavine & Jim Thome

Pack 10:

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. 

Pack 11:

Raul Mondesi & Gary Sheffield

Pack 12:

Edgar Martinez, Pedro Martinez, Johnny Damon, Rafael Palmeiro, Trevor Hoffman & Alan Benes GLR

Pack 13:

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. 

Pack 14:

Jim Thome, Juan Gonzalez, Bobby Bonilla, Moises Alou, Mark Loretta GLR & David Cone

Pack 15:

Tony Gwynn CL, Jim Edmonds, Jose Canseco, Ken Griffey, Jr. & Chipper Jones

Pack 16:

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. 

Pack 17:

Dante Bichette, Tom Glavine, Kirby Puckett & Cliff Floyd

Pack 18:

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. 

Pack 19:

Hideo Nomo CL, Garret Anderson, Andres Galarraga & Mike Piazza

Pack 20:

Joe Carter, Carlos Baerga, Cal Ripken, Jr. & Greg Vaughn

Pack 21:

Greg Maddux CL, Wade Boggs, Mo Vaughn, Mike Mussina & Greg Maddux

Pack 22:

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. 

Pack 23:

Cecil Fielder, Ken Caminiti, Will Clark & Alex Ochoa GLR

Pack 24:

Eddie Murray, Barry Bonds, Larry Walker, Mark McGwire, Billy Wagner GLR & Will Clark Silver Press Proof (limited to 1,000 copies)

Pack 25:

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. 

Pack 26:

Tim Wakefield, Frank Thomas & Cal Ripken, Jr. All-Star Game MVP Contenders

Pack 27:

Tony Gwynn, Mark Grace, Fred McGriff & Alex Rodriguez

Pack 28:

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. 

Pack 29:

Barry Larkin CL, Carlos Delgado, Shawn Green, Roger Cedeno GLR & Jeff Kent

Pack 30:

Juan Gonzalez, Bobby Bonilla & Randy Johnson

Pack 31:

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. 

Pack 32:

Barry Larkin, Hideo Nomo, Fred McGriff, Sammy Sosa All-Star Game MVP Contenders & Roberto Alomar Gold Press Proof (limited to 500 copies)

Pack 33:

Dante Bichette, Tom Glavine & Kirby Puckett

Pack 34:

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. 

Pack 35:

Sammy Sosa, Ivan Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez & Dennis Eckersley

Pack 36:

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.

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