Here is a card I got at the Tristar Card Show a few weeks ago. I recognized what set it was from as I had a few at home already. But it is different from the ones I have in that it has stats on the back and is not serial numbered. This post was going to be a rant against Donruss and their excesses of the 2000s but in the process of researching this set, I actually learned something about some baseball card history I didn't know. This card is from the Leaf Exhibits insert set from 2004. And it's not serial numbered because it is from the 2nd Edition Leaf set. In 2004, there were two releases of Leaf. The second release was called "2nd Edition". It contained exactly the same cards as the first set, the only difference being is that the second release had a "2nd Edition" logo on them. I'd bought a lot of 1st release Leaf and consequently didn't buy much of the 2nd Edition. And I felt ripped off buying any of it. Anyway back to this Leaf Exhibits insert.
The set featured 50 players. There are some 44 different variations of each card. Each variation has the same player photo but each has some minor difference. The Brett card above is the "1962-63 Stat Back Black Name Left" variation. As near as I can tell from Beckett.com, the inserts in the 2nd edition set were not serial numbered. The Brett card below is the "1939-46 Very Best Wishes Left" variation.
Note that the "Very best wishes" salutation is on the left. Yes, there is a variation with the salutation on the right.
Most of these have blank backs. Very few have stats on the back. Note on the back is says 1939-46 VBWL. That's how you were supposed to tell what variation you had.
This Roberto Alomar is the "1939*46 Sincerely Right" variation.
I'm not exactly sure which variation this is but I think it's the "1947-66 Printed in the USA".
What was Donruss trying to do with this set besides driving collectors crazy? I know that when I pulled the last 3 of these above from packs I had no idea what they were supposed to be.
I found a clue on Beckett.com and then was able to find more information on the web, most notably here. The Exhibit Company produced postcards featuring baseball players between 1921 and 1966. Apparently they just used the same photos year after year, which, I guess, explains why each Leaf variation has the same photo. There were variations from year to year in what was on the front of the postcards, leading to the Leaf variations. It's still an annoying insert set but at least I understand what they were trying to do. But really, is there anyone out there who seriously collected this insert? I'd like to hear from you. According to Beckett.com, between the 1st and 2nd Editions, there are 88 cards for each player. All the 1st Edition cards are serial numbered from between 21 and 66 cards. As I was writing this there were over 200 auctions on eBay for these cards ranging from 99 cents to $8 depending on the player. I guess you could collect all the players if you weren't choosy about which variation you got.
By the way, there are originals from Exhibit available on eBay. You can get a beat-up card for a few bucks.