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Iconic Inserts: The TRULY One of a Kind 1998 Donruss Crusade MLB/NFL

Welcome back to Iconic Inserts, where we take a look at some of the most memorable inserts in the history of the hobby. This month we’re taking a look at an insert set that is truly one of a kind, the 1998 Donruss Crusade (released for both MLB & NFL).

To say the hobby was experimenting with everything in the late ‘90s would be an understatement. Any type of foil or coating that could be used was, with innovation was at an all-time high. Perhaps no insert personifies this more than the Crusade, an unfortunate one and done release that took production to an entirely new level. Released in 1998 under the Donruss name (then owned by Pinnacle), the 130-card set was released in quite the unusual way for the time, with parts of the set released in various Donruss and Leaf products throughout 1998. The designs feature a gorgeous action shot on a medieval-styled design/background, on chromium stock with a refractor finish. It’s the unique “etching” that made the card stand out from every other card at the time, which is saying something. The line also consisted of a subset, “Call To Arms”, utilizing the same design elements with a different font. 

Three color parallels were used for Crusade, with Green /250, Purple /100 & Red /25. The products/players where Crusades can be found, for both football & baseball, break down like this:

•40 cards (denoted with a "D" in most checklist) were randomly inserted into packs of 1998 Donruss Series One as an unannounced "stealth" insert.

•30 cards (denoted with an "L" in most checklist) were randomly inserted into packs of 1998 Leaf

•30 cards (denoted with a "U" in most checklist) were randomly inserted into packs of 1998 Donruss Update

•30 cards (sequentially-numbered #101-#130) were inserted into packs of 1998 Leaf Rookies & Stars.

The cards were an instant success. The unique design popped, and the random, multi-product release had collectors anticipating future releases, and was a brilliant strategy that is still rarely used in the hobby (hint hint…). Unfortunately for collectors, Crusade was a one and done release that never got a chance at a long-term lineage due to the bankruptcy of Pinnacle and liquidation of assets. 

But wait, you say, “Crusade exist to this day!?” And in a way, you are correct, as the Crusade (and Call To Arms subset) line has continued on through Playoff & now Panini. However, to this day, no company has been able to reproduce the original Crusades unique “etching”-styled background that made the card so different from all the other refractors.

And as it turns out, that’s for good reason, as the printer used to make the Crusades insert was specifically made for the Crusade insert and the Crusade insert only. The printer no longer exists, as pieces of the printer were sold off during the Pinnacle bankruptcy, making the 1998 Crusade a true one of a kind insert. 

The ‘98 Crusade continues to be a chase card for many collectors, with some of the stars/RC’s selling for $1000’s. However, some “non-chase cards” are easily affordable and the checklists we’re stacked. Unreleased “Samples” and “future crusade releases” have hit the market, with some considered grail cards by player collectors. These hit the market due to Dave & Adam’s buying them from a Donruss employee in charge of destroying them. D&A then distributed to private collectors. Exactly how many, and of which players in total hit the market is unclear, but is tracked meticulously by die-hard collectors.


The cards themselves are a work of art, a stunning set that is incredibly unique, cut short by the untimely demise of an iconic brand. But the legend of the Crusade gets more interesting the deeper you dive, with plenty of conspiracy theories outside of what is known as fact. But one thing’s for sure: The 1998 Donruss Crusade has absolutely carved…or “etched”, a legacy as an Iconic Insert in the hobby.


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