Presented here are, based on my twenty-plus years experience, the 10 toughest to find Mark Grace cards and collectibles issued by major manufacturers that I've been able to track down. I'm excluding all 1/1 cards and cards with 10 or less copies made, as those are all by definition scarce. At the end of the list are five more rare items for which I'm still searching.
1996 Studio Silver Press Proof
The manner in which they were distributed made 1996 Studio Silver Press Proofs a tough find. One of the first cards to feature a print run of 100 copies, they were only distributed in retail-only "magazine packs" (magazine packs were available at large retailers like Walmart and had a punch hole top flap to the wrapper so they could be hung on store display hooks). Why silvers at 100 copies were rarer that golds at 500 copies is a question lost to time.
1989 Topps Heads Up Test Issue
Topps test marketed this oversize issue regionally in 1989 before issuing the more mainstream 1990 set. The test issue checklist was not the same as the 1990 checklist. Grace was one of the few players that had a 1989 test issue but not a 1990 issue. The year issued is printed on the back. These disembodied cardboard heads came with a suction cup hanger, perfect for hanging in school lockers.
1996 Score Select Certified Mirror Gold
The birth of the "rainbow" was 1996 Score Select Certified's claim to hobby history. Each base card had an Artist's Proof, Certified Red, Certified Blue, Mirror Red, Mirror Blue and prized Mirror Gold parallel. Only 30 copies of each Mirror Gold were made. Today, these rare cards are one of the most valuable 90's parallels.
2001 E-X Behind the Numbers Jersey/Auto
Mark's first certified, pack-issued autograph was limited to a mere 17 copies when it debuted in 2001 E-X. That left his many fans fighting over this card all through 2001, 2002 and the first part of 2003, when his second autographed card finally appeared. This collector is lucky to own 3 copies.
1989 Starline Prototypes
The Starline company was searching for a sponsor for a baseball card premium in 1989 when it made this test set of cards to show to prospective partners. Notice the different combination of sponsor logos on the bottom of the cards. Eventually, they found a sponsor in Long John Silvers Restaurants. The mainstream issue was released in 3-card packs in 1990. Grace is one of five players to have a prototype set printed.
1996 Pinnacle Aficionado First Pitch Preview
Only by answering an online trivia quiz could collectors receive an Aficionado First Pitch Preview card. Participants received a player at random, and not all players were distributed equally. Not much is known about how many copies were made for each player, but the number is low. Finding these is a tough challenge for player collectors.
1994 Topps A/B/C/D Gold Winner Redemption Card
This is one of the most under appreciated cards in the hobby. Since it features so many great players, hardcore player collectors fight over this card when it comes up for auction, which is seldom. But amazingly Beckett Magazine only assigns a value of 60 cents to this card! Good luck finding one at that price, it typically sells at 100X that price or more.
1997 Topps ProShooter Marble & Checklist
You would think that after this concept failed in 1968, Topps would have scraped it for good. But I guess the marketing guys at Topps thought marbles were making a comeback almost 30 years later. ProShooters were a regional test issue to parts of New York and Canada. They must not have been popular, as they never did have a later mainstream issue. The marbles are hard to find since card collectors don't usually care for hard-to-store three dimensional objects in their collections. Two rare checklist cards exist picturing 30 marbles per card. Grace is on Checklist #1. ProShooters were issued two marbles and one checklist card per pack.
1998 Donruss Crusade Red
One of the most collected insert sets of the 1990's is the cross brand Crusade set issued in 1998 Donruss, Donruss Update, Leaf, and Leaf Rookies & Stars. There were three parallels of each player in the set: green (250 copies), purple (100 copies), and red (25 copies). Crusade cards featured some of the best production values of the era and are considered a landmark issue for their beauty and scarcity. The reds are especially prized by player collectors, and sell at extravagant levels when they do surface.
1988 San Diego State Aztecs All-Time Greats Alumni Fundraiser Set
Your only chance to get this card was if you attended an Alumni Fundraiser event held in San Diego in 1988. For a contribution to the Alumni Fund, you received a 20 card set of all-time greats to wear the Aztec uniform. The big names in the set are Tony Gwynn and Mark Grace. This is the only card issued of Grace in a college uniform.
Rare Mark Grace collectibles that have continue to elude me - help me find these elusive collectibles and you will be rewarded handsomely! Grace is on the checklist of these products, but I rarely if ever have seen one. If you have one of these items for sale, a lead on one, or a photo of one of the examples I need, please email me.
1998 Topps SportzCubz Plastic Folding Cube #6
1998 Pacific Online Winners Mark Grace #141