The Mysterious Aqueous Test

For as long as I have been collecting, I have heard stories about the 1990 Donruss Aqueous Test cards. It is believed that there only exist 2,000-2,500 total cards with just a small part of the ’90 checklist included. What that means is maybe your player has one, maybe not.

What is known is that these test cards are popular. Just how popular, you ask? The Ryne Sandberg version reeled in $41 dollars through eBay days ago. Not bad for a 1990 Donruss card that features no fancy technology. It’s perfectly possible that someone is sitting on a box of these somewhere and doesn’t even know what he has.

After doing some quick research, I found out just what Aqueous means:

An aqueous coating is a fast-drying, water-based, protective coating which is applied in-line on press to attain a selection of finishes more economical price than varnish.

This clear coating provides a high gloss surface which protects the surface from dirt, smudges, fingerprints and scratch. Aqueous coating improves postcards durability as they go through mail or inserted in pockets. It is also applied on brochures, catalog covers, flyers and other visual ads.

So that’s that. Now off to check my box of junk wax to see if I have a few of these!

29 thoughts on “The Mysterious Aqueous Test

  1. SteveTX

    I’m confused. Were these inserted at random in Donruss packs? Are they all marked “acqueous test” on the back? Seems like it’d be pretty easy to spot and fairly hard to miss. That said, can’t say I’ve ever heard/seen any of these cards before.

  2. They definitely weren’t inserted into packs – I think they were distributed to dealers like many promo/sample cards. I’ve been trying to track down a Don Mattingly Aqueous Test card for years, and I’ve never found one. I’m close to giving up hope, but now that I see completed eBay auctions for Aqueous Test cards of other players, maybe one day a Mattingly will surface …

  3. I picked up the Will Clark a couple of months ago, and I paid a *lot* more than what the Sandberg went for. For player collectors from this era, the Aqueous Test is one of the true gems. I never thought I’d see a Will Clark Aqueous, much less own one. I had mine authenticated by SGC, and you can see it in the link above.

  4. Theres a story about how years ago someone brought in a few boxes of Donruss to a dealer to sell. The person who brought them in was a former employee and when he left, the dealer was opening a few packs and every one of the cards was the Aqueous. There are the same 2 sellers who usually sell them, but they SLOWLY leak them on ebay for the past few years.

  5. Justin

    I’ve been looking for the Lance Parrish for years. This is second only to 88′ Topps cloth on my Lance want list. I thought after I got the 1990 Donruss Learning series version that Aqueous was all I needed to complete the Donruss. Now I have to find this Blue/White test too…sigh.

  6. Justin, that was my first thought. But didn’t Donruss use different photos for the Best sets? The Mark Lemke photo in the auction is the same as Lemke in the regular issue Donruss I think. Makes me think that even if they aren’t Aqueous then they are some sort of proof or promo cards.

  7. jl

    Over the past week Mario you have posted so many blogs about early 90’s card that were promo’s, test issues, and now this. I have been collecting since 1986, During the period of 1987-1996 I must have bought thousands of dollars in the overproduced cards. With that said, I cannot believe that these cards have been sitting or been stockpiled somewhere. I thought that when the 1991 Elite cards came out that they were the cream of the crop. Why didn’t Beckett at that time make a big deal about these cards. When the 1991 Leaf preview cards came out they exploded on the seen collector gobbled them up. If these cards were as limited as they are being precived I would think that it would have gotten more exposure. I really like to know when these cards started to surface in the collecting world…..

  8. I just found a completed auction for an Aqueous Test Will Clark that sold for over $300 dollars. Wow.

    JL, I got one more post coming on these type of cards.

  9. “I just found a completed auction for an Aqueous Test Will Clark that sold for over $300 dollars. Wow.”

    Over $300? Those Will Clark collectors are nuts, aren’t they?!


  10. Like I stated before… was YEARS after 1990 that these started to surface. Took the years of eBay until alot of collectors found out about them…Now its a waiting game to see if the 2 big dealers that have a stash of them will list the player you need. If I had them, I would do the same thing…..slowly leak them into the hobby. Why sell them all at once? No point when you can get more money putting a few up every once in a while

  11. jl

    Ok, so I went to my local hobby shop and asked him a bunch of questions on the rare cards that have been blog about, the aqueous cards we a dealer exclusive. Dealers had the option of buying these cards when they ordered the factory sets. Most dealers did not buy sets at that time they would only order cases of the wax, and rack boxes. Donruss was testing the market to see if they would catch on. According to him when Donruss could not sell them they gave them to dealers and to fill out a questionare. Most dealers of that era are what OUT OF BUSINESS so there maybe less than expected. Anyone who has bought a collection from a dealer that went out of business and you bought a lot, check your junk, I bet you you have them. My guy, has them, but they are buried in the back under 19 yrs of crap cards.

  12. Cardcop

    I’d be VERY careful collecting cards like this. More than once I’ve seen “super rare” variations suddenly pop-up in the hobby in huge quantities.

    People thought 1987 Topps wrongbacks were fairly rare at one time. Then Kruk Cards auctions over 100,000 of them in 3.200 count boxes on eBay. There were also smaller numbers of errors from other 80’s Topps cards.

    Card company employees could do pretty much anything they wanted. I made a 2000 Leaf R&S Edgerrin James rare White jersey-autographed insert & serial numbered it 001/100 (there is another 001/100 out there), I collect Edgerrin and never will sell this card. Ironically, they sent me three cards back- that was one of them!!!
    I was a Senior Manager at Donruss/Playoff in 2001. I was hired to “clean up” the company- it turned out that they hired me to shut me up. They made me delete my web site a week after I started working there. It was my job- or the web site. I thought I could do more good at the company. You wouldn’t believe the fraud I caught them doing red-handed. The President was selling high-doollar autographed inserts out the “back door” to Dave & Adam’s Card World. I was the whistle-blower which cost me my job (I was forced to quit) & my entire personal card collection. In the end it eventually cost Donruss/Playoff everything too because I had the right evidence.

    I had a web site fighting fraud from 1997-2002. I had just caused Pacific to lose their baseball license because ALL 2001 Private Stock Baseball Game-Used cards were fake. Most were BRAND-NEW items that players never even saw, the rest were spring training items that were attached to no particular player like batting practice bats. That’s how the corked Albert Belle bat got into the product. Nop one ever talkeds about the fact that Japanese players were still refusing to allow game-used bats or jerseys of their’s to be cut-up when Pacific released a Chan Ho Park jersey card in Private Stock- that’s what caused me to start investigating them.

    Believe what you want, but I speak ONLY the truth. I collect only ON CARD Certified Autographed Inserts. I think that eventually everything else will be nearly worthless compared to today’s values.

    James McCay

  13. 1st40/40

    I have not heard that these were given to dealers.. as far as I know these were produced in sheets using this new Aqueous technology and they were stamped test on the back cut to cardstock and never released to the public. they probably entered the market after the bankruptcy for all we know. the vault was open and all their unrealeased stuff was backdoored, sold off in quantity etc. There is no set print run on these thats for sure.. and the forgeries out there are never ending due to the extreme rarity and collectability of them. There was actually a website at one time that was selling only these cards which were all forgeries and going for top dollar.

  14. keith myers

    Hey James this is Keith I’m working on a project involving the card industy and stories like the one you posted are excactly the stories i’m looking for if you can send me an email and we’ll talk thanks

  15. cardcop- The ’87 blank/switched backs are common. Known since release by knowledgable collectors. Happened ALOT in the late 80’s. At age 13 in ’87, I knew. Who thought they were rare?
    The corked bat is Manny not Belle, unless there are 2.

    Blue/White test is a real set.

    jl- Your dealer have a sell sheet or any proof to back that claim? As my research shows your claim to be untrue.

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