Tag Archives: onyx


Onyx was a short-lived baseball card manufacturer that was in business from 1990-1991. During their brief time producing cards, Onyx inserted packs and boxes into the collecting market alongside the established leaders like Topps, Donruss, and Fleer. Due to their short print run and lack of brand recognition, Onyx cards are quite scarce today. This scarcity does make their cards intriguing to some collectors. Whether Onyx cards actually hold monetary value depends on a few key factors.

To understand the worth of Onyx cards, it’s important to know about the company’s history and place in the late 80s/early 90s baseball card market. Onyx was established by entertainment executive George Grief and sought to compete with the major card companies. They had agreements with MLB Properties and the MLB Players Association to use team logos and player likeness on their cards. Onyx released cards in 1990 and 1991 featuring current major leaguers as the flagship part of their offerings. They also had oddball sets like turn-back-the-clock cards showing players from past eras.

Despite having the licenses, Onyx faced an uphill battle against the established brands that had built up collector trust and loyal fan followings over decades. Distribution of Onyx products was also limited compared to Topps, Donruss, etc. Many retail outlets declined to carry yet another baseball card brand. Without wider availability, it was difficult for Onyx to gain traction among the collector base. The early 1990s marked the tail end of the junk wax era when overproduction had saturated the market. Collectors were more selective about what new cards and companies they supported.

After just two years, Onyx ceased operations in 1991 amid struggling sales. Their short print run combined with lack of broader popularity has made Onyx cards some of the scarcer issues from the late 80s-early 90s period. That scarcity does not directly translate to high monetary value for most Onyx cards in the current market. There are a few key reasons why:

Reputational issues – As an unestablished brand during the junk wax era, Onyx never developed the collector goodwill of the bigger companies. Some skepticism remains about their collectibility long-term.

Condition concerns – Due to their short time on the market, Onyx cards tend not to have been cared for as meticulously as issues fromestablished brands. Higher-grade specimens are tougher to come by.

Overproduction elsewhere – While Onyx editions were more limited than contemporaries, the late 80s/early 90s period overall saw immense overproduction that has depressed values across the board.

Niche appeal – The scarce Onyx issues tend to be more attractive to niche collectors pursuing complete runs or oddball sets rather than the general population.

Alternative investments – Many collectors in recent decades have put more emphasis on vintage cards or star rookie cards rather than lesser-known 1990s brands like Onyx when building baseball collections.

So while the scarcity of Onyx cards makes them novel, that alone does not guarantee price premiums in the marketplace. The top rookies, stars and more historically significant Onyx cards can carry values of $10-50 or more in high grades. Most run-of-the-mill common player issues are unlikely to fetch more than a few dollars even in pristine condition. True high-end Onyx cards that could exceed $100 are exceptionally rare. Unless a collector has a specific focus on the Onyx sets, there are generally more lucrative investment options from the same era. While the short printing makes Onyx cards a interesting niche in the market, their lack of brand prestige and weaker player selection means high values are elusive for most issues from the company overall. Scarcity does not necessarily equate to profitability long-term as a collectible investment.

While Onyx baseball cards have an aura of intrigue and scarcity due to the company’s brief history, most issues do not carry high monetary value today. Their lack of brand recognition, product distribution challenges, and release during the oversaturated late 80s/early 90s landscape make Onyx a second-tier collectible investment compared to the giants of that era like Topps and Donruss. Only the most significant Onyx rookie cards, stars or oddball sets tend to cross the $100 threshold. But for niche collectors pursuing complete sets, some Onyx cards hold more value as curiosities than financial assets. The bottom line is scarcity alone does not make a profitable collectible, as issues like reputation, condition, and overall player selection still greatly impact demand and pricing long-term.


The 2022 Onyx baseball card release marked another highly anticipated set from the premier sports card manufacturer. After exploding in popularity in 2021, Onyx continued to innovate and refined their craft with their newest offering. Featuring some of the biggest names in the game on card designs with exquisite details and autographs of rising young stars, the 2022 Onyx set delivered for collectors.

Several factors led to 2022 Onyx becoming one of the most sought after releases of the year. First, Onyx had established themselves as a leader in premium memorabilia cards by pairing some of the best relics and autographs on the market with their renowned photography. They brought this to another level for their 2022 set. Secondly, the rookie class and future stars featured were exceptionally strong. Names like Julio Rodriguez, Bobby Witt Jr., Riley Greene and more were highlighted among the early release checklist teasers generating buzz. Lastly, Onyx created a mystique around limited parallel color variations and mega hit short prints that collectors craved solutions.

When the full checklist was publicly revealed weeks before release date, it became clear 2022 Onyx did not cut any corners. Veterans and active HOFers like Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Clayton Kershaw and more graced the base cards through a mix of new and classic action shots. Parallel versions in gold, black, camo and auto-centric “Ink” parallels numbered to 25 or less amplified the chase. The true short prints most coveted were red shimmer and red rainbow parallels limited to a mere 5 copies each. Red shimmers of Trout and Ohtani immediately commanded collector attention.

Rookies and prospects featured throughout established 2022 as a definitive snapshot of the next MLB generation. Seattle Mariners star and AL Rookie of the Year Julio Rodriguez anchored the class with three distinct autographed memorabilia cards including an awe-inspiring dual autograph and jersey relic auto numbered to a minuscule 3 copies. Kansas City Royals touted farmhand Bobby Witt Jr. joined him with autographed variations of his own. New Detroit Tigers flamethrower Riley Greene, Los Angeles Dodgers touted prospect Miguel Vargas and more all received autographed and memorabilia highlighted cards as Onyx set the stage for their futures.

For experienced collectors, hunting specific parallel color variations of stars became the true challenge and thrill of 2022 Onyx. Gold parallels /50 and black bordered “Shadow” variations /25 of stars like Aaron Judge, Juan Soto and Yordan Alvarez highlighted active talents. Veteran legends likewise received these treatments with some of the best parallel pulls including a Shadow Albert Pujols /25 and Sandy Koufax /25. Inscriptions enhance several of these ultra-short prints adding to their rarity. The “Ink” autograph parallels took premium chase cards to a new height with inserts like an autograph Joc Pederson /5.

When all was said and done, 2022 Onyx baseball fulfilled expectations as a true high-end showcase release. From unprecedented rookie talent, to parallel color variations that pushed collectors creativity in attaining their PC grails, to some of the finest on-card autos and memorabilia in the hobby – 2022 Onyx delivered a well-rounded experience. After sales facilitated community discussing individual hit cards for months. While supplies will remain limited long term keeping rarity high, 2022 Onyx has cemented its place as one of the absolute pinnacle issues to collecting during a golden age of the sport. Its legacy will inspire collectors and shape chase goals for years ahead.


Vintage baseball cards from the late 1800s and early 1900s are highly sought after by collectors due to their rarity, history, and artistic design. Cards made during this era are commonly referred to as “19th century tobacco cards” or “tobacco era cards” as they were primarily included as incentives or premiums in tobacco products. One of the most intriguing subsets of vintage baseball cards from this era are the beautiful and intricate onyx printing lithographic cards.

Onyx printing lithography was a complex multi-step process for creating intricate prints and images that was prominent during the late 19th century’s Gilded Age. Instead of using inks or paints, onyx lithography involved laboriously carving intricate designs onto polished slabs of black or darkly colored onyx. These polished onyx “stones” were then used to transfer their carved designs onto paper or cards through pressure printing. The finished onyx lithographic prints had an incredibly fine level of detail and vibrant contrast between the jet black stone and untouched white paper.

Some of the most renowned printers and lithographers of the time like Kellogg & Bulkeley extensively utilized the onyx lithography technique to produce exceptionally high-quality and collectible baseball cards for brands of cigarettes and tobacco products. Examples include the classically ornate 1886-1887 N284 Old Judge cigarette cards featuring stars like Roger Connor and Tim Keefe. Onyx lithography allowed for amazingly intricate designs showcasing each player along with beautiful decorative borders. The polished ebony stones retained the finest lines and most subtle shadows, resulting in extremely sharp and detailed prints.

While very collectible and found in the hands of dedicated vintage card collectors, onyx lithographic baseball cards are amongst the rarest of all 19th century issues due to the highly specialized techniques required for their creation. Only a small number of premiere lithographers like Kellogg & Bulkeley had the skill and costly onyx printers necessary to produce them. The intricate carving of each stone limited print runs. Cards were also likely more delicate and prone to damage versus standard ink or paint impressions. All of these factors combined make unblemished onyx lithographic specimens particularly scarce in today’s hobby.

Grading and preservation is especially critical for fragile onyx lithographic cards over a century old. Even minor handling can cause microscopic cracks or abrasions in the fragile black stone impressions. Placing the old fragile cards in protective holders is ideal for long-term preservation but also allows collectors to appreciate the exquisite detail that was possible through onyx lithography. Experts suggest looking closely at light areas under magnification for signs of worn print qualities versus natural production variability. Top-graded specimens with strong solid blacks and clear whites can earn values many times greater than common tobacco era issues.

While their rarity and grading requirements make high-quality onyx lithographic baseball cards an expensive specialization, dedicated collectors appreciate them as singular works of artwork and history from the dawn of the hobby. Seeing the intricately carved players, uniforms and decorative elements that were so carefully impressed on polished onyx “stones” over a century ago provides a tangible connection to the era in which baseball cards first flourished. With card production moving to other mass manufacturing techniques after the 1880s, 19th century onyx lithographic issues offer a one-of-a-kind premium experience for vintage card aficionados. As the rarest and most finely crafted tobacco cards in existence, these pieces of pop culture history continue to captivate collectors with their beauty, mystique and ties to America’s pastime.


Onyx baseball cards are a unique collectible item due to their rare and unusual material – onyx stone. Onyx stone is a variety of chalcedony which is a microcrystalline form of silica. It is a durable and beautiful stone that has been prized for use in art, architecture, and jewelry for thousands of years across many ancient cultures. While baseball cards made of paper, cardboard, or plastic are common, onyx baseball cards represent the intersection of two interests – stone craftsmanship and the sport of baseball.

The idea of creating baseball cards out of onyx originated in the late 1970s when custom stone carver Gary Delaney was looking for new challenges to showcase his talents. At the time, Delaney had been creating stone inlay art and sculptures for over a decade. He wanted to apply his stonecutting precision to something unique that combined his skills with his love of America’s pastime. Delaney spent months researching the earliest baseball cards from the late 1800s to gain inspiration for designs that would translate well to stone.

In 1979, Delaney released his first set of 12 onyx baseball cards featuring star players from that season like Reggie Jackson, Rod Carew, and Nolan Ryan. Each card measures approximately 2 inches by 3 inches and is precision cut from semi-precious onyx stone in shades of black, gray, and white layered patterns. Delaney spent weeks carefully drawing each player portrait and batting stance onto translucent paper which was then traced onto the stone surface. He used an assortment of miniature drill bits, diamond tipped cutting wheels, and needle rasps to carefully remove stone and reveal the subtle lines and details of each image. The result was lifelike representations of the players etched permanently into the layered onyx.

The release of Delaney’s 1979 onyx baseball card set was met with fascinated curiosity from collectors and stone art aficionados. No one had ever seen baseball cards crafted from such a rare and precious material before. Each card was a true work of art as well as a tribute to the players and game. Over the next several years, Delaney continued producing limited sets of onyx baseball cards featuring the top players and teams for each season. Production was slow due to the intricate handcrafted process. Sets were very small, typically ranging between just 10 to 30 cards each.

Due to their unique material, scarcity, and excellent condition decades later, onyx baseball cards from Gary Delaney’s early production runs in the 1970s and 1980s have grown exponentially in value for serious collectors. Complete original sets in near mint condition can fetch tens of thousands of dollars at auction today. Even individual high-grade vintage onyx cards of iconic players like Mickey Mantle or Ty Cobb can sell for over $1000 each. This is in stark contrast to traditional paper or plastic cards from the same era which often sell for just a few dollars.

Collectors value onyx baseball cards not only because of the craftsmanship and creative concept, but also due to the durable semi-precious stone they are carved from. Onyx is much more archival stable and resistant to wear compared to paper or cardboard. Onyx cards from 40+ years ago still look brand new with vibrantly etched lines and tones unchanged by the ravages of time that paper cards usually succumb to. They truly encapsulate the player or event they depict in a permanent artistic memorial.

In the late 1990s and 2000s, Gary Delaney’s demand as the premier onyx baseball card artist faded as his advancing age slowed production. But his original creations sparked new interest among collectors and inspired other stone carvers to take up the craft. A small number of other talented lapidaries began producing limited runs of onyx baseball cards between 1997-2010 notably Chuck Czenkusch of Maryland and New Jersey based carver Richard Wood. No other artists have yet matched Delaney’s track record and critical acclaim accrued over 30+ years perfecting the artform.

Today, incredibly rare and early onyx baseball cards created by Delaney in the 1970s and 1980s remain the Holy Grail for advanced collectors. Finding high grade specimens of iconic players in a complete mint sets is a longshot. In January 2016, one of Delaney’s 12 card 1979 inaugural sets sold at auction for a staggering $58,785, cementing its place as the most valuable baseball card set ever created prior to the 1980s. Individual cards from that groundbreaking first run frequently trade hands at four figures as well.

While production has slowed, the concept of onyx baseball cards lives on as a unique niche collecting category celebrating both America’s pastime and the art of stonecutting. New limited runs are still occasionally released honoring modern players and milestones. But the magic consistently attributed to Gary Delaney’s pioneering works from the 1970s and 80s ensures they will likely never be surpassed in terms of value, innovation, and collectible prestige achieved through extraordinary artistry and tribute to the game. Onyx baseball cards are enduring collectible works of art that fuse two passions and push creative boundaries in a way that still captivates collectors decades later.