A Review Of 2022 Leaf Metal Baseball – Do More Autos Make Up For Being Unlicensed?
Leaf Metal Baseball is one of the more divisive releases in the baseball hobby. Some dismiss all Leaf releases due to their unlicensed nature. Others love all the autos and the trademark Leaf design style.
Love it or hate it, Leaf Metal Baseball has carved out an auto prospect-heavy niche. So how does this year’s release stack up? Read our 2022 Leaf Metal Baseball review to find out.
History of 2022 Leaf Metal Baseball
The Leaf trading cards company was launched in 2010. In 2014, Leaf relaunched Leaf Metal Draft Baseball, “describing it as the return of one of the hobby’s most sought after prospect driven products.”
The company was formed by Brian Grey, who had previously founded Razor Entertainment, best known for an ill-fated exclusive auto agreement with no. 1 MLB draft pick Tim Beckham. The company should not be confused with the historic Leaf company, which sold its rights to Cadbury in 2010. That company released Leaf Baseball boxes until 2008.
The company releases have a noted disadvantage. They are unlicensed. As you know, that is a major turnoff for most collectors. But they make up for that issue with a generous helping of autographs. As a result, the per-dollar yield of autos in Leaf products is generally the highest in the hobby.
In 2011, Leaf launched Leaf Metal Draft Baseball. The Bowman prospecting concept heavily influenced it. But all 6 cards you got were autos. Alongside the prospects, Leaf also threw in veteran stars like Pete Rose and Ichiro Suzuki. And that is how Leaf Baseball products have differentiated themselves ever since.
The 2014 release launched Leaf Metal Draft Baseball product was similar in scope and purpose. Leaf promised “Not only the top draft picks and 2014’s top prospects but a couple of additional surprises as well!,” which sounds remarkably similar to the Draft product.
But I guess they wanted to differentiate it as a slightly less prospect-oriented product. The differences remain unremarkable to this day.
2022 Leaf Metal Baseball Review release date
Leaf is often late to the party in disclosing their release details. This year was no different. After initially vaguely signaling a January/February release, the company pushed back the date. They have now confirmed a final (we hope) date of March 3, 2023. A bit late for a 2022 release, but it’s better than never and all that.
2022 Leaf Metal Baseball release formats
2022 Leaf Metal Baseball comes in two release formats. There is a regular hobby box and a jumbo. Leaf Metal Baseball does not have retail releases. Here are the specifications for both hobby formats:
2022 Leaf Metal Hobby Box
- 6 autographed cards per box
- 5 regular autos numbered 10 or less
- 1 unslabbed pre-production proof auto
- Peacock and Giraffe parallels are hobby exclusives
- Boxes are preselling for $150
- 10-box cases are currently going for $1,500
2022 Leaf Metal Jumbo Box
- 10 autographed cards per box
- 2 unslabbed 1-of-1 pre-production proof autographs
- 1 slabbed 1-of-1 pre-production proof autograph per box
- Zebra parallels are jumbo box exclusives
- Boxes are currently preselling for $250
- An 8-box case is going for $2,000.
2022 Leaf Metal Baseball pros
When you get a Bowman product, you really have to hunt for an auto. Meanwhile, Leaf gives you nothing but autos, most of which are from the same prospects you chase in Bowman Draft. And even better, you get it for a fraction of the price.
For example, the regular 2022 Leaf Metal Baseball Hobby Box costs less than the Lite Bowman box and a quarter of what you pay for the Jumbo release.
And there is no overprinting in the 2022 Leaf Metal Baseball release. Each card is an auto, numbered up to 10. That is a marked improvement over the 2021 box, wherein each card was numbered to 20. Leaf is hoping the extra scarcity will add value to their autos’, which are generally not particularly strong.
Leaf said they did so to “ensure short supply.” Leaf has touted this as a “huge and monumental change.” That might be just a tad hyperbolic. Either way, it is a welcome change that will make the set stronger.
2022 Leaf Metal Baseball cons
The most significant and unmistakable disadvantage of the Leaf Metal Baseball release, and all of their products in general, is that they are unlicensed. That drives away most collectors and harms the value of Leaf cards.
That brings us to the second significant drawback of these cards. Even if you hit a tremendous prospect and they pan out: you just know that the card will be worth significantly less than its Bowman equivalent.
Finally, the Leaf autos are sticker autos. These are generally less popular and valuable than on-card autos. But in the case of the Leaf cards, it is a particular drawback. It adds to the general sense that the autos in this release are a bit tacky and unserious.
Finally, if you buy into 2022 Leaf Metal Baseball for the prospect autos, you may be disappointed in some of the changes this year. We will deal with that more in depth below. However, it appears that the prospect autos will be watered down with some veterans this year. To me, that seems like a disadvantage in most cases.
A matter of taste: The Leaf Metal Baseball design
Leaf has made a consistent choice in aesthetics to favor bolder and more colorful designs with the metallic sheen that the product name promises.
Undoubtedly, they invest a good deal of effort into the designs, coming up with new and refreshing patterns. At their best, Leaf produces a more focused and aesthetically unified design concept than their more prestigious Bowman rivals.
However, with their storied 70-year heritage, both Bowman and Topps skew a bit more traditional in their concepts. Though they often look more Leaf-like in some of their inserts. Since the quality of designs is arguably comparable, the Leaf design concept isn’t so much an advantage or disadvantage.
It is a question of what you prefer as a collector. But I believe Leaf deserves a lot of credit for investing time and money in attractive designs that often push the envelope.
2022 Leaf Metal Baseball checklist
Leaf has not released any info on their checklist as of yet. We will update this article when they do. But the company has vowed to “revamp their draft products and make them more general baseball products.”
They have touted the 2022 Leaf Metal Baseball release as the start of that process.
In other words, there will be more veteran cards. At the same time, past products had a sprinkling of a veteran presence. However, this year there will be “a ton of vet autographs.” More specifically, about 1 or 2 per box.
Veteran Autographs added
If you are only on the hunt for prospects, adding a large number of veteran autos is bad news. However, Leaf’s list of retired legends is quite impressive. Here are the names Leaf released in their YouTube video release:
- Ronald Acuna
- Johnny Bench
- Ken Griffey Jr.
- Chipper Jones
- Don Mattingly
- Greg Maddux
- Mariano Rivera
- Pete Rose
- Nolan Ryan
- Mike Schmidt
The list is very focused on Hall-of-Famers and superstars. And since these are low-numbered, often beneath /10. Therefore, they may hold substantial value; however, since we don’t have direct precedents, it’s hard to say how valuable they may be.
A new introduction to the checklist is dual and triple autographs. They will fall 2-3 per case. In other words, in somewhere between 20-30% of boxes. The doubles and triples can include any combination of prospects and veterans.
2022 Leaf Metal Baseball Review inserts
Leaf has had an issue with monotony in their baseball products in the past. Sure, there aren’t too many cards in a box, and the designs are cool. But you would often open a box and get six base prospect cards.
There were few inserts available in previous years’ sets. But 2022 Leaf Metal Baseball aims to change that with a reasonably good variety of inserts. They offer 10 new parallels/inserts for your collection enjoyment.
Here are the ones I managed to catch sight of:
An insert designed to highlight the many Hall-of-Famers amongst the veterans in the checklist. However, although they will feature legends with low-count cards, the design for these inserts is underwhelming.
The design for these cards includes crystal balls and all sorts of new-agey stuff. It sounds dumb and kinda is. But the design for the one I saw was outstanding and looked better than any of the other inserts in 2022 Leaf Metal Baseball.
These autos come with an action shot of the player on a space-themed background. So, you will have satellites, planets, stars, and the like. The design is nothing earth-shattering, but these are lovely cards nonetheless.
1st Round Gems
The series will highlight the best prospects to emerge from the first round of the 2022 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. In a typical display of clever card company wordplay, the design places the touted young gun with a background highlighting various precious stones.
2022 Leaf Metal Baseball value
The main problem with unlicensed cards is that the value suffers. Most sports collectors aren’t interested in products like this. We will usually buy in when we have a personal collection of a player or team.
That preference will always take its toll on the overall value. But how much of an issue is this? And does the lower price of the product make up for it? Let’s take a look at the overall value of wax and singles.
There isn’t a ton of unopened Leaf wax available on the market. And there is a reason for that. People think it isn’t worth much, so they open it. Paradoxically, that may drive up the price of wax in the long run.
Anyway, the upshot is we don’t have too much data on the unopened stuff. But I tried to gather what I could.
|2021 Leaf Metal Draft Baseball Hobby Box||$80|
|2021 Leaf Metal Draft Baseball Hobby Box||$93|
|2021 Leaf Metal Draft Baseball Jumbo Box||$173|
|2020 Leaf Metal Draft Baseball Hobby Box||$130|
|2020 Leaf Metal Perfect Game All-American Baseball||$160|
|2020 Leaf Flash Baseball||$110|
The new boxes will be pretty different from the old ones shown here. We have already explained why above and will give more info about that in the final word. So, we can’t be sure how the new box will measure up. But Leaf boxes seem to hold their value.
But there is no real reason to stash them, which is probably why so few people do. But that means the boxes may get quite scarce eventually. So that may change.
Now the fundamental question. How well do these Leaf autos do on the open market? Is it worth trying to get some of their better lower-numbered autos? Or are they not worth the investment? First, let’s look at the numbers.
|Leaf Card||Value||Rough Bowman Equivalent||Value|
|2015 Leaf Draft Aaron Judge /5 Red Auto PSA 10||$7,500||2013 Bowman Draft Aaron Judge /75 Auto BGS 9.5||$6,200|
|2018 Leaf Metal Shohei Ohtani /15 BGS 9.5||$1,138||2018 Bowman Sterling Shohei Ohtani /25 Auto||$22,000|
|2020 Leaf Flash Auto Julio Rodriguez 1/1 PSA 9||$1000||2021 Bowman Chrome Julio Rodgriguez /25 Auto PSA 9||$1,500|
The comparisons are very difficult to make for two reasons. First, the numbering and grades are often different. But second, it is clear the market doesn’t really know what to make of these fancy Leaf autos.
However, they do have reasonably good value. The Julio Rodriguez card in this chart is instructive. A 1/1 Leaf is worth about what a /25 or/50 Bowman would go for. So, the best Leaf autos are pretty good cards. And considering how much easier they are to obtain, that is something to consider.
With that in mind, reducing the autos from /20 to /10 is an excellent step for increasing value and might see a resurgence in interest.
The final word on 2022 Leaf Metal Baseball
We are impressed to see Leaf completely revamp this product. In a time when a lot of the big card companies are getting lazy, these outsiders are willing to change their concept completely. Of course, you may argue that this is because the previous concept didn’t really work. And you wouldn’t be wrong.
But some credit is due nonetheless. The company has announced that they want this year’s product to be “far more scarce. And really collectible and fun to open.” And they have certainly taken some important steps in that direction.
So overall, I believe the product this year will be superior to previous years. The value should be higher, and there will be more variety so that the rip will be more entertaining.
Of course, the product will remain unlicensed. But you already know that. Leaf is still striving to, and succeeding, in creating value anyway. They promise that future releases will look more like this and less like previous iterations. That is definitely a good thing.