I’ve been playing disc golf for a while now and I’ve heard the phrase ‘first run disc’ a few times over the years. I was never really interested in figuring out what people were talking about until I heard someone swear by their first run disc, claiming that nothing else flew as well. That got me interested and I started looking into it.
So, what is a first run golf disc? A first run golf disc refers to the first manufactured batch of a specific disc model, typically indicated by a unique ‘First Run’ stamp on the disc. Since first run discs are limited edition, these have become especially popular among collectors and can sometimes go for 10 times the cost of a later production batch.
You’ve probably heard player’s talk about their first run disc affectionately. However, not all valuable discs are necessarily first runs. There are also prototype discs and other rare discs can carry a high value if you know where to look and what you’re looking for.
First Run Golf Discs
I would say that there is no other phrase in the sport of disc golf that has caused so much contention among disc brands and disc collectors as that of the first run disc. In manufacturing terms, a run is technically all copies of a disc that were created from the same setting and the disc is only described as a second run if substantial changes are made to the disc configuration.
However, in disc collecting terms, a very rough description of first run would be when it is the first appearance of the disc in question. To explain a bit further, the first time a manufacturer releases a new disc, all copies of that disc that are created without major changes can be considered a first run. If the initial manufacturing run of this first run sells out and the brand decides to produce a subsequent manufacturing with the exact same mold, the disc could be called a first run, second batch. On the other hand, if later changes are made to the disc after its first manufacturing, perhaps the mold of the disc is slightly tweaked, then the disc would be described as the second run.
To make matters more confusing, each time a new brand releases an instance of the same disc but uses a different plastic or stamp configuration, they may describe this as a first run as well. I’ve seen instances of where a brand will describe these later first versions as a first release, especially when it is a signature disc of a professionally sponsored player. You can now start to appreciate why there is so much debate about first runs. If there are two or more discs with the same name described as a first run with slight variations, then a collector will want to know which one is superior.
The majority of collectors want the ‘true first run’ disc or the version of the disc that supersedes all other runs chronologically – and sometimes detective work is required to identify the true first run. The confusion around first runs is usually when there isn’t a distinguishing feature that is unique enough from subsequent runs that the general collector community would recognize. Some brands chose not to easily identify their first run discs, while some of the older original discs made never had any stamps whatsoever.
Do First Run Discs Perform Better?
There are players out there that consider their first run discs to be superior to subsequent runs. But is there any truth to that?
When someone throws a specific type of disc for a long time, they get used to the feel and flight. They know exactly how that disc will perform. However, over time discs can get wore down and damaged to the point to where they are unusable. If you hit a tree just right with a driver on a power throw, your disc can get cracked or ripped. At that point, usually a player will go out and try to buy that same disc. Only this time they find that it flies nothing like their original!
A common misconception here is that the first run of the disc in question was superior because it flew correctly. This is unlikely. It is more likely that the disc they threw for so many years had changed over time due to wear and tear. Now that they have a new version of that disc they have no recollection of the original flight path. A broken in disc will tend to become more understable. The new disc is performing exactly as the disc was always designed. Once a disc starts to be used it becomes unique, even if just slightly, from being used.
A popular strategy among disc golf players is to buy multiples of the same disc at the same time (thus ensuring they are all from the same run) and use all of theses discs interchangeably. This allows the discs to wear somewhat evenly overtime. Thereby giving the player a longer time-horizon with the disc type. Instead of seeking a replacement every few years, this could extend that time period for multiple years into the future, and delay the learning curve of an entirely new disc.
Prototype Golf Discs
Prototype golf discs are becoming popular among some brands. A prototype disc can be considered almost the same as a first run. There is a slight variation in that a prototype usually indicates the disc is not yet in major production yet. The prototype version is what is used for the first larger manufacturing run. Consequently, a prototype disc is considered ever rarer than a first run since less of them are made. This is great for collectors and even better when ‘Prototype’ is stamped on the disc.
Rare Golf Discs
First run and prototype discs only scratch the surface of all the collectible discs in disc golf. There are numerous other features that can make a disc rare and therefore valuable. First run and prototype discs just happen to be the most popular and easiest to identify as rare. And these days, brands are catering to the fact that people are now collecting golf discs by marketing and really emphasizing when a disc is a prototype or first run. This builds up hype and anticipation among the player base, which leads to more sales for them.
There are also discs that unintentionally become rare. For example, there are misprint discs. A misprint disc is when the wrong stamp or an imperfect stamp is applied to a disc during the manufacturing process. These instances are exceptionally rare because of the serendipitous nature of the occurrence. Even if they tried to recreate the misprint it would almost be too difficult.
Another rare type of disc are limited stamps, where the disc is created for a specific event or occasion. You’ll typically see these at professional tournaments. And only people that actually attend the event are able to obtain these discs. Not all of these discs become interesting to collectors except for when the event was memorable for some other reason such as a close battle for the world title. Also, brands will occasionally knock it out of the park with a breathtaking stamp that is limited release during a holiday or an anniversary of sorts.
There are also signature discs that professional players will put out in conjunction with the brand that sponsors them. These have a lot of hype around them because a player will typically only put their signature stamp on the disc if it is something they are known for throwing and doing well with. Of course, when fans sees a player performing well with a particular disc, and then that player further endorses the disc with their signature, people are going to flock to it. The signature is only a stamp, so if you can get the same professional player to physically sign the disc, all the better.
Lastly, there are vintage discs. Modern day disc golf has only been around since the 1970’s, but that is already enough time for some discs to be considered vintage. Since disc collection has only become popular in disc golf more recently, most players in the 1970’s weren’t exactly holding on to their discs as an investment. When they purchased a disc they used it. Which is why vintage discs are some of the most valuable collectibles.
If you can find a vintage, prototype/first run, signature misprint disc you’ve struck gold. Although I’ve never seen one with some many rare qualities.
How Much Does a First Run, Prototype, or Rare Golf Disc Cost?
As one would expect, cost will vary among these discs. When a disc is initially put on the market as a prototype or first run, the disc will typically only cost a few more dollars than a regular disc. A few more dollars now can really pay off down the road if it turns out to be a very liked and sought after disc. After a disc has aged for a few years and most of the discs being to fall out of population, you’ll notice the price begin to rise.
Popular First Run, Prototype & Rare Golf Discs
Some of the most popular first run, prototype and rare golf discs on the market today are tied to Paul McBeth, arguably the disc golf player in the world. The most expensive first run discs on the market are from Paul’s early years with Innova. Now that he is with Discraft all of his signature discs are flying off the shelves. I would venture to guess that his Discraft signature discs will be worth a lot of money one day, especially since we can already see that with his Innova signature discs only 5 or 6 years ago.
Do You Have Any Valuable Discs?
After reading through the first part of this post, you may be wondering ‘are any of my old discs worth anything‘? The only want to know this is to look.
The best way to do do this is to search online to see if anyone else is selling something similar. When searching for similar discs to establish value it’s important to find versions that match the disc in your possession as accurately as possible. This will help approximate the value. Search carefully and avoid spelling mistakes. If no one is selling the disc you are wanting to sell, look for something from around the same time period. If still nothing comes up that is similar, then you can always establish the market value by posting it on eBay.
Condition is very important and will greatly influence value more than anything. A beaten-up old disc that is falling apart will have little value on the collectibles market. A first run or prototype signed by a pro player will have even greater value. Ultimately, scarcity influences value. If you are the only one that has a certain type of disc that is in good condition, you can ask for any price you want without competition.
As a worst case scenario, most disc golf retailers will accept used trades-ins for in-store credit.