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Iconic Inserts: 1997 Skybox Metal Universe Platinum Portraits

Updated: Jun 26

Welcome back to Iconic Inserts, where we take a look at some of the most memorable inserts in the history of the hobby. This month we’re taking a look at the beautiful Platinum Portraits from Skybox Metal Universe.

It’s no surprise to see an insert from the Metal Universe brand make the list. The product is responsible for some of the most iconic cards in hobby history, from the one-of-a-kind base set and the incredible PMG parallels. But hidden inside those packs was a SSP insert unlike anything the hobby had seen before: Platinum Portraits.

Debuting in 1996 Fleer Metal, the line was a standard insert that was underwhelming compared to the rest of the Metal set. However, in 1997 that all changed with Skybox Metal Universe Basketball. Platinum Portraits immediately became a massive chase card for collectors and producing one of MJ, Kobe & Iversons most in demand inserts. 

The cards are impossible to miss, utilizing an all-silver color scheme that just POPS. But what really makes them stand out is the unique “die-cut” design that feature a gorgeous portrait of the player, created soley by pinholes in the card, with no drawing or photo. The insert name and Metal logo accompany the portrait, utilizing a contrasting silver foil. The end result is one of the most beautiful inserts ever made. 

The line was so popular it was included in subsequent basketball releases, as well as Metal Universe Football and Baseball brands. The signature “pinhole” die-cut portrait was gone, however, replaced with color portraits. The insert line suffered greatly, and was all but forgotten when Metal Universe folded in the early 2000’s. 

When Upper Deck revitalized the Metal Universe brand in 2021, they knew a good thing when they saw it and kept the classic 1997 Platinum Portraits as a SSP, pinhole die-cut masterpiece, paying homage to the original with a slightly modernized design. They have once again become a major chase card for the brand. 

If you’re looking to add a Platinum Portrait to your collection, you can get some great ones for pretty cheap, although don’t expect the best quality. With Metal cards being some of the hardest grades in all of cards, finding a nice copy or highly graded copy will command an incredible premium. The ‘97 & ‘21-Now cards command the most money, with a 1997 PSA 9 Michael Jordan going for over $12,000, and a 2021 PSA 9 Michael Jordan selling for just under $10,000 in the past month alone. 

The late 90’s produced some of the coolest inserts in hobby history, and the Platinum Portraits line is no exception. Skybox definitely missed the boat on subsequent releases, but thanks to Upper Deck, another generation of collectors get to chase Platinum Portraits for what looks like years to come


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