Updated: Jul 2
Someone hand me the bug spray. Summer is set to officially begin this week, and a bug has bitten me. A 1990's insert card bug! This bug has bitten others as well, and we may be on the verge of an outbreak.
Trend-Setting Facebook Pages Lead the Charge
In the last four years, I've noticed this trend of 90s inserts cards gaining lots of hobby steam. Curious, I followed this trend to a Facebook Group called "1990s to 2004 Baseball Card Rare Insert Collectors Group."
Personally, I've been a member since January 2018. It's an active group with many members posting their most recent pickups or PC favorites.
In doing my research, I noticed inside the list of Admins and Moderators a familiar name, Nathanial Blackford, who is one of the ambassadors of the '90s insert card community with his YouTube channels Topps85401 and is also Co-Host with Eric in the ever-popular BaseballCardJunkiesTV.
I reached out to Nathan because I wanted to know the origins of the Facebook Group. An avid Barry Bonds collector, Nathan has another Facebook Group specific to Bonds.
He proceeds to tell me the story. One particular day, he was speaking with a fellow collector, and it came up in conversation. "I wish there were a Facebook Group that dealt with the '90s insert cards for all players," said his friend Alan.
Nathan replied, "I tell you what, when we get off the phone, I'll start one." And on September 5, 2017, the group was born.
Nathan says, “At first, it was challenging because collectors just wanted to go on the group just to sell anything and everything, and that wasn't what he wanted for the group.”
But with the help of his Admins and Moderators, they've been able to clean things up, and it has become a community of collectors with a platform to show off their beloved collections.
So What's All the Hoopla About 90s Insert Cards?
Perhaps the biggest and most obvious draw is the design. Cards created within this era were some of the most stunning cards ever made. The insert card boom unofficially started around 1991 and, by 1994, was in full throttle.
Many collectors who were around then will testify that it appeared manufacturers were competing against one another to see who could come up with the best insert cards.
From the ever-popular refractors to game-used jersey cards, to serial numbered and don't forget about the autographs, the flurry of insert cards was plentiful, beautiful, and left collectors breathless.
Another feature of the '90s insert card is scarcity. This was achieved in two ways; serial numbers and/or pack odds. In its infant stages, some insert cards were serial numbered to /10,000 but quickly evolved into lower numbers.
Today many of the hardcore '90s insert collectors prefer them serial #'d/250 or less. Another factor that defines scarcity is the pack odds. Insert parallels were commonly inserted 1 per pack or 1:4 packs.
But the more desired ones were typically 1:24 packs or 1:36 packs, and they went up from there, some being inserted only 1 per case!
Oftentimes, the '90s insert cards had a theme like Heading for the Hall, Statistical Standouts, Call to Arms, or RBI Kings are good examples.
Typically but not always, the checklist was 10 or 20 cards deep for that particular themed insert set, and they always gave you the top names of the day. Guys like Griffey Jr, Frank Thomas, Cal Ripken Jr, etc. the top players made the checklist roster.
The '90s insert cards can, at times, be lumped together with the "Junk Wax Era" (a term I hate, but that's a topic for another day), and for those reasons, at times, can be found at affordable prices. You can get some really beautiful cards for just a few dollars.
But there's some high-end stuff, too, especially for those bigger names, but even then, you may be talking $200-$300+ for something ultra-rare. Also, for those starting out, you can visit a local card show with a $50 budget and walk out with some really nice '90s inserts.
Nostalgia Spans Multiple Generations
What makes them most relevant today is perhaps the nostalgia factor. When these scarce, high eye-appeal inserts first came out were at the height of a sportscard boom. The day's generation was either guys my age or Generation Xers (those born between 1966-1980).
We pulled many of these inserts from packs of cards or purchased many singles at card shows or at the start of the eBay era. But since we were starting out in life, be it marriage, children, or careers, at some point, we sold them, gave them away, or lost them altogether.
There was also the Millenial Generation, those born in the '80s and '90s. They may have been 8 or 9 years old when these insert cards peaked and perhaps were too young to understand or didn't have the resources to purchase them.
But they remember being at their Local Card Shop and someone pulling an epic card from a pack. They remember going to card shows and seeing all that silver, gold foil, die-cut refractor goodness behind those display cases.
Now both generations are older and have the financial resources and stability in life to make such purchases.
Now's Our Chance!
It's like that Alan Jackson song Remember When says, "Remember when thirty seemed so old now looking back, it's just a stepping stone, to where we are and where we've been, said we would do it all again, remember when."
Today, if you're between 35 to 60+ years old, these '90 insert cards may have inspired you at some point, and now is a great time to do it all again. In fact, many collectors are, and this is why the '90s insert cards are relevant today.
1999 & 2000 Topps Gallery, Gallery of Heroes
For me. Well... I have a master's degree in Hall of Fame rookie cards with a minor in Michael Jordan and Roberto Clemente. That's my primary and secondary collecting focus. But I was bitten by that bug a few years ago and have decided to start the '90s insert card PC of Sammy Sosa!
Why I Decided to Jump In
I grew up a White Sox fan, but my wife is a big-time baseball fan and loves her Chicago Cubs, so when we got married, I became a Cubs fan. I figured if it's okay for Harrey Carey and Sammy Sosa, it would be okay for me too.
Also, Sosa's career spanned from 1989 - 2000, which covers the '90s insert cards era perfectly. And lastly, that personal connection. The breakup between Sosa and the Cubs was a difficult one. He did his job well but was basically considered an outcast at the end of his run with the Cubs.
Lastly, I PC Sosa because, despite his awkwardness at one point, he resurrected baseball. In 1998, Sosa and McGwire gave us that magical season. McGwire seemed to isolate himself from the media and fans, but Sosa embraced it.
He was the lovable hero who always smiled, making the media and fans support him as he ran around the bases after hitting a home run with a small flag of the United States.
Above all else, his 609 career home runs may be questionable, but he impacted the game of baseball and will forever be a vital part of its history. I believe the '90s insert cards will forever be a vital part of collecting history too.
Until Next Month,