Why ’90s Insert Cards Are Relevant
It’s winter here in the Mid-West, Northwest Indiana more specifically, about 30 minutes east of Chicago. As I write this its currently 35 degrees which isn’t too bad compared to other winters. I’m asking fellow collectors to get me the bug spray. An odd request being its the first week of the new year. You see, I’ve been bitten by a bug! A 1990’s Insert Card Bug! This bug has bitten others as well and we may be on the verge of an outbreak.
In the last 12 months or so I’ve noticed this trend of 90s insert cards gaining lots of hobby steam. Out of curiosity, 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 of its 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 had another Facebook Group specific to Bonds. On a particular day, he was speaking with a fellow collector and it came up in conversation. “I wish there was a Facebook Group that dealt with the ’90s insert cards for all players,” said his friend Alan. Nathan said, “I tell you what when we get off the phone I’ll start one.” And on September 5, 2017, the group was born.
Nathan goes on to say, at first it was challenging because collectors were just wanting to go on the group to just 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 its become a community of collectors with a platform to show off their beloved collections.
Shout Outs to two other ’90s insert card guru’s that have influenced me this past year, Matthew and Greg from The Essential Credentials YouTube Channel and/or Podcast. I got a chance to meet Matt at the 2019 National and I found him to be a legit dude.
So what’s this all about? What’s all the hoopla about 90s insert cards? Why is it a thing?
Why ’90s Insert Cards Are Relevant Today
- DESIGN – 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 started in 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 can 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 were plentiful, beautiful and left collectors breathless.
- SCARCITY – another feature of the ’90s insert card is the scarcity. This was achieved in one of two ways; serial numbers and/or pack odds. In its infant stages, some insert cards were serial numbered to /10,000 but it 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 or higher!
- CHECKLIST – ’90s insert cards typically 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 pertaining to the theme were what made the checklist roster.
- AFFORDABILITY – ’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. You can visit a local card show with a $50 budget and walk out with some really nice ’90s inserts.
What makes them most relevant today is perhaps the nostalgia factor. When these scarce, high eye-appeal inserts first came out was at the height of a sportscard boom, one that has not been seen since and doubtful that it will ever be duplicated. The generation of the day was either guys my age, the Generation Xers, those of us who were 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 these cards. But they remember, 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.
It’s like that Alan Jackson song Remember When it 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 30 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.
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 months ago and have decided to start a ’90s insert card PC of Sammy Sosa!
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 hey if it’s okay for Harrey Carey and Sammy Sosa it would be okay for me too. Also, Sosa’s career spanned from 1989 – 2007 which covers the ’90s insert cards era perfectly. And lastly, that personal connection. The break up 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. I too know that feeling all too well with my place of employment.
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 was always smiling, making the media and fans laugh and ran around the bases after hitting a home run with a small flag of the United States. 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 and I believe ’90s insert cards will forever be a vital part of collecting history too.
Happy Collecting, Collectors
Learn. Collect. Enjoy.