Chaos and Kanji is the blog where I write about my adventures through Japan!

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Friday, February 8, 2019

Essential fOils

While everyone laments the difficulty in parting with their excess "junk wax" era cards, few people realize that the late 1990s is full of sets that are interesting and challenging to complete.

I started collecting as a kid during the height of the overproduction period, which was fine with me. I just wanted to buy packs to get cards and maybe make sets. And I didn't even make any real progress in that respect until 1992, when I built the 1992 Topps set pack by pack, with a little trading or buying at card shops thrown in.

As many investorscollectors left the businesshobby around 1994 card strike, card companies were getting more and more innovative with their inserts. It was the 1990s that brought us certified autographs in packs, relic cards, and parallel mania. And before relics and autos really became the selling point of boxes, rare and interesting inserts were the thing.

Remember Fleer ProVisions? People liked those because they looked cool. Rookie Sensations? Donruss Elite inserts? They were super-rare and attractive.

These days, there are plenty of good-looking, desirable insert sets, but they rarely hold the drawing power of a 1990s Upper Deck SP. A lot of my set collection is made of sets from the 1990s, some of which are proving to be quite difficult to finish at a reasonable price.

Take 1996 Pinnacle's Essence of the Game:
Inserted at a rate of 1:23, or about one per box, this 18-card set is full of big names, many of which are in the Hall of Fame. There are rarer cards in 1996 Pinnacle, but the clear acetate background with orange stars (my scanner can't really pick those up) and metallic top really looks great in person. And that's what matters to me. So that's why I'm trying to finish the set.

Since the 1990s are often overlooked and forgotten by sellers, COMC and Sportlots don't have a great selection of cards from the set. But after picking these two cards up at a small card show here in Japan, I'm pretty close to finishing the set off. A little bit more effort this month will see this set knocked off the want list for good!


  1. Some of my favorite cheap card purchases are inserts from the 90's that once captured the hearts of collectors. Depending on the sets... there are a few sets that have really started to rise in popularity... and so have the card values.

    1. Some sets have always remained pretty valuable, though cheap singles slip through the cracks. Donruss Elite inserts, some of the Upper Deck SP cards and Baseball Heroes sets. It's hard to find Topps insert sets that have remained consistently pricey. At least that I can think of right now.

    2. I just thought of one. Fall Classic Covers, the 2004 insert set with images from all of the previous World Series program covers. That set is proving quite challenging to finish on a budget.

  2. 90s inserts are some of the best ever made, some say THE best. Especially the mid to late 90s inserts like Bowman's Best, Pinnacle and Pacific.

  3. Bowman's Best look nice but never quite dragged me in. Yet I did put together the 2011 Bowman's Best inserts. Pinnacle dominated my want lists when I got back into collecting, and there are still several sets I want to finish. I like a lot of what Fleer did, too.

    Pacific was one of those brands that stayed off my radar when I was collecting in the 90s, though I didn't ignore it completely. But when I got back into the hobby in 2003, I found a lot of really unique insert sets that are nearly impossible to find now, at least at decent prices.

    I have a feeling some of Panini's stuff will be like that, too. Yes, there are no MLB logos, but I feel they have had some quality releases. Not everything is great, but I appreciate what they're doing over there.