Anyone who collected cards back in the late junk wax era will know the cards pictured above. Manufacturers had just started paying serious attention to how insert cards were affecting the marketplace. Once the 90’s hit and Upper Deck included a Reggie Jackson signature card in their High Series Boxes, all hell broke loose and it seemed every new issue had to include a famous player limited signature card.
Master set builders were just getting used to finding those elusive inserts, by either buying many more boxes than sanity would dictate, or look for ways to trade or buy from others the cards they needed. The worse inserts, speaking in an “ease to find and pay for” context were the signature cards. Every one, was offered and sold in the multiple hundreds of dollars. It made a master set builder on a budget cry because they saw the death of their style of collecting coming on them like a break-less train.
For me, it was when I stopped buying new boxes and began looking backward in time for my collecting fun. I focused on Hall of Famer cards and sets going back to 1981. I wasn’t going to pay 500 dollars for a card that was found in a pack of cards issued a few weeks earlier. Why do that when I could buy a nice rookie card of most Hall of Famers for the same or less of a price. I asked myself if I would rather have a Reggie signature card from 1990 (in 1990) or buy a nice copy of his ’69 rookie card. The decision was stupidly easy to answer. All my sets from the early 90’s are still incomplete because of the signature insert. Who would’ve guessed that that period of time was actually the calm before the storm. Soon relic, jersey, game-worn, 1/1. 5/5 cards would become the norm and the master set builder would disappear from the card collecting landscape, much to my chagrin.