The Card Collectors Beginner’s Guide Part 4: Inserts by Matt Gilman

Greetings Fellow Collectors!

Welcome back to my series of Card Collecting Basics, where I break down the hobby of card collecting piece by piece.

In Part 1, I discussed and broke down what Base/Common Cards are, Part 2 we got deep into the confusing Sp’s and variations, in Part 3 I dove into what parallels are and gave you some examples of them. Today we will tackle something a bit simpler, Inserts.

Inserts are cards inserted into packs, sometimes at lower frequencies, that look different or have a different feel than the base cards. There are a few rare occasions when the inserts will look like the base cards; I will tackle that in a few paragraphs as well as how to tell the difference.

Inserts can be found in all sports and non-sports cards. Sports cards just happen to be what I used for my examples.

Inserts are considered their own set within the main set product-building we have talked about in this series. Most insert sets are usually between 10-20 cards. Sometimes they are a bit bigger and can go all the way up to 50 cards. Most of the time, however, they are kept smaller since they are not a base set.

Let’s take a look at a few inserts, shall we?

Here is a 2017 Panini Playoff Flea Flicker insert that features the Kansas City Chiefs and their offensive stars, Alex Smith (now with the Washington Redskins), Kareem Hunt and Tyreek Hill. It’s a basic designed insert that’s not overly flashy, which is how a lot of today’s inserts appear.

Here is the Alex Smith base card in 2017 Panini Playoff football. Notice how the insert is much different in design? It also just features Alex Smith and not a trio of players.

Here is a 2018 Diamond Kings, Rafael Palmeiro, ‘The 500’ insert.

And here is the base card design for 2018 Diamond Kings baseball. Sorry, I didn’t have a Rafael Palmeiro base card for my example, but I think you can see the difference with this one of Jose Ramirez compared to the insert above.
If visuals are too hard for you to tell the difference, another way to tell apart an insert from a base card is by looking at the back of the card. As we saw in my base card article in Part 1, the back of a base card usually has a common number such as 101 or 255 or 3. When it comes to an insert, they usually have some lettering attached to the number. The 500 insert card of Rafael Palmeiro has No.500-RP in the right-hand corner. What’s that number telling us? It’s letting us know that it’s the insert set ‘500’ and has the featured player’s initials. Other inserts may include things such as M13, GG44, TO-9 or other letter and number combinations.

Other basic insert examples include this 2017 Panini Classics Super Bowl Heroes Adam Vinatieri

This 2018 Topps Heritage 1969 Mookie Betts Collectors Card is a Yellow Target Exclusive, meaning you can only find this insert at the retail store Target.

Here is a 2018 Prestige Rising Stars of Marshon Lattimore
Some inserts aren’t as basic as the ones we just looked at. Some have some an added shine, like this 2018 Topps Chrome Future Stars of Lucas Giolito.

And this 2018 Topps Chrome Super Star Sensations Francisco Lindor

Some also have some unique textures like this 2016 Panini Playoff Pennants Die Cut Clay Matthews. This card has a felt feel to it. Pretty unique.
Some are even printed on acetate (we spoke about this before but it’s a type of plastic) like this 2017 Panini Illusions Illusionists Tyreek Hill. Panini put a nice design into this one with the acetate and rainbow foil touch.

Some inserts will even have parallels like this 2018 Score Fantasy Stars of Melvin Gordon.

We discussed Parallels in part 3. Just remember that they are ‘amped up’ versions of the original card.

Here is the 2018 Score Fantasy Stars Melvin Gordon Gold Parallel

And here are the two cards side by side so you can see the difference.

Remember that parallels can sometimes be numbered, and the same goes for insert parallels. Also, remember that insert parallels will be tougher to find than the regular insert. This means if an insert card falls at 1 in every 4 packs, the parallel of that insert may fall 1 in every 20 packs. This makes the parallel of the insert more valuable as well.

On rare occasions, an insert can look like and possibly make you think it’s a base card. A perfect example is this 2018 Topps Opening Day Mascot card of Screech, who is the Washington Nationals mascot. The card front is the same as the base card set, however, if you were to turn it around, you will see that the number is that of an insert with M-25.

It’s not usual to find in packs that the base card matches the insert. This may be the only insert that looks like its base counterpart and it took me a while to realize it.

Having grown up in the 90’s collecting world, I will say, today’s inserts nowhere near touch what I used to see and enjoy. Inserts today, for the most part, fall one-per-pack and have a basic design like the few I showed above. The values on the inserts are not quite as much either as it feels overproduction has taken effect.

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Back in the 90’s, inserts fell at a bit of a tougher rate for some products and some were extremely rare to find then, and even more so today. But, even if the 90’s inserts fell one-per-pack, the value was always there. They were also a lot more enjoyable to collect as designs were done fancier, the printing technology was more advanced, and it seemed the competition back then made the companies put out their best efforts into every part of their products. Today, we have one company per sport putting out cards, which doesn’t leave much imagination when it comes to putting out a product. In the 90’s, we had multiple companies for each sport driving their imaginations to another level and putting out some top-notch products. I also think the rise of autographs and memorabilia cards has hurt the basic parts of a product, such as the base cards and inserts, with everyone’s focus on the hits.

Here are just a few samplings of inserts from the 1990’s. I want you to take a second and absorb them and then compare them to the ones that are put into products today. If you choose to, give me your thoughts in comments if you agree or disagree that inserts from the 90’s far surpass what we see on the market today.

Here’s the first insert example from the 1990’s which is this 1996 Collectors Edge Presidents Reserve, Running Mates Rodney Peete and Ricky Watters. This is a dual-sided card, meaning one player on the front and the other on the back (I feature only the front of the card here). It has a foil covering and fits the theme name of the product. There is also a background picture of an Eagle along with a watermark of the back of the card. Up close, this card is superb in design.

The next card is a hologram, which is a three-dimensional image. These three-dimensional images can be seen on the cards if you tip them in the right lighting. If you don’t use the right lighting, you will just see a plain silver section. When it is tipped at the right angle, it’s almost like the player is jumping off of the cardboard at you without needing the 3D glasses. A pretty amazing sight to see.

I featured a holographic card in the first post about base cards with the 1990’s Spx cards. This hologram insert card I am featuring today is a 1991 Upper Deck Game Breakers card of Ernest Byner.

I put this card in the sunlight and captured the right angle. It’s too bad that the technology of holographic cards has sadly been lost in today’s collecting world. How can you not enjoy a card this beautiful? And why hasn’t Upper Deck brought back their once dominating technology?

The final example insert card I am using from the 90’s is this 1999 Fleer Focus Sparkler’s insert of Peerless Price. This card combines glitter and cardboard. It really “sparkles” in the light. The 90’s used a lot of different textures on their cards from glitter to felt to even a wood grain feel. It was a time of fun innovation and one of the greatest times of my collecting career.

The inserts I featured of the 90’s above are just a touch of some that I own. I do own many others and still collect them to this day, as, not only do they look impressive, but they also hold their value over the years and give me that nostalgia I desire.
That does it for today for inserts. Next time we will get into Memorabilia and Autograph cards, which are the main components of the product house- buildup I spoke about in Part 1. Today’s inserts are the inner walls to our Product House. The Autographs and relics are the roofing and décor of the house, the parts that make the house look so pretty and make you want to buy them; I will show you why that is next time.

I hope something I wrote about today can help guide you on your journey of trading card collecting.

Til next time, keep collecting!

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