I remember back when I was a kid, riding my bike to the card shop down the street and buying packs of Topps Finest with my allowance. At the same time, a revolution was starting with cards, moving more to a focus on hits and less on the actual cards themselves. In 1995, the first true mainstream jersey card was produced, and the rest is history.
Since that time, those cards that were brought to the forefront of our consciousness in the early 1990s has become commonplace to the point where they dont even carry the price of a pack any longer. Tooling around on eBay, I found some really cool cards that reminded me where we have come from, and where we might be going. With many collectors believing that hit per pack products have taken the soul away from the hobby and what it used to be, I dont think there is much we can argue with. Not because I think this is a horrible awful thing, but because things change.
As an autograph collector, not a card collector, I like the huge availability of autographs in this era of cards. It makes things interesting to see new stuff constantly being added to the pool. However, we miss the individuality, creativity and artistry there used to be. Here are some of my favorites.
1990′s Upper Deck Autographs
Back in the early days of Upper Deck, they did a great job commissioning sports art to have autographed for chase cards in their sets. Aside from the fact that autographs were basically unheard of, the cards are still thought of as some of the best autograph cards of all time. Signed on card, these works of art have huge print runs by today’s standards, but I dont think anyone cares. They are just awesome examples of how things should be.
1997 Bowman Certified Autos
Even in 1997, it was rare to see autographs regularly inserted in products, let alone ones that bore a bowman name. These cards had everything I love, most importantly a great design. The full game shot and on card autographs looked tremendous, and I am sure that if I had the money to buy some of them in 1997, I would have used every cent to pick up my favorites.
1990s Holoview Autographs
Upper Deck took the idea of higher end cards and used those parameters to create SP. When SP became one of the most popular brands they made, the offerings became more and more lucrative. As a kid, I LIVED to collect the holoview cards, and dreamed of owning a signed one some day. To see that these cards still carry value today makes me happy, and I hope Upper Deck eventually has an opportunity to create more of these the way they used to be.
1997 Upper Deck Legends Football Autographs
Many times on this site, I have commented on the fact that 1997 legends was not only waaaaaaaay ahead of its time, but also that they might be the best autograph set of all time. The design focused on the game action which made the subjects famous, and the on card signatures only made the minimalist design pop that much more. Collectors chase the SPs from this set like dogs, and I wholeheartedly agree with them.
1993 Pinnacle Joe DiMaggio Autos
Its rare that a superstar retired HOFer like DiMaggio has such affordable autographs on such amazing looking cards. The set was produced in 1993 and offered a high end autograph for anyone that wanted to pay the price tag. Not only did the cards generate a huge following, but supply made them within reach for normal collectors looking to buy in right after his eventual death. I love the white borders and the iconic photos, and I wish more guys had the opportunity to do a set like this before they passed on.
With a move to stickers and constant rehashing of previous designs, we will never see the golden days again. That hasnt stopped Topps and Upper Deck from trying to capture the golden days – many times successfully – in their recent releases. I have to say that I am 100% in agreement that autographs in products should continue. I am less in agreement that effort is the same as it used to be, especially with some of the products we have seen hit shelves from certain companies.
Regardless of how I feel, I think the results speak for themselves.