Sure, you have a 1986 Topps Wade Boggs that he signed for you at a game ages ago and the history of autographed baseball cards probably goes all the way back to the very first baseball cards but what I am talking about is the origin of baseball cards signed and sealed into packs. Me, being naive and misinformed, I thought it all began with the sub-par 1997 Donruss Signatures but as it turns out it goes back much further than 1997. Actually, think back to the awful 1990 releases. There was the plain ’90 Fleer, the ugly ’90 Donruss, and the not so groundbreaking anymore ’90 Upper Deck. Oh, I forgot ’90 Score but that’s because they have never put out a good product in their entire history.
Well, this morning I got to work about an hour early and started going through my new issue of Beckett and was shocked to find out that there were cards being autographed and inserted into packs way back in 1990. The thing was, unless you or your parents were loaded with cash there was almost no chance to pull one of them. As far as I can tell, the very first autograph insert comes from 1990 Upper Deck and it is none other than 500 Home Run Club member, Reggie Jackson.
By 1992 Topps had gotten into the swing of autograph inserts and put some into the 1992 Topps Gold set, but again, out of reach of many young collectors. Score, also put out an autograph insert in packs of 1991 Score but as usual with them they failed miserably. Just look at that God awful Mickey Mantle photo.
By 1994 Upper Deck had control of the autograph inserts and released one of the greatest baseball cards of all-time, a dual-autograph Ken Griffey Jr. and Mickey Mantle card. Game over. In 1997, Donruss Signature was released and anyone with a $20 could finally pull an autograph insert but by then the gimmick was old news to many. Today, you can’t open a hobby box without getting 3 or 4 autograph signatures but to the true collenctor of baseball cards, the magic will always be there.