How a simple idea changed the hobby forever

It doesn’t matter how old you are or how long it’s been, you probably still remember the day you pulled your first autograph from a pack of baseball cards. Having been away from the hobby of collecting pictures of men on cardboard for exactly ten years, that day didn’t come for me until 2007. Out of curiosity and thanks in part to a Beckett magazine I found inside of a Barnes and Noble, I wanted badly to bust a box of Co-Signers. I never knew that it was possible to pull an autograph from a pack. I didn’t even know what a game-used relic was!

Are you wondering what my first pack-pulled auto was? Well, it ain’t much to brag about, actually. It’s some guy named Mitch Maier from the Kansas City Royals who hasn’t played in a Major League game since 2006. Yeah, I don’t have the magic “MOJO” touch when it comes to busting wax but that’s another blog, at another time. What I am somewhat disturbed by is the fact that right under my nose there was a product that included autographed baseball cards in packs way before 1997’s historic Donruss Signature Series. If you don’t remember, it was 1991 Upper Deck.

Of course, I missed out on the debut of autographs in packs because the odds of pulling one of these were about as rare as finding a Golden Ticket to Mr. Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Or better yet, about as rare as Kerry Wood pitching an entire season without visiting the disabled list. Still, there were two-thousand, five hundred of them. By today’s standards that’s almost a million autographs. You could have pulled hundreds of them in a single year alone if you bust enough wax. After all, in six months of busting a small number of hobby boxes in 2007 I pulled three different 1 of 1’s and even more with serial numbers so low I could count them on both hands.

I know in these days of collecting having an autograph numbered to more than 100 is like a Scarlet Letter to many but I’d pick this Ted Williams autograph over any 1 of 1, dual, game-used, refractor, printing plate any day of the week!



  1. Mojo is only an acceptable term when referring to the sexual prowess of Austin Powers or when referring to Homer Simpson’s helper monkey. Please be advised.

  2. William, I was talking more about the baseball side of it. I actually have a nice scan of the Montana and Namath. They are two beautiful cards!

  3. All of these cards were amazing – the Aaron, Montana, the Williams, Namath, my god. They are frameworthy for being so nice.

    It really sucks that there arent many of these cards made today, I would think that cards like this of our favorite players would sell like hotcakes. I also think the SP Holoviews would be a great set to bring back as hard signed auto cards.

  4. I see what you mean now, sorry, I tend to think of all sports cards as being one big industry instead of separated by sport. But yeah, you’re right, the 91 UD set would have been the first baseball sigs.

  5. For the 20th anniversary, If they are going to be signed, then I may have to lift the UD ban, or buy some of the singles.

  6. Dave, that’s what I thought about the 1990 set but I was assured by a reliable source it was 1991….and I can’t find any of the Jackson’s on eBay.

  7. Reggie Jackson autographs were found in the 1990 Upper Deck HI SERIES boxes. This was followed up in 1991 with Nolan Ryan in Upper Deck LOW and Hank Aaron in UD HIGH. The 1991 HI SERIES also had autographs from the HOF Class. Donruss also had autographs in 1991 – I believe it was Ryne Sandberg that year, although it may have been someone else.

    So first autographs in baseball – 1990 UD HIGH.

  8. Great Blog, great post.

    The ’90 and ’91 UD sets were my favorites…before I faded out of the hobby around ’93.

    I still have almost a case of unopened ’91 UD wax boxes….now I’m tempted to do some digging and find an autograph.


  9. When these came out talk about SCARCE! How could anyone manage to find or let alone purchase one of ONLY 2,500 cards.
    Upper Deck was the trend setter for an entire industry. And I thank them for it. Sending cards to Spring Training was always hit/miss and this allowed collectors to get an autograph of their favorite players.
    Nice jab at that player on the Chicago National League semi pro post season collapse guaranteed team.

  10. I must agree these autos are the all time best. It’s not the number produced but the fact that Upper Deck was the first to do it. Upper Deck made everyone better who was in the card business at the time and they continnue to do so even as they approach their 20th anav….

    The Joe Montna auto is the all time best because he’s wearing both his 49ers jersey and his Irish #3 jersey as well. As a true fan of the Fighting Irish I gotta go with the Montana #9 as the all time best in my own small collecting.

  11. hi, i am contemplating buying some 1990 and 1991 baseball unopended upper deck boxes and sets from a seller. I notice that there isa randemly inserted reggie jckson au # 2500 in the 1990 and a hank aaron and nolan ryan auto also #2500 my question is does anyone know if all 2500 auto have been acounted for out of these products after all the product is almost 20 years old i would greatly apreciate any response thanks.

  12. I actually own the 1990/91 (i put that because it is listed as 91 but the card says 1990) nolan ryan upper deck card. I have number 848 of 2500. I actually experienced the joy of opening a pack of cards when i was a kid and finding that card in there.

  13. I have the Nolan Ryan card 2241/2500. I got mine by accident when I was buying hockey cards and got 1 pack of baseball cards accidentally.

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