The 90’s were filled with lots of great innovations that the hobby had never seen before. Collectors were introduced to rare parallels, inserts, relics, and autographs. Baseball fans got their first taste of pack inserted autographs with 1990 Upper Deck. Within packs of 1990 Upper Deck you have the chance of pulling a Reggie Jackson on-card autograph individually numbered to 2,500. Today the hobby is flooded with autographs. But if I pulled a Reggie Jackson autograph today, I’d still be excited. So I can’t imagine the excitement collectors felt when they began pulling these in 1990.
By the end of the decade, autographs were becoming much easier to pull. At the beginning of the decade collectors had the slightest chance of pulling an autograph from a single pack. When the decade wrapped up, the hobby had products where every pack contained an autograph. The first high end pack that I opened like this was from 1997 Donruss Signature Series. I went on to open (3) packs pulling autographs of Jeffrey Hammonds, Todd Hollandsworth, and Eric Young.
Probably one of the most influential “autograph per pack” products from the 90’s would have to be 1999 Sports Illustrated Greats of the Game. Fleer and Sports Illustrated worked for three years together, but this would be their last product between the two. Inside each pack you’ll find an autograph of a retired and/or Hall of Fame player. I think that is what made it so influential since other products like this at the time dealt mainly with current stars of the game. The base set consists of 90 cards. Inserts include Cover Collection and Record Breakers. The Record Breakers inserts do have gold parallels.
Combining the photography of Sports Illustrated with all of these autographs makes for a nice looking set. Although I think they could’ve done without the white box at the bottom. Boxes are very hit or miss. Autographs of Reggie Jackson, Willie Mays, and Stan Musial are some of the better cards to pull. But you aren’t going to find them easily. Sealed boxes command huge prices in today’s market. A single box will cost over $200.00. Almost as much as some of the rarer autographs themselves. Fleer continued to use the Greats of the Game name for years to come before eventually going out of business.
I can remember opening (1) pack of this stuff and pulling a Bob Gibson autograph. It’s football counterpart yielded me autographs of Lenny Moore and Otto Graham.