Insert Card Craze: Fleer Pro-Visions
In the days before serial numbers, relic cards, certified autographs and countless parallels, simple base insert cards ruled the hobby.
The first modern insert cards arrived on the market in the late 1980s, but it wasn’t until the early 1990s that the insert card craze truly swept the hobby, aided in part by rising young superstars Ken Griffey Jr. and Frank Thomas.
In the coming weeks, we will be taking a look back at some of the more memorable insert sets from that era and their progression over the years.
We turn our attention this week to one of the decade’s iconic insert sets in Fleer Pro-Visions. The over-the-top illustrations were a staple in Fleer products throughout the first half of the 1990s before the company rebranded in 1996. While they might not carry big values, Pro-Visions have maintained their popularity as well as any 90s insert set.
1991 Fleer Pro-Visions
Hall of Famers: 1+2
1991 Fleer Baseball has only two insert sets, the long-running Fleer All-Stars and the newly introduced Fleer Pro-Visions.
While the All-Stars inserts are only found in jumbo packs, the Pro-Visions inserts are randomly inserted into wax and rack packs. The black-bordered cards were a stark contrast against the bright yellow-bordered base set when opening packs, and the 12-card checklist is loaded with some of the biggest stars of the day.
Mark McGwire, Bo Jackson, Dwight Gooden, Roger Clemens, Don Mattingly and Darryl Strawberry are among the biggest names, while Kirby Puckett was the lone Hall of Famer in the main insert set. The set was the created by artist Terry Smith.
Along with the 12-card that could be found in packs, there were also four additional white-bordered Pro-Visions card included exclusively in factory sets. Ryne Sandberg, Rickey Henderson, Barry Bonds and Dave Stewart were the four stars.
1992 Fleer Pro-Visions
Hall of Famers: 5
In their second year, the Fleer Pro-Visions cards were not released as an insert, but instead as a six-card subset within the 720-card Fleer base set. They are No. 708-713 on the massive checklist and feature some of the biggest stars in the league.
Ken Griffey Jr. and Frank Thomas headline a group that also includes Cal Ripken Jr., Nolan Ryan, Robin Yount and Atlanta Braves rising star David Justice.
They don’t have the same market appeal as the 1992 Fleer Rookie Sensations inserts that helped launch the insert craze of the 1990s, but they are some great, low-cost cards of legendary MLB stars.
1993 Fleer Pro-Visions
Hall of Famers: 3
The 1993 Fleer Pro-Visions cards were featured exclusively in wax packs, with three cards in the Series 1 release and three more included in Series 2 packs.
Roberto Alomar, Dennis Eckersley and Gary Sheffield got the nod in Series 1, while Andy Van Slyke, Tom Glavine and Cecil Fielder were featured in Series 2. While none of those players were hobby superstars, they were all extremely popular at the time.
The cards were a tough pull, and raw copies still regularly sell for $5-10 on eBay.
1994 Fleer Pro-Visions
Hall of Famers: 3
Fleer officially dove head first into the insert card craze in 1994 with a whopping 11 different insert sets, including Pro-Visions which were found in 1:12 wax packs.
The nine-card checklist formed one large picture when they were laid out all together, with aspects of some card designs bleeding over into others to form one cohesive mural-style picture.
Ozzie Smith, Mike Piazza and Tony Gwynn are the Hall of Famers in the set, and the Smith card that pictures him in a wizard hat with the yellow brick road from Wizard of Oz in the background gets my vote for best Pro-Visions card in the set’s five-year run.
1995 Fleer Pro-Visions
Hall of Famers: 3
The 1995 Fleer base set design is an attack on the senses, but there were some great insert sets attached to it, and once again each pack contained at least one insert card to cater to the market demand.
The Pro-Visions inserts were one of the easier pulls with a 1:9 packs hit rate, with only the All-Stars (1:3), Major League Prospects (1:6) and League Leaders (1:8) inserts found more frequently.
Hall of Famers Greg Maddux, Mike Mussina and Jeff Bagwell are joined by Manny Ramirez, Raul Mondesi and Tim Salmon, and the designs are some of the best in the entire run of the insert set.
The Fleer rebrand in 1996 spelled the end of the Pro-Visions cards, but they went out with a bang.