Insert Card Craze: SP Holoview Baseball Cards of the 1990s

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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.

Next up is a look back at the SP Holoview F/X and Special F/X inserts that were the pinnacle of premium when they first hit the market in 1994 as part of the second product release from SP, the premium product line from Upper Deck.

1994 SP Holoview F/X and Holoview Special F/X

Cards: 38
Hall of Famers: 9

Best known for the Alex Rodriguez Rookie Card in the base set, the 1994 SP product line also introduced one of the iconic insert sets of the 1990s in the Holoview and Special F/X insert sets.

The Holoview F/X inserts took the 3D hologram technology that was utilized in Upper Deck and various other products in the early 1990s to another level, and the result was a great looking insert set.

The Holoview F/X inserts were found in 1:5 packs and are sometimes known as Holoview Blues, while the Special F/X inserts have a die-cut design and are a much tougher pull at 1:75 packs. The Special F/X inserts or Holoview Reds have an estimated print run of just 700 copies.

While he did not appear in the base set due to licensing issues, Michael Jordan has a card in the Holoview F/X and Special F/X sets. On the flip side, Barry Bonds and Frank Thomas were pulled from the checklist due to their endorsement deals with Donruss.

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1995 SP Special F/X

Cards: 48
Hall of Famers: 13

The 1995 SP release did away with the “base” version of the F/X inserts and just had the Special F/X cards inserted 1:75 packs.

Ken Griffey Jr., Cal Ripken Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Greg Maddux and Roger Clemens are the headliners of the 48-player checklist, though there were also a handful of obscure names, including up-and-coming prospects Melvin Nieves and Billy Ashley.

There was still no Barry Bonds or Frank Thomas. The Detroit Tigers, Milwaukee Brewers, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals are the only teams without a representative in the set.

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1996 SP Special F/X

Cards: 48
Hall of Famers: 19

The “Blues” and “Reds” returned for the 1996 SP set with the base blue version inserted at a 1:5 rate and the die-cut red version again found at a tough 1:75 pull rate.

The front of each card features a player photo and a holoview image in the shape of the outline of the player’s home field, similar to the Home Field Advantage subset cards in the 1994 Upper Deck set.

Barry Bonds and Frank Thomas were finally part of the set. And while there is no shortage of superstar talent with 19 Hall of Famers and plenty of other 1990s standouts, there are also more than a few oddball inclusions with Mets pitching prospects Jason Isringhausen and Paul Wilson on the checklist along with Giants pitching prospect Osvaldo Fernandez.

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1997 SP Special F/X

Cards: 48
Hall of Famers: 20

The 1997 SP set was groundbreaking in that it was the first set ever to include buy-back autographs as a celebration of the product line’s fifth anniversary.

However, the Special F/X inserts were also back for one final year, with a flashy new design that highlighted the holoview image better than ever before.

Similar to 1995, there was again no base version, as all of the cards were die-cut and found at a 1:9 pack pull rate. There are actually only 47 cards in the 1997 Special F/X set, as the 48th card is of Alex Rodriguez and done in the style of the 1996 SP Special F/X cards with No. 49 on the back to line up with the 1996 checklist.

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The SP product line was rebranded as SP Authentic in 1998 and the Special F/X inserts were phased out in favor of the Chirography autographed inserts that would become a staple in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

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Joel Reuter

Joel is a National MLB Columnist at Bleacher Report who has spent the last decade as a full-time MLB writer. A lifelong Cubs fan and Chicago resident, nostalgia drives his card-collecting focus. He is currently working on assembling the entire base catalogs of four of his all-time favorites—Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee.

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