Insert Card Craze: Topps Black Gold Baseball Cards of the 1990s
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 we have Topps Black Gold. The inserts had a short-lived two-year run in 1993 and 1994, but they were a hot commodity when they first hit the market and their design has stood the test of time.
1993 Topps Black Gold
Hall of Famers: 16
After introducing a parallel set for the first time in 1992 with Topps Gold, the long-running Topps flagship product line unveiled its first true insert set—at least in the way we know inserts today—with Topps Black Gold.
The cards were a difficult pull at 1:72 wax packs, 1:24 rack packs and 1:12 jumbo packs, though unearthing singles was not the only way to build the set.
There were also randomly inserted “You’ve Just Won” cards that could be sent in to Topps along with $1.50 shipping and handling to obtain 11, 22 or 44 cards from the set, based on which of the redemption cards you pulled.
The first 22 cards on the checklist were National League players and were found in Series 1 packs, while the next 22 cards were American League stars and found in Series 2 packs. The redemption card to receive all 44 cards was also found in Series 2 packs.
Roberto Alomar, Andre Dawson, Ken Griffey Jr., Tony Gwynn, Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez, Kirby Puckett, Ryne Sandberg, Ozzie Smith, Frank Thomas, Larry Walker and Dave Winfield are the Hall of Fame hitters in the set.
On the pitching side, Dennis Eckersley, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and Lee Smith are the Hall of Fame pitchers on the 44-card checklist.
1994 Topps Black Gold
Hall of Famers: 17
After the success of 1993 Topps Black Gold, the inserts returned for a second go-around in the 1994 Topps flagship set.
This time around, they were found in 1:72 wax packs, 1:36 cello packs, 1:24 rack packs and 1:18 jumbo packs. The checklist was once again 44 cards, with the AL players featured in Series 1 and the NL players slotted in Series 2 packs.
The redemption cards also returned, and while they can no longer be redeemed as of Jan. 31, 1995, there is still a decent secondary market for the ABCD redemption cards that could be redeemed for the entire set thanks to their scarcity.
While there were plenty of returning players from the 1993 checklist, there were also a handful of notable newcomers as Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, Paul Molitor, Mike Piazza and Cal Ripken Jr. all joined the Topps Black Gold party among Hall of Famers after being excluded from the 1993 set.
The Black Gold inserts were scrapped in 1995 with CyberStats parallels and League Leaders inserts taking their place, but they were resurrected for the 2021 Topps Update set with a 25-card checklist featuring a mix of the game’s top stars and some of the top rookies in that year’s product. They are identical in design to the 1993 Topps Black Gold inserts, and helped revitalize some interest in the original inserts.