Insert Card Craze: Upper Deck Blue Chip Prospects

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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 like 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 Blue Chip Prospects inserts that had a brief but memorable three-year run at the end of the 1990s as one of the toughest pulls in the Upper Deck flagship release.

1996 Upper Deck Blue Chip Prospects

Cards: 20
Hall of Famers: 2

The term “prospect” was used loosely throughout the three-year run of the Blue Chip Prospects inserts. Case in point, 1995 NL Rookie of the Year Hideo Nomo and runner-up Chipper Jones were both included on the 20-card checklist, despite playing a full season in the big leagues in 1995.

That duo was joined by young shortstops Derek Jeter ($30) and Alex Rodriguez ($20) as the headliners in the set, and those two superstars on the rise still carry the highest book value among the 20-card set.

Other notable names in the die-cut ’96 set include Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, Jason Schmidt, Billy Wagner, Garret Anderson and Jason Isringhausen.

They were the toughest pull among Series 1 inserts at 1:72 packs.

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1997 Upper Deck Blue Chip Prospects

Cards: 20
Hall of Famers: 3

The 1997 Blue Chip Prospects inserts have one of the most unique designs of any die-cut inserts from the 1990s, with a foil player photo accompanied by a second photo on what looks like a film slide or enlarged photo negative of sorts.

With a print run of just 500, they were an extremely difficult pull from Series 2 packs, and the checklist was again loaded with big names.

Derek Jeter ($80) has the highest book value in the set, and he was one of several returning players from the 1996 set along with Alex Rodriguez, Chipper Jones and Manny Ramirez.

On the newcomers side, Nomar Garciaparra, Vladimir Guerrero, Andruw Jones, Andy Pettitte and Scott Rolen are the biggest names, while Bobby Abreu, Jermaine Dye, Darin Erstad and Jason Kendall are also worth a mention.

Even common cards in the ’97 set carry a $15 book value, thanks to the combination of scarcity and condition sensitivity stemming from the elaborate design.

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1998 Upper Deck Blue Chip Prospects

Cards: 30
Hall of Famers: 3

The third and final year of the Blue Chip Prospects inserts featured a print run of 2,000, though they were not serial numbered with each one simply saying “1 of 2,000” on the back.

Derek Jeter ($20) was once again the big ticket card in the set, while Nomar Garciaparra, Vladimir Guerrero, Andruw Jones, Chipper Jones, Andy Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez and Scott Rolen also returned for another year.

Top newcomers include Todd Helton, Paul Konerko and Miguel Tejada.

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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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