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My Favorite Insert Sets

My Top 10 List + 2 (Updated April 15th, 2021)

The list below is made up of my favorite Insert sets.  This list is made up of insert cards, excluding any Autographs or Game-Used, (They have there own section). The only requirement is that I have to have the insert set started, in order to count it.

To me insert sets serve a two-fold purpose for the card manufacturers.  First, they give the company an indication on how well their product is received.  In other words, they give the company a very good proving ground on future products.  This technique has been used several times.  The 1995 Fleer product included an Insert set named "Flair Preview Insert" for its future Flair Series of cards, (See the Flair page).  Topps Stadium Club in 1994 had an Insert called "Bowman's Best Preview" for its upcoming 1995 release Bowman's Best.  Secondly, the manufacturers use insert sets as a way to keep us, the collector's, coming back for more.  How many boxes / packs have you bought trying to put that final Insert set together?

Now with the internet, locating other traders, online auctions or online card shops it has made it so easy to locate missing cards to complete sets.  Thank God for the internet.

The sets listed below are my favorite insert Sets; (Excluding Memorabilia and Autograph cards):

1) 1996 Topps: “40th Anniversary Retros” - Was this a sharp way to mark an Anniversary!! Nicely done Topps.

1996 Topps: “Blaine Bishop”

40th Anniversary #12

2) 1996 Donruss: “What If?” - Now this was a stroke of genius. What if Donruss had released cards back then, what would they look like? I really think this should be done more often.

1996 Donruss: “John Elway”

What If? #10

3) 1997 Leaf: “Lettermen” - Another one of the felt cards that for 2 years, (1996 and 1997), exploded onto the hobby scene. This one may have been the best of them.

1997 Leaf: “Mark Brunell”

Letterman #5

4) 1997 Topps Stadium Club: “Never Compromise” - To this day, I still think the photography on these cards, (especially the rookies), is one of the best ever.

1997 Topps Stadium Club: “Reidel Anthony”

Never Compromise #NC14

5) 1995 Upper Deck: “Special Edition” - Superb Photography. And the pictures chosen by Upper Deck haven’t been seen in 5 different sets. I like that.

1995 Upper Deck: “Carlos Jenkins”

Special Edition #SE48

6) 1997 Ultra: “Comeback Kids” - Nice Touch. Even the stock has a kind of old parchment feel to it. A Classic.

1997 Fleer Ultra: “Dan Marino” 

Comeback Kids #1

7) 1994 Upper Deck SP: “Holoview” - They slipped from #4 to #7, but still reside on this list. Honestly, there were so many of these sets that Upper Deck released and they were all very cool. Any of them could have made this list.

1994 Upper Deck SP: “Johnnie Morton” Holoview #PB13

8) 1997 Skybox Premium: “Premium Players” - Very clean, very crisp, very collectible.

1997 Skybox Premium: “John Elway”

Premium Players #143

9) 1994 Upper Deck SP: “Focus on the Future” - Another one from the minds of Upper Deck. Another one that is still cool after all these years.

1996 Upper Deck SP: “John Mobley”

Focus on the Future #F9

10) 1998 Upper Deck SPx: “HoloFrame” - Upper Deck created a ton of these Hologram cards in the 90s and these are some of my favorites.  The 2nd listing in the top ten for Upper Deck holograms, (See #7 for the other one).

1998 Upper Deck SPx: “Terry Allen”

HoloFame #HF20

I like to hold a couple spots for sets that recently fell off the "Top 10" list or sets that just couldn't crack the "Top 10", but should still have a word said about them. So without wasting any more time here are my 2 "Honorable Mentions".

11) 1997 Ultra: "Ultra Specialists" - I really liked both the Ultra "Specialists" and the Parallel to that set; the Ultra: "Ultra Specialists". The latter of which, opens up to reveal more about the player. I don't normally collect "Parallels", but Ultra did a great job on these!!

1997 Ultra: “Eddie George” Ultra Specialists #1

12) 1995 Playoff Absolute: "Pigskin Previews" - This set has fallen over the last several years, but back in the late 90s and into the new millennium, I considered this set one of my favorites. I liked the leather insert in the card.

1995 Playoff Absolute:  "Cris Carter" Pigskin Previews #5

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