I wanted to learn a little more about some sets from the 1990s and thought the best way to do it would be to look at company sets in the PSA Set Registry across all four sports and find the ten most collected in the hobby. I ended up using the All-Time Finest numbers since that’s what PSA uses on their index, so not all of these have as many “active” collectors as listed. However, many graded set collectors don’t list their cards on the registry. So this number is as good an estimate as any other. So here are the ten most collected graded sports card sets of the 1990s.
10) 1990 Leaf Baseball – 29 Sets
After Upper Deck shook up the market in 1989, Leaf released this higher-end up-scale set in 1990. The cards are still pretty in demand today – and the unopened product has really skyrocketed up in price over the past few years. 1990 Leaf was released across two series with the key cards being the rookies of Frank Thomas, Sammy Sosa, Larry Walker, and John Olerud, along with the 2nd year card of Ken Griffey Jr.
8T) 1990 Upper Deck Baseball – 31 Sets
1990 Upper deck is a monstrous 800-card set with a clean design. While it can’t measure up to its predecessor in 1989, quite a few collectors are still drawn to Upper Deck’s second baseball card release. The key cards are similar to the 1990 leaf set, but there’s no Frank Thomas card; otherwise, some are Ken Griffey Jr., Sammy Sosa, John Olerud, Juan Gonzalez, Larry Walker, and Nolan Ryan.
8T) 1994 Flair Hot Gloves Baseball – 31 Sets
1994 Flair Hot Gloves were inserts in Series 2 1994 Flair packs. The die-cut cards are pretty popular since, at the time, the design was groundbreaking.
7) 1991 Fleer Pro Visions Basketball – 33 Sets
The 1991 Fleer Pro Visions basketball set is small, with only six cards, all of Basketball Hall of Fame legends; David Robinson, Michael Jordan, Charley Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, and Magic Johnson. The artist renditions were 1st series 1991 Fleer inserts that came about one in every six packs. A graded set of 6 PSA 10 cards will run you about $800 and shouldn’t be that tough to complete as PSA has graded over 2800 of these cards.
6) 1992 Stadium Club Beam Team – 36 Sets
The Beam Team cards stand out among a pretty common-looking base set, and they came about 1 in every 36 packs, so putting together a set of 21 is pretty tough, especially graded, since I think they only came in Series 2 packs. But a high-end set is going to cost you; a Shaq Beam Team in PSA 10 is a $5-7k card!
5) 1991 Upper Deck Nolan Ryan Heroes Baseball – 44 Sets
Upper Deck highlighted Ryan’s career with nine inserts, the most popular card being the autographed one of which Upper Deck made only 2500 copies.
4) 1990 OPC Premier Hockey – 55 Sets
The 1990 OPC Premier hockey set was OPC’s response to the premium brands already mentioned (Leaf and Upper Deck) for the hockey market. This set was incredibly popular when it came out and remains a junk-era powerhouse today. With only 132 cards, it’s a more manageable “non-insert” set to complete graded, but the rookie cards aren’t going to come cheap in high-grade (Jagr, Roenick, Fedorov, Modano, Sundin, and Joseph)
3) 1993 Finest Refractor Baseball – 60 Sets
The 1993 Finest Refractor baseball set is likely the toughest to complete on this list. The cards came inserted 2 per box and are really expensive; collectors believe some are short prints, too.
2) 1991 Topps Desert Shield Baseball – 69 Sets
I’ve written about Desert Shield cards a few times on the blog, and it’s one of the most expensive early 90s sets you can collect, and as #2 on this list, incredibly popular. Topps made this unique release, with gold foil logos, for troops involved in the first Gulf War.
1) 1990 Fleer All-Stars Basketball – 80 Sets
Only a 12-card set, these All-Star cards are an achievable graded set to complete, and it has a GREAT Jordan card. There are 21 complete PSA 10 sets on the registry (4 belong to one collector).
In researching and building this list, here are a few things that stood out to me:
- 1993 SP Baseball isn’t that popular as a complete graded set. I figured Jeter’s popularity alone would drive more people towards completing the entire set graded.
- Only a handful of football sets from the 90s had at least ten people working on a graded set: 1990 Fleer All-Pro, 1990 Pro Set – Master, 1990 Topps, 1991 UD Joe Montana Heroes, 1995 Topps, and 1998 Finest, and as you can see, none of them made the Top 10.
- Going in, I guessed that 1991 Topps Desert Shield would be #1; I was close.
- I didn’t even know what the 1992 Stadium Beam Team cards were, on title alone, so that was a big surprise. However, after seeing it, the Shaq card does look familiar.
- Given the vast numbers of vintage sets on the registry, I thought there would be a few more big competition-intense sets in the 1990s; perhaps the decade was just too “junky,” and the current cost of grading is just too high to submit 600 commons to PSA?
Thanks for checking out this list of the ten most collected PSA sets of the 1990s. If you collect any of these, I’d love to hear about your progress in the comments or over on Twitter, and happy collecting!