Next up in my nomenclature of the Hobby series we're going to talk about parallels. Specifically base card parallels.
Disclaimer: I do not consider myself a trading card expert or any kind of authority on the subject. I'm just a collector with 35 years of experience. These posts are just my opinions and are meant to be informative and educational. Feedback and/or suggestions are welcome (as long as they're civil).
First let's talk about a term you may or may not have heard of but will be popping up in the next couple posts. Added Value Content (AVC). It's a mouthful and to be fair it's not a term that actually get's used a lot with collector's, but AVC is exactly what parallels, inserts, and hits are. Basically it's why Topps, Panini, Upper Deck, or whoever can charge you more for a pack of cards. It also makes sealed products walk a thin line (if not actually cross it) of being a kind of gambling.
So for this post I'm going to be talking about parallels as they pertain to the base set of a product. Card makers also put out parallel versions of inserts and hits, but we'll cover that when we talk about those subjects.
And when I'm talking about parallels I'm talking about cards produced to parallel the base set that were inserted with the base cards and could be pulled from packs. I make this distinction because I'm not talking specifically about sets like 1975 Topps Mini, Topps Collector Edition (Tiffany) Sets, Fleer Glossy Sets, or 1991 Topps Desert Shield stamped cards. These are sets that do parallel other base sets but were released as their own product. I do however consider parallels inserted into factory sets base set parallels, yeah it can get a little confusing.
Remember there is no real authoritative entity in the card collecting community (sorry Beckett) and I'll be fair I did not do exhaustive research so please forgive if I forget anything, gloss over some things, or missed something completely. But I'm going to attempt to mark the start of the age of the parallel and that is 1992 for Baseball and 1991 for Football. The first true parallel sets came in 1991 Wild Card Football and Basketball and 1992 Topps baseball.
If you happen to have been collecting in 1991 or come across some old Wild Cards, Wild Cards gimmick was the insertion of cards with numbered stripes of various denominations (5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 1000). If you pulled one of those number striped cards you could send that card into Wild Cards and they would exchange it for the same number of base cards of that player.
The higher stripe cards were very rare and today those 100 and 1000 stripe cards can command a pretty penny.
Topps' gold foil parallel appeared the next year and is considered the first true parallel set. Inserted at different odds depending on the packaging, they fell about 1 per box or 1:36 packs.