When I first heard that 1991 Pro Line Football was inserting an ON CARD autograph into every three boxes or so, I was hooked. The only autograph I pulled from a box back then was an Art Shell. But I loved the design, the dual authenticity (embossed seal, and no card number) method. Plus I liked the cleanliness of the cards and the fact that the 1992 series had one autograph per box. THIS WAS THE VERY FIRST FAIRLY EASY TO FIND ALL AUTOGRAPH INSERT SET OF AROUND (100+) DIFFERENT PLAYERS. Some cards has frayed edges, especially on the gray area on the backs, but that didn't seem to matter very much. In 1992, I pulled about a dozen autos from boxes. None where superstars, but one box didn't have an autograph so I wrote a letter to the NFL Properties and they quickly sent me the one missing autograph & it was a star which was VERY nice of them and created a lifelong Pro Line autograph fan.
What many may not remember is that 1992 Pro Line had company offers where if you send in a certain number of wrappers you'd get a FREE bonus autograph! I got about (20) bonus autographs because in addition to luckily saving my wrappers, they also had another contest where if you had all the autographs in a row printed on a promo sheet- you'd win a specific star autograph and I got the Dan Marino autograph! I was living in FL at the time so I was elated. Even though football was my second favorite sport by far (Baseball has always been #1), Pro Line autographs increased my interest in FB much more.
When Pro Line decided to sell their license to Score Board I had a bad feeling about that which almost instantly came true. The 1993 release was back to one auto in every three boxes OR LESS. In this hobby you can't increase the HOTTEST item in the product, and the next year decrease it substantially.
But then Score Board returned to one autograph per box and a design improvement for 1994 and I was once again in love with Pro Line. By 1994-95, Ken Goldin was on Shop At Home hawking "extra" autographs for far more what they were worth- so I decided to wait until the heat of these cards died down a bit as I had a feeling all other card companies would get in on this action.
By 1999, I decided to trade my entire 1989-1999 card collection for Certified Autograph Inserts (which at that time were still all ON CARD autos). I can't tell you how happy I was that I did that. In late 1998, I had one Mint Mark McGwire RC (1985 Topps) and knew it was time to trade it for Certified Autographs. I got three 1997 Donruss Signature autos for the McGwire RC: Alex Rodriguez Millennium Marks, Randy Johnson Millennium Marks (ERR- no serial number on back), and a Juan Gonzalez Millennium Marks. Considering I got that McGwire many years earlier in a trade for the whole 1985 Topps set for my $100 Studio Promo/Insert set- I got the best of that deal by far.
Then came early-mid 2001 and these were introduced by Playoff:
THE UGLY, USELESS STICKER AUTOGRAPHS!
The INSTANT I saw sticker autographs: I HATED THEM. I was one of the first people outside of the Production Managers for 2001 Score Select to ever see them. I was at that point receiving boxes to review directly from Ann Blake (Playoff' former owner). 2001 Score Select Football was the VERY FIRST product to have sticker autographs. The first several Playoff products actually used holo-foil return address labels (that they bought at Office Depot) for autographs!!!
This caused players (ESPECIALLY ROOKIES) who had gotten used to signing as big as they wanted on cards up to jerseys and other equipment to have to UNNATURALLY shrink their autos to fit the small stickers. This caused them to sign off one sticker onto the next sticker, This also caused them to change the shape and consistency of their autographs. THIS IS NOTHING ANY TRUE AUTOGRAPH COLLECTOR WANTS TO SEE ON THEIR AUTOGRAPHS! But card companies were saving WAY too much money by using stickers, than by going through the more difficult process of getting ON CARD autographs.
At first Playoff used the LIE excuse that this would significantly cut down on REDEMPTION CARDS if not eradicate them all. It may have lowered the number of redemptions for a year, but by 2002 redemption STICKER autographs were popping up already. Now in 2014 there are MORE STICKER REDEMPTION CARDS than ON CARD autograph redemptions!!! How do card companies explain this???
To give a simple explanation to everyone whether they collect cards OR NOT, I'll explain this again. If you were to go to a ballgame and figured you'd try to get some autographs, would you bring cards, a baseball, football, etc. for the autographs OR would you bring a sheet of stickers to put on whatever item you want to when you get home? THE ANSWER IS NEARLY THE SAME ALWAYS: no one would use stickers. The few who answer stickers never could explain WHY. So I have to disqualify the knuckleheads who said they'd bring stickers.
THE VERY SAME APPLIES FOR CARD COMPANY AUTOGRAPHS! There's no reason for sticker autos that helps collectors AT ALL, and it only saves card companies money. Since when have collectors cared about helping card companies since by the early 2000's they made it CRYSTAL CLEAR that they couldn't care less about collectors!
So next time you pull a scribbled UGLY autograph, know that 75% of the cause of these AWFUL autographs was caused by the implementation of STICKER AUTOGRAPHS which are on nearly 90% of all Topps & Panini products!
WE CAN STOP THIS, WE JUST NEED TO COMPLAIN TO THE RIGHT PEOPLE! Go to the MLB, NFL, and even NHL Player Association websites and CONTACT anyone you can find a working e-mail for. Tell them the problems I stated here and add you own complaints. Then ask whomever you e-mailed to please forward your e-mail to the licensing person for merchandise and anyone else who they think might be able to SAVE OUR HOBBY!