It’s time for yet another new feature on Hobby Roundup! Introducing Iconic Inserts, where we shine the spotlight on some of the most legendary insert/sub sets in the hobby. While most are considered afterthoughts in a product, every once in a while an insert comes along that catches fire and cements it’s standing in the hobby.
For our first installment of Iconic Inserts, we’re going with the gorgeous Fleer/Skybox basketball insert, Jambalaya. Whether it was strategic or not, the Jambalaya insert debuted during the hot 1997-98 NBA season. The hobby was going strong, and a strong Rookie class coupled with the emergence of the superstars that would carry the league for the next decade, made the 97-98 year one for the books.
Featured in the stunning, unique (Fleer) Skybox E-X2001 product, the Jambalaya insert was an incredibly tough pull, with the stated odds at 1:720 packs. Even back in 97-98, hitting a Jambalaya was a BIG deal (I should know, I ripped countless cases with little to show). Couple the tough odds with an incredibly strong checklist, and the writing was on the wall for a legendary set. The inaugural set featured Tim Duncan (his RC), rising superstars Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant, along with the “IT” guys of the moment, Grant Hill, Penny & Kevin Garnett. Some guys named MJ, Shaq, Pippen & The Worm were also included.
But long odds and a strong checklist can only go so far. What truly makes the set is the design, and Fleer knocked it out of the park with the Jambalaya insert. The photography is stunning, with some excellent action shots capturing each player perfectly and placing them front and center, while the unique oval die-cut & black border provide a perfect frame. The word Jambalaya splits the card in half so to speak, with different colors on each side. The unique, almost mosaic/shimmer-refractor finish is an excellent final touch, really making the cards pop.
Then, after one year, Jambalaya disappeared from the E-X product line. But six years later, it was back. The return coincided (but this time definitely planned) with the incredibly strong 2003 Draft class, which featured LeBron, Melo, Dwayne Wade, Bosh and another strong vet class. There were a few changes, such as the background of the cards colors being team-specific, but not otherwise they remained mostly the same. The insert set lasted a few more years, ending after the 2006-2007 E-X release. (Upper Deck brought it back in 2011-2012 for it’s Fleer Retro issue, but for this article we will be focusing solely on the original set)
The Jambalaya set has always been popular with basketball collectors, but in recent years it has seen its value rise significantly. As with most cards of the era, they are condition sensitive (especially the 97-98). Being a die-cut doesn’t help either. Not surprisingly, Kobe, Jordan & Lebron command the most. A PSA Gem Mint 10 Michael Jordan sold in February for $15,655, while a BGS 9.5 sold for $10,200 in January. A high grade Kobe or Lebron is going for around $5,000 at the moment. A steep drop off from the GOAT, but incredible value nonetheless. Even “commons” in the set, such as Keith Van Horn, commands well over $100. And these are cards without ink! Wanting to try your luck on a box of 97-98 E-X2001? Be prepared to pony up around $2,000.
The Fleer Jambalaya insert has had a cult following since it hit hobby shop shelves over two decades ago. In that time, the Jambalaya has grown from a unique and flashy insert into a hobby legend, cementing itself as of the most iconic insert sets in the history of the hobby.