Precious Metal Gems (PMG) Cards – The Sports Card Hobby’s Most Coveted Parallel / Insert

The History Of The Original PMG Cards

Sports cards in the mid to late 1990’s are known for their new technologies and innovative designs. This era of sports cards is also famous for flashy serial-numbered parallels and scarce inserts. The most famous of them all are the Precious Metal Gems cards.

While Precious Metal Gems weren’t the first parallel or serial numbered cards, they carry the highest demand and have the most popularity in my opinion due to 4 reasons: The design, the players, the rarity and the name. Yes, the name. We will look at the first 3 below but in my opinion the name “Precious Metal Gems” was a perfect one. Some may say that’s oversimplification on my part but great branding goes a long way in the sports card hobby! The name just sounds iconic, important and special…and these cards certainly are.

The First Precious Metal Gems Parallel Basketball Cards – 1997-1998 Metal Universe Basketball

Michael Jordan Precious Metal Gems Kobe Bryant PMG Green

Released on November 5, 1997, the PMG parallels in this set are easily distinguished from the base cards due to the colorful foil and serial numbering. The entire print run for each player is 100 cards, but that total is split between two different versions. The first 10 copies in the numbering feature green foil, while the remaining 90 include red foil. Only 123 cards are covered in the parallel, as the checklist cards (#124 and #125) are left out.

The First Precious Metal Gems Football Cards – 1997 Metal Universe Football

First Football Card PMGs PMG Green Football Cards

Released on July 16, 1997, these are technically the first PMG cards but they weren’t nearly as popular as basketball. Also, there are simply a lot more of the football counterparts. With a checklist of 198 cards, minus checklists, and a total print run of 150, the cards were more common, averaging 1:48 packs. In football, the first 15 are green and the remaining 135 are red.

The First Precious Metal Gems Baseball Cards – 1998 Metal Universe Baseball

Mark McGwire PMG 1998 1998 Baseball Card PMG

Released on March 11, 1998, each PMG card is finished with a holographic spiral and concentric circle design that many refer to as the “scope” parallel design. While the print run of 50 copies is small, especially by 1998 standards, fewer singles actually made their way into packs. That’s due to the inclusion of five Ultimate Gems redemptions. Each was good for a full 220-card PMG set. The final five cards in the print run (serial numbers 46-50) came from these.

1997-1998 Metal Universe Championship Basketball Precious Metal Gems

Michael Jordan PMG Championship Kobe Bryant PMG Championship

Released on April 1, 1998, deviating from the colored-foil style, each PMG card is finished with a holographic spiral and concentric circle “scope” parallel design. The backgrounds are also different from the originals. Rather than cartoonish illustrations from the outer reaches of the galaxy, 1997-98 Metal Universe Championship uses photo backdrops. That doesn’t mean that they’re traditional. They’re not. You get things like natural landscapes, players on top of the earth and some soaring through city skylines. With a slightly smaller checklist of 98 cards and a print run of only 50, Championship has one of the smallest total quantities.

1998 Metal Universe Football Precious Metal Gems

Randy Moss 1998 PMG 1998 Peyton Manning PMG Card

Released on August 12, 1998, the checklist remained large with 200 cards, but the total cards greatly decreased as the PMG parallel only had a print run of 50 cards in 1998 Metal Universe Football. The design shifted away from the colored foil of the previous year and went with a “scope” finish. This time, the PMGs were a full parallel as checklists were included in the set. The product also includes a PMG Gem Master (1/1) parallel.

Barry Sanders 1998 Gem Masters

1998-1999 Metal Universe Basketball Precious Metal Gems

1999 Shaq Gold PMG Card Jordan PMG 1999 Gold

1998-99 Metal Universe marked the last year of the original basketball Precious Metal Gems. The PMG finish was tweaked again and the set resembles a regular refractor with a gold tint. The full checklist includes 123 cards and excludes checklists, with each PMG serial numbered to 50. 1998-99 Metal Universe adds a second parallel — Gem Masters. These are one-of-ones that have a separate pattern that looks like a tightly knit piece of clothing with a rainbow-like finish.

Tim Duncan Gem Masters One Of One

1999 Metal Universe Baseball Precious Metal Gems

Barry Bonds 1999 PMG 1999 Griffey PMG

Released in January 1999, Precious Metal Gems fully paralleled the 300-card base set (including all subsets and checklists) and were again exclusive to Hobby packs. Each Precious Metal Gems card was finished with a gold holographic foil and was serial-numbered to 50. These would be the last of the original baseball Precious Metal Gems. Due to the already condition-sensitive nature of the etched foil, combined with the holographic finish, Precious Metal Gems from 1999 were notorious for edge chipping. Gem Masters also fully paralleled the 300-card base set (including all subsets and checklists) and represented the first “one-of-one” or “masterpiece” (stylized after the Flair Showcase brand) for the Metal Universe brand. Cards were printed on a holographic, miniature-oval pattern design that repeated throughout the card front. On the back, each card was stamped “THE ONLY ONE OF ONE GEM MASTERS” in holographic foil.

1999 Gem Masters Baseball Card

1999 Metal Universe Football Precious Metal Gems

1999 Football PMG Barry Sanders 1999 PMG

Released in July 1999, the final football edition of original PMG cards would see the checklist expand to 250 cards in 1999 Metal Universe. Again, base cards were serial numbered to 50 and there was also a one-of-one PMG Masters parallel.

1999 Jerry Rice Gem Masters

The “Perfect Storm” Of Branding, Design, Rarity & Timing

The original PMG cards had a relatively short run with only 3 sets of football, 3 sets of basketball and 2 sets of baseball and they came along during the perfect time period in the sports card hobby history. Featuring all-time great players before they retired, with revolutionary designs and low serial numbering, the PMG is a name that will never be forgotten and always be chased!

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