Yes the model 1 saturn can be modded but it is very difficult and saturns are known for being a bit "fussy". Your best bet is to get a model 2 saturn (round power/reset buttons) as these are easy to mod and the mod chips should be easier to get hold of for the model 2.
I have a Victor saturn (JVC) and also have one of the first UK launch saturns (model 1 oval buttons)... I have not modded either of them yet and don't think i will
If it's backups you want to play then you will definitely need a modchip installed but if your like me and like your imports then get a jap saturn or the handy action replay cartridge (works on any saturn)
Heres a handy link for saturn mods: http://www.angelfire.com/pa/Raluminat/saturnmod.html
I personally have never tried the disc swap method and i would highly go against it to avoid any damage to your saturn.