by Rich Klein
Anniversaries are always hard to remember or realize. As I was putting fingers to keyboard I thought that this is now the 20th iteration of Topps Finest baseball. The 1993 Finest product was a major turning point in the hobby as the product exploded out of the gate. When the dealers at the time calculated that only 241 of each refractor was produced, it caused an increase in prices.
The dealers and collectors were chasing the ‘one per box’ refractors in the 1993 product. What that also caused was the creation of sets so there was actually a “glut” of them in the marketplace. So, with the wax prices going through the roof, the single card prices were actually softening. Trying to explain that concept fell on deaf ears but let me assure you that back in early 1994 our reading of the Finest baseball product was dead on. Wax exploding with singles coming out of woodwork, causing an oversupply and then a softening of base singles and sets. Yep. if you think about that it’s a totally normal price structure.
That is, of course, one option which has truly changed in the past 20 years, Nowadays base cards are rarely treated with the respect they deserve and no one is interested in anything but the “hits” from a box. My beloved wife is a perfect example, all she cares about is the “hits” and occasionally discusses designs or oohs or ahs over certain players (usually current Rangers such as Kinsler or Hamilton). Now, since I grew up on “base cards” I still like them and enjoy trading them around the country.
So in 20 years we went from a one refractor hit per box to what we have now–a multiple hit box including autographs and more. Thus, Finest is a perfect reflection of what has occurred in the hobby over the past 20 years. And if you think about this, this is one of the last major brands to debut before the devastating strike of 1994-95.
My local hobby store (Triple Cards in Plano, TX.) actually raised his price on 2012 Finest a couple of times before being unable to restock at a level which would allow him to stay reasonable on his price point. The leading online retailers are now between $105-110 which means that hobby wholesalers may be at the level where he can restock.
The base cards feature a full-color photo against a solid background, The player’s name and team is on the bottom of the card. The backs have some biographical information along with a 2011 highlight and career stats. Pretty simple stuff indeed. Each master box contains two mini-boxes which have five cards per pack and six packs per box. Each master box promised one autograph and one autograph jumbo relic card per master-box. So how did we do out of our master box?
Base Cards: 45 of 100, With perfect distribution one needs at least three master boxes to complete a set.
Refractors: Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp, Brian Wilson, Michael Young
X-Fractors: Paul Goldschmidt, Drew Hutchinson, Jesus Montero
(A note about ‘refractor history’ here. In 1993 the refractor cards were not notated as such and I’m sure many were mistakenly sold as commons and vice versa. It’s good to see the refractors word so bold on the back of these cards).
Faces of the Frachnise: Josh Hamilton
Finest Moments; Josh Johnson, Clayton Kershaw
Game Changer: Mike Trout
Autograph rookie: Jarrod Parker
Autograph Jumbo Relic X-Fractor (#d to 299) Leonys Martin
Auto Rookie Redemption: #2 (Brett Jackson)
Pretty impressive considering some of the names in my group of hits. The long-running redemption program continues to be popular and we’ll be looking forward to watching the careers of the young players unfold. Expectations of collectors have increased with the development of patch cards and autographs but Topps Finest seems to be holding up just fine after 20 years.
Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]