by Chris Harris
Last year, I wrote that 2012 Finest Baseball was “a brand in search of a purpose.” After 19 years and the legacy of the still-legendary 1993 set, the Finest brand had stagnated over the last decade. It seemed Topps was content to let the Finest brand deteriorate into a second-tier version of Topps Chrome – albeit with an original design. 2013 will mark the brand’s 20th Anniversary and while that might be cause for celebration (How many card brands introduced in 1993 are still around?), Topps is marking Finest’s platinum anniversary with a set that bears little resemblance to the original. Yes, there will be the requisite 1993-themed inserts and buybacks. Structurally, 2013 Finest baseball is very similar to the 2012 and 2011 editions.
The base set will again consist of just 100 cards – about half the size of the 1993 original. While a provisional checklist has yet to be issued, given the recent track record of this brand and the prominence of rookies and young stars on the sell sheet, one can assume that about a third of the set will be comprised of RCs. Since the 2013 RC class projects to be amongst the weakest in years, this may explain why Topps has yet to distribute a draft checklist. Refractors, X-Fractors, and the requisite rainbow of low-numbered “colored” Refractors will also be available.
Once again, Hobby boxes will come packaged in the un-1993-ish “Master Box” format, with each containing two six-pack mini-boxes. Each Master Box will yield one Autographed Rookie Refractor and an Autographed Rookie Relic Refractor, which works out to a “hit” in each mini-box. All of the AUed RCs will come in the Refractor format (no “base” versions), with the same rainbow galaxy of colored parallels as the base cards also on offer.
In addition to the previously mentioned 1993-themed inserts (which will also be available in Refractor and Autographed Refractor editions), two other mid-90s-themed Finest inserts can be had. One is based on the “Prodigies” subset from 1996 Finest and the other on the ’97 Finest Masters. The “Finest Prodigies Die-Cut Refractor” will all feature “top rookies;” however, the mock-up on the sell sheet shows Yu Darvish – who, of course, was a rookie last year. (Checklist: to be determined) The ’97 Masters cards will all be serial-numbered to only 50 copies. Both sets will also be available autographed and in a one-of-one SuperFractor parallel.
Wrapping up 2013 Finest Baseball are a series of rookie redemptions each good for an autograph of a mystery player, autographed 1993 Finest card ‘buy backs’, autographed 1993-style box toppers, and “Hot Boxes” in which every base card in the box is replaced by a Refractor done in the 1993 style.
2013 Finest Baseball is scheduled for release the week of August 14. Each box will consist of two, six-pack mini-boxes with five cards in each pack. Mini-boxes should retail (to start) at around $50. See more preview images below.