In 1996 and 1997, Topps experimented with a multi-tiered set for their Finest product. Each card was designated as either a Bronze, Silver, or Gold card with the latter two being shortprints. In 1998, this idea was scrapped and Finest was turned into a “normal” set once again. As was the norm with Finest at the time, 1998 featured a dual-series set with Series 1 being comprised of cards 1-150 and Series 2 being comprised of cards 151-275. Some of you may remember an earlier Topps Finest Jumbo break I had. Well, the same rules apply here as they did in that earlier break: 24 6-card packs for Hobby Boxes, 12 13-card packs for HTA (Jumbo) Boxes, Low $30 range for both boxes. With that said, let’s see what we got…
Base cards: The base cards look decent, but one thing that’s always bugged me is the presence of that big mass of little chrome squiggly lines in the center. I suppose it makes for a cool effect on the card, but just what the hell is it supposed to be? To me, it looks like the players are standing in a big colony of bacteria, but whatever. Anyway, each player has a colored ribbon for a nameplate which hovers over one of five baseball symbols placed on the card: a pair of bats which form an “X,” a ball, a batting helmet, a fielding glove, or a catcher’s mask. You can’t make this stuff up folks. Anyway, I received 103 different base cards, 35 duplicates, and 1 triplicate.
No-Protector Parallel (1:1 HTA, 1:2 Hobby): Nothing says 1990’s like protective coating! For some reason, Topps decided to throw in a parallel in which the cards simply had no coating. Besides the lack of protector, there is one key difference between these parallels and regular base cards. The backs of each no-protector parallel have the chrome finish whereas the regular card backs do not. There are found one per pack for the Jumbos and in every other pack for regular Hobby. I received 12 in my box. Some notables included Todd Helton, Gary Sheffield, and Mike Sweeney. Personally, I think this is the single dumbest parallel I have ever heard of.
Refractors (1:5 HTA, 1:12 Hobby): Just what would Topps Finest be without refractors? Unlike present-day Finest which features 395780 versions, 1998 Finest has two. The basic refractors can be found approximately two per box on average. Again, that’s on average. My box yielded not one, two, nor three, but FOUR refractors. These refractors were of Andruw Jones, Chad Curtis, Jeff Montgomery, and Troy O’Leary.
No-Protector Refractors (1:10 HTA, 1:24 Hobby): The second type of refractor found in ’98 Finest is the No-Protector Refractor parallel. Yes, it’s a parallel of a crappy parallel. These cards have a refractor finish on both sides of the card. They’re seeded approximately one per box and this time, the box was right on with the odds. My refractor was of Jeffrey Hammonds. I wasn’t terribly disappointed with this pull as he’s a local guy to me (He was born in Plainfield, NJ while I grew up in South Plainfield, NJ).
There is a bit of controversy with these “unprotected” refractors, however. Most (if not all) refractors made by Topps at that time had the word “refractor” or the letter “R” on the back of the card, indicating a true refractor. This applies for the regular refractors in this product, but not for the unprotected refractors, or at least not all of them. Despite the fact that I’ve had minimal exposure to them, every unprotected refractor I had come across had the refractor finish on both sides, but no “R” on the back. However, I have also seen unprotected cards with an “R” on the back, but with no refractor finish on either side. For further help with these “refractors,” I decided to ask the man who I (along with many) consider the king of parallels, Mr. James Nevans. Nevans is an expert in real estate and sports cards and owns more parallels than most people do cards. He has had a lot of experience dealing with the No-Protector cards and has put together TWO complete sets of them! Here is what he had to say about this issue:
“All 14 of my 1st Series NP Refractors in my possesion fail to have an R (500+ packs worth), it may be too small of a sample to determine if this is an uncorrected error in the entire 1st Series line or if there exists rare corrected specimen. Some of my cards from the 1st Series that have an R are just regular No Protectors as I’ve had over 2000 pass through my hands (4000 packs worth), these are errors that are at least 10x as rare and quite possible 30x as rare. I currently have six 1st Series Refractors which have the R, none without. Topps, Beckett, other card magazines have never adressed this issue as far as I know, I just simply have had much more experience having built two of the NP sets to have noticed, I was not as attentive with the Refractor versions.”
Well, there you have it. I’m not sure what else to say about these refractors. You can check out Mr. Nevans’ site here.
What WASN’T Pulled: ACTUAL INSERTS!!! There are several inserts that can be found in this product that I did not receive any of. First off, there are randomly inserted jumbo box toppers that can be found in every 3 boxes. With these, comes a refractor parallel that can be found in every 6 boxes. Second, are the Mystery Finest inserts. These inserts contain a protective coating that must be peeled off to reveal the players on the card. Each card has a combination of either two veterans or two young stars. In some cases, the same player is on both sides. The insert ratios are as follows: 1:36 (Hobby) and 1:15(HTA) and Refractors: 1:144 (Hobby) and 1:64 (HTA). Upon further inspection, there are error refractors in this set too! See for yourself (note the R in the corner).
Power Zone is a 20-card set highlighting some of the game’s best sluggers. These cards look like the result of Zorro slicing through a big, ugly blue mural. They are found in every 72 Hobby packs and every 32 HTA packs.
Centurions is a 20-card set with a classy look. They are serially numbered to 500 and the refractor version is numbered to just 75! The odds of pulling one of these are as follows: Regular: 1:153 (Hobby), 1:71 (HTA) and Refractor: 1:1020 (Hobby), 1:471 (HTA).
Final Thoughts: Well, there were a lot of refractors, but that’s about it. Overall, this box was a dud. Hitting four refractors was nice even if three of them were commons (but I didn’t mind the Yankee). I was hoping a Mystery Finest or decent box topper would salvage the box, but it was not to be. The duplicates were a bit much as well. In fact, I noticed that several times during my break, I received the same players clumped together in different packs. You have to love that collation machine! Anyway, if you’re looking to bust some old Topps Finest, I’d say try a different year…
As always, thanks for the read and good luck with your own breaks!