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2003 Finest Baseball Review

The second box I opened on my birthday, this box of 2003 Topps Finest was originally videotaped, but due to the horrible overall quality (lots of lag, audio distortion), the video was never published. As you’ll see, it was a pretty darn good break.

Box Details: 6 packs of 5 cards each per mini box, 3 mini boxes per master box, $75

From:Dave and Adam’s Card World

Uncirculated Box Topper (numbered to 199, 1: box): Each master box is accompanied by a silver pack holding an uncirculated Gold X-Fractor. Numbered to just 199, these gold parallels mirror the entire set, autographed rookies included. It just so happens that my Gold X-Fractor was a signed rookie card of J.D. Durbin (030/199). Durbin was a prized possession of the Minnesota Twins’ Minor League organization, and even received their Pitcher of the Year Award in 2002. He is currently a free agent.



Base set:
The base set is comprised of 100 short set cards, followed by 10 short-printed, autographed rookies. As was the norm with that era of Finest, each base card has a unique color background, influenced by the depicted player’s team. My box yielded 85 out of 100 short set cards (85%) and no duplicates.


Refractors (1: mini box): One of the key differences between 2003 Finest and say, 2009 Finest lies in the refractors. 2003 Finest does not have the bevy of colorful refractors that collectors have become accustomed to in recent years (red, green blue, gold, black, etc.) Instead, only basic Refractor and X-Fractor parallels exist (box toppers aside). The basic Refractors are seeded at a rate of 1 per mini box (SP’s 1 in 34) while the X-Fractors are seeded at a rate of 1 in every 7 mini boxes (SP’s 1 in 68). I did not pull any X-Fractors in this box, but I did pull basic Refractors of Tim Hudson, Larry Walker, and Barry Zito. I’m sure I will be sending the Zito out to New Mexico sometime. As for the Walker, it came out of the pack with significant damage to its back (a giant scrape). Why did it have to happen to a Refractor??


Finest Relics (1: mini box): Inserted into each mini box is a game-used bat or uniform relic. Each relic is designated to a certain “group” based on rarity. The odds of finding a particular relic from each group are as follows:

Bats:
Group A: 1:104 mini boxes
Group B: 1:32 mini boxes
Group C: 1:29 mini boxes
Group D: 1:42 mini boxes
Group E: 1:40 mini boxes
Group F: 1:23 mini boxes
Group G: 1:18 mini boxes
Group H: 1:24 mini boxes
Group I: 1:12 mini boxes
Group J: 1:22 mini boxes
Group K: 1:21 mini boxes

Uniforms:
Group A: 1:28 mini boxes
Group B: 1:11 mini boxes
Group C: 1:11 mini boxes
Group D: 1:10 mini boxes
Group E: 1:19 mini boxes
Group F: 1:12 mini boxes
Group G: 1:34 mini boxes
Group H: 1:17 mini boxes

I pulled bat cards of Nomar Garciaparra (Group A) and Rickey Henderson (Group J) as well as a uniform card of Eric Chavez (Group B).

Team Topps Legends Autographs (10 cards, randomly inserted)
: And now, here are those Hall of Fame autographs I mentioned in my last post. 10 Team Topps Legends signed cards for this special set, and just like the relic cards, each autograph belongs to its own specific group. The complete checklist is below, pulls highlighted in bold.

Group A: 1:168 mini boxes
Brooks Robinson
Goose Gossage

Group B: 1:68 mini boxes
Al Kaline
Stan Musial

Group C: 1:32 mini boxes
Lou Brock
Luis Aparicio
Duke Snider

Group D: 1:23 mini boxes
Gaylord Perry
Paul Blair
Vernon Law

Overall, autographs (rookies, Finest Moments (link), and Team Topps Legends) fall at a rate of 2 per master box.

Final Thoughts/Grades:

Collation: A+

For the second straight break, the box delivered the inserts and “hits” perfectly, all without a single duplicate. Very nice.

Condition: B
Condition was the only issue I had in this box. In fact, if it weren’t for this category, this box would get straight A’s across the board. Only 2 cards from this box came out of the pack with noticeable damage, but considering that both of those were chase cards (Walker Refractor, Gossage autograph – look at the blemish on the front, towards the bottom), I had to drop this down a grade.

Pulls: A
I think it’s pretty obvious that I got lucky with this box. The 2 autographs I was supposed to pull were both Team Topps Legends (as opposed to failed prospects) and I even got a bonus autograph with the box topper! Not to mention that I also pulled the rarest bat relic available in Nomar…

Value: A
Regardless of where you purchase this box, you should be able to find it for less than $80. For that price, you should find a nice little box containing 5 hits (3 relics, 2 autos), 3 Refractors, a Gold X-Fractor, and possibly one more X-Fractor if you’re lucky. I’d say go for it.

Overall Grade: A

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2001 Fleer Genuine Baseball Review

Here’s the first of what I hope will be a lengthly string of breaks. Again, I apologize for the lack of new material recently. The box in this break differs from the rest I’ve broken so far in that this product guaranteed “hits.” I’m not the biggest fan of chasing after “hits,” but I thought it’d be fun to mix it up once in a while. Coincidentally, this is the most recent box-to-date here, and comes from the year of Ichiromania 2001.

Fleer Genuine was a product I never really understood. I mean, what was so Genuine about it? The fact that most of the time it was Genuine crap? Perhaps. In its latter years, it “evolved” into Genuine Insider and featured cards where the jersey swatch or autograph was tucked inside the card and had to be pulled out to be displayed. Of course, these cards were made when Fleer was just about a year away from dying so….draw your own conclusion. Despite some absurdities, there were 2 concepts used in Genuine that I had always been a fan of: the inclusion of past All-Star Game Programs as a boxtopper (this was used in 2002, the year of the worst ASG in history, THE IRONY!!!) and a legendary (IMO) game-used set entitled Names of the Game.

NOTG featured 34 cards, each of which featured a game-used piece (24 had a bat, the rest had a jersey) from a superstar, past star, or HOF/Legend. The lineup was staggering and looked something like this:

Yogi Berra, Orlando Cepeda, Rocky Colavito, Andre Dawson, Bucky Dent, Rollie Fingers, Carlton Fisk, Whitey Ford, Jimmie Foxx, Hank Greenberg, Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Randy Johnson, Chipper Jones, Harmon Killebrew, Tony Lazzeri, Don Mattingly, Willie McCovey, Johnny Mize, Pee Wee Reese, Cal Ripken, Jr., Phil Rizzuto, Ivan Rodriguez, Preacher Roe, Babe Ruth, Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Bill Skowron, Enos Slaughter, Duke Snider, Willie Stargell, Bill Terry, Ted Williams, Hack Wilson

Ladies and gentlemen: THAT is how you make a game-used set. Aside from Bucky Dent, the set is totally devoid of filler. Each card is limited to just 50 and 22 of them come with an autographed version, numbered to 100. They are all hand-numbered as well! Taking a shot at pulling one of these beauties may just well have been my motivation for opening this box of 2001 Fleer Genuine. There are 24 packs of 5 cards each, and “hits” come in every 8 packs so let’s see what was pulled….

Base set: There are 100 cards in the basic short set. Each card basically has a bunch of rectangles, one inside another, with a team-specific color theme making up a broken border on the outside. Each player’s name can be found scrolling upwards on the left side in a generic, silver font. Right above this is the team name, written in a thin point cursive style, that I suppose is intended to make the card look classy. Overall, my short set is 78% complete after this box, with 32 duplicates! Bleh.

Genuine Upside (numbered to 1500): Following the short set is a 30-card rookie subset entitled Genuine Upside, limited to 1500. Basically, if you didn’t hit the Ichiro or Travis Hafner, you got nobodies. I got a pair of Red Sox players: Sun-Woo Kim and Juan Diaz. Hmm, what are the odds of hitting 2 rookies on the same team?

High Interest (1:23 packs): All of the basic insert sets in this product have the same exact insertion ratio, 1:23. Also, they are all die-cut cards. This first insert is called High Interest and features a stock market theme to it and a predominantly green background. My pull was of Pedro Martinez, another Red Sox player!

At Large (1:23 packs): These cards have the same die-cut design as the Lasting Impressions cards from 1997 Pinnacle Certified. They feature the player seemingly standing over a stadium. Look out for that giant Giambi!

Pennant Aggression (1:23 packs): The final basic insert is entitled Pennant Agression. I’m pretty sure Fleer later used this in one of their Fall Classics sets or something of that nature. The card is shaped like a pennant and well…..um…..that’s basically it. Once again, I pulled Pedro Martinez. Seeing how Dave and Adam’s is located in NY, I’m starting to think they purposely sent me all the Red Sox cards. Ha!

Autographics (1:24 packs): You may remember this set from my Fleer E-X and Fleer Focus breaks earlier. Well, in 2001, Autographics returned in a big way. In 2000, the set was spread across 5 different products. In 2001, the list expanded to 8 and a couple of those (Platinum and Genuine) included 2002 products! The complete list is as follows: Fleer Focus, Fleer Genuine, Fleer Premium RETAIL, Fleer Showcase RETAIL, Fleer Triple Crown, Fleer Ultra, 2002 Fleer Platinum, and 2002 Fleer Genuine. Of course, the odds differed from product to product. I was pretty much guaranteed to hit one in my box, and I did, of Milton Bradley, who has been tearing it up the first half of this season. There are also a couple of parallels to this set: Silver (/250) and Gold (/50).

Genuine Coverage Plus (numbered to 150): These are a fairly tough pull, seeing as how they are limited to just 150 and there only 10 players in the set. These cards feature the team logo on a blue backdrop, and feature a little bigger swatch size than normal. My pull was Andruw Jones. It’s a pretty nice card for an underachiever (and by that I mean him, NOT me!).

Tip Of the Cap (numbered to 150): Finally, the last insert/hit of the box, the game-used hat card. Like the Genuine Coverage cards, these are also numbered to 150. You don’t see too many hat cards out there, so at least it stands out a little. This card features 2 pictures of Eric Chavez, a close-up and an action shot, on opposite sides of the dark green hat swatch. There are only 13 total players in this set, so I imagine this wasn’t too easy a pull either.

What WASN’T Pulled: Unfortunately, I didn’t hit any of the Names of the Game cards I spoke so highly of earlier. I also found it interesting that both of my game-used hits were of the uncommon variety and fairly low-numbered. Most boxes will yield a jersey card from the insert sets Final Cut and Material Issue, both of which are seeded 1:30 packs, but come with patch variations and have known shortprints. I also didn’t pull a redemption for a Jeter autographed sheet which expired ages ago.

Final Thoughts: Like I said earlier, Fleer Genuine has had its share of terrible products and ridiculous ideas in the past, but I feel like the 2001 version (the premiere edition!) is not one of them. As far as the base set goes, the design is decent and there is one big rookie to shoot for (Albert Pujols was not in this set). The insert sets are designed well and there aren’t too many of them. 3 inserts, each seeded 1 per box, on top of your “hits” seems about right to me. I’m not crazy about seeing a meaningless 1:4 pack insert in every pack or seeing no inserts at all to go with the guaranteed “hits” when opening a box. With that said, you won’t see any late-1990’s Ultra or late-2000’s SP Authentic on here! Ok, well, I might give the Ultra a try someday. Anyway, the game-used cards also look very nice in this product for the most part and you’ll pull an autograph in every box, which is always nice. I don’t know if this product is notorious for bad collation, or if I just got unlucky when it came to attempting to finish the base set, but I don’t see any other downers to this product. For about $65, it’s worth a shot (unless you pull a ton of Red Sox like I did lol).

As always, thanks for the read and good luck with your own breaks!
-John