Long before the days of mini-boxes and “Rip-Master” autographs (seriously, WTF?), Topps Finest was a pretty formidable product. Not long ago, I opened a box of 1999 Finest Series 1 Baseball. 1999 Finest was a dual-series product with Series 1 being comprised of cards 1-150 and Series 2 being comprised of cards 151-300. In addition, 2 types of boxes were available. Regular hobby boxes were comprised of 24 6-card packs while HTA “Jumbo” boxes were comprised of 12 13-card packs. I went with the jumbo on this one as there wasn’t much of a difference in price and the odds of hitting inserts were more favorable. Both varieties of boxes can be had for around $35-45 or so. And on to the results…..
Base Set: As I stated earlier, the Series 1 base set is comprised of 150 cards. The first 100 are your standard base cards. The last 50 make up a bunch of subsets that feature a mixture of stars, young stars, and rookies. The stars are highlighted in a subset called “Gems.” You’ll find guys like Frank Thomas, Cal Ripken Jr., Barry Bonds, and so forth. The young stars are highlighted in a subset called “Sensations.” Here you’ll find players such as Todd Helton, Kerry Wood, Adrian Beltre, etc. Then, you have your rookies in a subset called………wait for it……..”Rookies.” Yes, it’s true. Despite the fact that the cards say “rookies,” I only got 1 true rookie, Austin Kearns. The rest were guys who had RC’s in 1997 products, like Roy Halladay and Lance Berkman. The last 50 cards are also shortprinted. You’ll find these seeded 1 per pack in a Hobby pack and 2 per pack in a Jumbo pack. In this box I received 89 of the first 100 cards and 21 of the last 50. Duplicates and even triplicates(!) were a problem in my box. Altogether, I received 33 duplicates and 2 triples, and I didn’t even complete the first 100 cards! Ugh. That was the only negative thing I could say about this box though.
Refractors: Ah, yes, the stuff that makes Finest the brand it is. Back then, there were only refractors and gold refractors. There was not one refractor (and X-fractor for that matter) for every color of the rainbow like now. In this product, refractors fell 2 per box on average while gold refractors were a much tougher pull, falling in every 2.5 boxes or so, and were limited to just 100. The 2 I got in this box were the refractor version of the “Sensations” subset cards of Troy Glaus and Ben Grieve (pictured above). I did not receive any gold refractors.
Peel & Reveal: This insert is very similar to the Mystery Finest sets found in basic Topps and other Topps Finest issues. You received a card covered by a black sheet that you had to peel off. It was a little remeniscent of Fleer Mystique except these were WAY harder to peel off. There were 3 versions of this insert. The most common, the one that I got, was called Sparkle (use your imagination). It was of Roger Clemens. The Sparkle cards come roughly 1 per box. The second parallel is called Hyperplaid and is a little harder to find. These have the perpendicular lines on them that Atomic Refractors do. These fall roughly 1 in every 2.5 boxes. The final parallel, and the most rare, is called Stadium Stars. I’m not even sure what these look like to be honest, but they are found roughly 1 in every 5 boxes or so. There are 20 total players in this set.
Leading Indicators: This is an interesting 10 card set. The player is featured with a background of a baseball field behind him. When you press down on a certain part of the “field,” a stat is shown. It shows the breakdown of how many of the player’s 1998 home runs went to each particular field. For example, on my Andres Galarraga card, I see that he hit 15 home runs to left field, 22 home runs to center field, and 7 home runs to right field in 1998. Pretty unique card, you don’t see this kind of originality anymore, and that’s sad.
Prominent Figures: This is a huge insert set of 50 cards. It’s called Prominent Figures because they take 5 statistical categories and number the cards according to what the (then) single-season record was for each. For example, Home Runs cards were limited to 70, RBI cards were limited to 190, Slugging % cards were limited to 847, Batting Average cards were limited to 424, and Total Bases cards were limited to 457. There were 10 players for each of these categories. Some were in more than one category. The concept was that the 10 players selected were all deemed capable of challenging the record for that particular stat. In McGwire’s case, he set the record so the Home Runs were limited to 70. I got a Slugging Percentage card of Barry Bonds. It is numbered 443/847. For a Bonds card, it’s really nice, I have to admit.
Split Screen: The final type of insert I pulled from my box was the Split Screen insert. These cards featured 2 players who seemed to have some sort of common bond between them. Some played for the same team (Ken Griffey, Jr./Alex Rodriguez), some were longtime vets who played their entire career for one team (Cal Ripken, Jr./Tony Gwynn), and some were deemed the Wave of the Future (Travis Lee/Pat Burrell). Every Split Screen card had a refractor-type finish on at least one half of the card. These cards fell about 1 per box. There was a parallel version of this though, in which BOTH halves of the card had the refractor finish. Those were seeded in every third box or so. I got very lucky with this insert. I pulled a Ken Griffey, Jr/Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds/Albert Belle single refractor card AND a DUAL refractor of Travis Lee/Pat Burrell. As I recall, I had 2 of these 3 Split Screen Cards in the same pack!. It’s always nice to beat the odds. 😉
Overall, 1999 was one of my favorite years for Topps Finest. It wasn’t just a set of veterans and refractors like the early issues. It also wasn’t a gimmicky assortment of mini-boxes, rookie autographs, and an insane amount of refractors like the later issues. It was a nice medium, filled with veterans, rookies, young stars, parallels, and great looking inserts with some unique and innovative ideas. If you’re a fan of inserts, you’ll like this product. There’s some great looking stuff in here, and for around $40 or so, how could you go wrong? It sure beats the $8 jersey card you’ll get from that pack of Playoff Absolute Memorabilia of the same MSRP.
As always, thanks for the read!