There was once a time when you could buy an entire box of Topps Finest, Bowman or Topps Chrome, and Bowman’s Best and be left with a single Refractor for your efforts. If you were extremely lucky, maybe two. These young collectors will never know how tough we old guys had it. In February, I busted a box of 2014 Finest and came away with something like 14 Refractors, of all shapes and colors.
In the days before eBay, that meant you had to spend long hours and hot summer days tracking down friends who collected (there were a lot more in that era) or go to shows and hope and pray some Beckett thumper had the Refractor of the player you collected. To put things into perspective, I paid $40 dollars for the 1993 Topps Finest Refractor of Jose Canseco … fifteen long years after its release.
While organizing my collection, I have found that I am missing some key Topps Refractors which I will now spend my money and time acquiring. This of course will put to rest my eBay spending streak of low-end Canseco autographs as I chase something way more appealing in my eyes, early-year Refractors back when these parallels had some meaning.
The oldest Refractor I need is 21 years old and comes from Topps’ inaugural Bowman’s Best line, which coincidently is coming back in 2015 after a long hiatus. In 1994 Bowman’s Best, a set that has aged terribly, by the way, Refractors were seeded 1:9 packs with a full box containing 24 packs. There are just three of these on eBay at the moment, all graded and anywhere from $59.99 to $349.99 a piece.
I too am missing 1996 Topps Chrome’s Refractor, also the first year Topps made their flagship Chrome and as you all know, the rest is history. Refractors were seeded at 1:12 packs, with a full box containing 24 packs. Unlike ’94 Bowman’s Best, these cards still look great today. Unfortunately, there is only one copy on eBay right now for a reasonably priced $29.99. This one is attainable.
Finally, I am missing an even bigger debut. In 1997, Topps created the Bowman Chrome line and all hell broke loose almost immediately. Unfortunately, Topps inserted just two Refractors per box, which drove the prices through the roof on highly-touted prospects such as Kerry Wood and Jose Cruz, Jr. but also kept player collectors like me at bay. There are ZERO Refractors of Canseco on eBay right now.
So as you can see, I have my work cut out for me. I have to make the decision to spend way more than an autograph and/or relic card to pick up 90’s cards with very little gimmicks. This is one reason I have stalled on these early Refractors because as much as I like them, it’s tough to pass up a $13 dollar, 2015 Tek autograph just to spend $70 or more for a 1994 Refractor.
Don’t even get me started on 1998 Donruss Crusade, which is a $300-$500 card on a slow day.