Amidst the overproduction of the 80’s and 90’s, a true collector’s item emerged. In 1993, Topps Finest Baseball debuted. The set only included 199 cards, significantly less than the standard 700-800 card Topps set. There were also only two rookie cards in the set, J.T. Snow and Mike Lansing. Packs had an original suggested retail price of $3.99, but due to enormous popularity quickly sold for over $20 in hobby shops.
1993 Finest Baseball is most notable for the first instance of refractors. While Donruss introduced the Elite series in 1991 with a print run of 10,000, Topps significantly upped the ante with the refractor. Refractors are cards with a special chrome coating that reflect light when held at an angle, creating a rainbow effect. In fact, the technology used in the making of these cards has been awarded multiple patents. The diagram for U.S. Patent #5106126 titled “Process printed image with reflective coating” is shown below.
While production runs are usually kept secret, Topps decided to announce the number of cases released. With 4,000 twelve box cases, and refractors appearing at a rate of about one per box, collectors quickly did the math and calculated a print run of 241 for each refractor. Other people claim print runs of less than 200 refractors for certain cards. Topps has never confirmed this number, nor the odds of a refractor. The estimated odds of a refractor are between 1:15 packs and 1:18 packs.
The 1993 Finest Baseball set still resonates with collectors today. As of early 2021, unopened boxes are selling for more than $1,000 and individual packs are fetching over $60. With all the manufactured scarcity and serial numbered madness pervasive in the industry today, collectors continue to be drawn to the chase of a refractor.