September is the Finest month here at The Junior Junkie. I’m going to be posting about the legendary first four Topps Finest sets in the timeline culminating with the original bastard of 90’s super-premium, the 1993 set. There will be many adjectives, much Chromium, and refractors refractors refractors.
This is one of my favorite Finest designs in the history of the brand, but there’s a caveat here I cannot ignore. It’s possible that I’m too personally involved with this set to make an objective determination.
Some of you can relate to this: if you were still growing up when the movie Hook came out (Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, RufiOOOOOO – you know the one), you know for a fact that is an awesome movie. But is it? No. It’s actually pretty painful to sit through (the imaginary food scene gets a pass, but everything else is objectively cheeseball). It does NOT hold up, but many of us think it does because we saw it when we didn’t know any better. That may very well be the case with ’95 Finest.
I’m allowing for the possibility that it’s overdesigned and poorly printed and garish or whatever. Someone who has been collecting for a while and is seeing it or the first time might be trusted more to decide if it’s good or not. I cannot be trusted. I think it’s fantastic.
The design is noticeably more modern and refined than either of its predecessors. The ’93 and ‘94 Griffey Finest cards had rainbow elements that were totally abandoned across the base set in ’95 in favor of a textured green field complete with pinstripes and a stately silver baseball diamond. They must have really liked this design, too, because they also did away with the dual subsets from both previous years.
Maybe it’s because they wanted to make horizontal cards:
The modern font in the nameplate is certainly unique but not the most legible. I distinctly remember having to look a little harder than usual to figure out whose card I was looking at.
This would be the last set to sport a big “Finest” across the top of each base card (which is something I would miss), but for the first time Finest cards came with protective film thus beginning the great peel vs. no-peel debate that rages to this day. This particular set is especially sensitive to off-center printing, so expect premiums for good copies.
The regular cards feature blue backdrops where the rookies had what looks like a wall of flame.
This was the state of the art in my collecting heyday. I even had the opportunity to bust a box of series 2 (update). My refractor was Bill Pulsipher (yaaaay.). Lord knows where that thing is now.
On to the Griffeys:
|1995 Finest #118|
Some guy wrote an article recently about who had the sweetest swing in baseball history, and I honestly think the guy was trolling the whole damn world with that article because he gave the top spot to NOT GRIFFEY. I will not be linking to said article here because I do not want this man to get any more clicks (or rage clicks if you’re like me). Instead I will simply show this card and give that nameless author a big ol’ raspberry.
This is the third Finest Griffey in a row to feature him in a dark blue jersey. I’m thinking it's the fact that the dark blue looks like future Marty McFly’s cap from BTTF Part 2 in jersey form when you slap a refractor finish over it. By the way why aren't BTTF-Part-2-hat-material jerseys a thing yet? Also where are the damn hoverboards?
The back features all the standard…well, features, like player details, previous year & career stats, and a nice, concise blurb about how super good at baseball your boy is. If you’re getting compared favorably with Babe Ruth, you’re doing alright.
I am a fan of the back - the front theme carries over nicely here where it is muted just a little to allow for a better look at that superimposed action shot and text. But it also seems kind of ordinary, especially compared with the previous set. It’s attractive and cool, but ordinary. Finest cards should be anything but ordinary.
|1995 Finest #118 Refractor|
I needed this one for the ’96 Beckett Tribute checklist, so I begrudgingly pulled the trigger for this peeled one (in a BGS 9 sleeve) for what seemed like a very high price of $80. I’d have preferred unpeeled, but looking back I don’t care quite as much now that they cost ALL THE MONEY.
|It's one of those floppy on-site sleeves.|
I don’t have specific production figures but BBCP suggests an estimate of about 550 refractors per player, more than double the quantity from previous sets. It is the first refractor with an indicator on the back, but it's not in the most conspicuous place.
I actually missed this thing completely at first. Thankfully Topps would put this right by the card number from here on.
|1995 Finest Power Kings #PK10|
This one-per-box beauty is one of the two first ever Finest inserts (the other being “Flame Throwers”). The "cracked" background here is great and complements the “grass” texturing of the base cards, but there is one BIG thing missing with this insert: refractors. There are none for these which is a shame because those lightning bolts would look awesome.
Man oh man, look at all this stuff. They really filled this thing out with charts, blurbs, lightning bolts, and multiple action shots. This is the exact kind of back I like to see on an insert, but there’s also a lot here that is open to interpretation. First of all I want to know more about these metrics.
What is off-field power? Is that how hard he hits the ball when he’s not on the field, hitting the ball? Like, are these parking lot stats? And who sat down and said, “You know, his contact could be better.” I don’t like that person. I guess I would prefer some statistically-defensible data here because this just looks like somebody’s opinion.
I do love this blurb, though. Can we talk about “blinding trigger mechanisms” because that is so me with pizza rolls.
No jumbos this year, so that about wraps it up. The Finest month continues next week with the ’94 set and one of the greatest card backs in the modern age. Thanks for reading!