Let’s start by covering what makes two versions of card #160 so special. I’m biased for two reasons: I own both cards shown in this post and I collect Frank Thomas. Regardless, I’m confident you’ll appreciate what’s discussed here. Here we have two Frank Thomas cards, both #160 in the 1997 Finest Baseball set. While they may look similar to the untrained eye, these two cards differ in two ways.
The card on the left is the correct pack-inserted variety. It features the signature die-cut edges and embossed player photo, which is difficult to notice in a flat scan.
The card on the right is the error version that is believed to have been cut from a sheet featuring the entire set. This version has flat edges and no embossing. While significantly rarer than the correct version, its market value, at least at the time of my purchase, was significantly weaker than that of the correct version.
Markets are funny like that. Some collectors prefer to own the original version without any funny business. Others go after manufacturing defects ::raises hand:: because they like the uniqueness of them. If you’re even more like me, you go for one of each because you like the side-by-side comparison and they make for excellent blog posts. Okay, so not everyone is like me and I respect and appreciate that. I can’t imagine a world where everyone was like me; I’d probably hate it.
Then there’s this guy, card #279. Depicted are two copies of the same card. No error here; just two versions with high grades from two of the hobby’s most respectable grading companies. I can remember when I got my first copy of this card back in the summer of 2003. I had just gotten back into the market after a five year break and my first goal was to buy all the Frank Thomas cards from the local card shops, of which there were exactly two at the time. I was really only after stuff I didn’t already have, which at the time encompassed quite a lot of cards. A raw copy of this card was acquired along with a variety of others that summer. I did the common thing of separating this card from my other cards because of its value and rarity. That lasted until I wised up and adopted a more uniform and less discriminating approach to organizing my collection. Now it sits in the same place as everyone else.
These cards are just beautiful. The box-metrix refractor pattern on these cards is so incredible. For the silver card (#279), it’s the same technology used on 1996 Bowman’s Best Atomic Refractors. For the gold card (#160), it’s the same technology used on 1997 Bowman’s Best Atomic Refractors. I just love that Topps incorporated both design elements in the 1997 Finest Embossed Refractor parallel set. I thought that was a very clever and tasteful design strategy. In person, these cards are things of beauty.
Who was one player you remember who helped drive hobby interest in 1997?