My buddy Dan G. and I decided to specifically discuss the 1997 Finest Gold Embossed Refractor because it’s one we both enjoy. That and Dan just secured his Mark McGwire and I encouraged him to write about it. Thanks Dan! In turn, I will be discussing my Frank Thomas of the same make. Let’s get to it. But before we do, notice that Dan’s Mark McGwire is actually a UER (Un-Corrected Error) in that Mark’s last name is spelled with a U’ instead of a W. A common mistake.
Dan’s Mark McGwire: Mark McGwire 1997 Finest #155 Embossed Refractor
Recently I inducted a new member into the McGwire collection. He goes by the name of 1997 Finest Gold Embossed Refractor. And, just like pronouncing its name, this card is very difficult to attain. How difficult? one might ask. Well, here are some numbers. These rare beauties were seeded at a rate of 1:1,152 packs or 1:48 boxes. Additionally, if you consider that there are fifty cards within the set that appear in this variation, a collector could potentially open 2,400 wax boxes in the attempt to pull a specific player. These numbers are astronomical, which calls in the next question: What are the print runs? Well, I have no concrete answer. All I can say, from some internet research and some hobby blog posts, is that the player collecting universe accepts the print range to be between 25 and 40 copies.
Because of their rarity, few collectors have seen these cards. I had never seen one until now and I have been collecting since 1989. But, when I finally had my opportunity, I was astonished. The 1997 Finest Gold Embossed Refractor takes all of the Finest technologies and tastefully brings them together in a kaleidoscope fashion. My personal favorite is the deckle edging also known as scalloped edges; however, the fact that the refractor technology also graces the backs of these cards makes me giddy as a little kid. For your enjoyment I have provided scans of both the front and back (above); however, the pictures do these cards no justice.
Patrick’s Frank Thomas: Frank Thomas 1997 Finest #160 Embossed Refractor
It wasn’t until 2003 that I discovered the 1997 Finest Gold Embossed Refractor parallels. That was back when I secured the silver embossed refractor of Frank Thomas, card 279. What you see here is the much more scarce gold version, card 160. For this entry, I will focus specifically on card 160, the gold version.
I can remember being in grad school when I first saw one of these surface on eBay. That was back in 2007. If I can remember correctly, the auction ended at around $80, which at the time, seemed low. Over the years, I have seen prices really climb for these examples. A copy listed on eBay in early 2012 had a price tag of $799! More interesting is that even that auction didn’t last very long. My guess is that a buyer made a private offer and the seller sold the card for something closer to $500, which is still a huge difference from from $80 auction I saw back in 2007. I purchased my example right around when the more expensive example was listed. Actually, if I can recall correctly, my witnessing of the more expensive example prompted me to pull the trigger on this copy. I had this card in my watch list for a few weeks and knew that at one point I was going to own it.
Related article: Frank Thomas 1997 Finest Embossed Refractor Baseball Cards
In hand, these cards are very special. In the ’90’s, Topps utilized a box-like, almost matrix-like refractive technology that really made these cards stand out. When you manipulate these cards near a light source, you can really see them come alive. Both front and back possess the refractor technology. I really appreciate a good design and these examples depict some of Topps finest.
In terms of rarity, these cards are little nightmares. Consider yourself lucky if you’ve ever seen one in person. With each passing year, these cards get harder to locate because they end up in permanent collections never to be seen on the auction block again. Sometimes I track sales of these cards from other players just for curiosity and over the past two years, I’ve seen the Michael Jordan 1997 Finest Gold Embossed Refractor routinely fetch upwards of $10K! While I am aware that MJ is an outlier in this hobby in that nobody comes anywhere close to the strength of his market yield, it is interesting to see such ultra high prices. With regard to baseball, Jeter, Ripken, and Griffey all perform really well. Frank Thomas is a bit more affordable but I have already seen that change in recent years possibly due to the following factors:
It’s pretty much a guarantee that Frank Thomas will make the Hall of Fame
People who collected Frank Thomas as kids in the ’90’s are getting back into the hobby. Because they are older now and likely have more discretionary income, they are able to invest in cards they always wanted as kids.
I purchased the example you see here back in March of 2012, 15 years after the product’s release. I paid probably close to the 1997 version of market value for this card, which was fine by me but when you consider that statement, think about how huge Frank Thomas was back in 1997. So huge that he was featured on some of the hobby’s first-ever game used cards. While that’s another discussion entirely, suffice to say, this card isn’t getting any cheaper or easier to find.
These cards were inserted at a rate of 1:1152 packs, which means that you would have to open 48 boxes just to pull one. The gold subset is 50 cards in total so player specific odds greatly increase that number to 1:2400 boxes. That’s 57,600 packs! With a price point of $40/box, expect to drop $96,000 just to guarantee that you pull your guy. While the odds are correct, this may or may not be possible because it’s unconfirmed whether that many boxes of this product still exist today.
To view the current eBay auctions for 1997 Finest Embossed Refractors, click here.
What did you end up paying for your copy of the gold Frank??? If you don’t mind the question. I’m just curious:-)
I paid a few bills for it but it’s also a BGS 9, so to me it was worth every penny. Many thanks for reading. 🙂
I have a griffey jr, piazza, and a jose cruz jr all gold embossed refractors. I cannot find pricing info on the Griffey anywhere?
Hey Phil looking to complete my set and interested in the Piazza and Griffey, are you taking any offers?
My email is email@example.com
I also have a silver ebmossed refractor of abreu and mariano rivera. Any pricing info would be great on those too.
Those are all very strong cards. The Gold Embossed Refractors typically yield much higher premiums in comparison to their silver counterpart. There are 150 different cards in the Embossed Refractors set: 100 Silver, 50 Gold. Depending on the player, the golds can fetch $100’s. Most silvers typically fall below or well below the $100 mark. I see prices anywhere from $5-$80, sometimes higher if they’re graded. I hope this helps. Thanks for reading.
Interesting article and enjoyable read. I am a hardcore Jeter collector and have been wanting this Jeter card for almost 10 years. I know where 3-5 are hiding, but they are buried in serious personal collections. Anyways, an example (graded PSA 10) popped up on eBay this week for $1200 OBO. I offered $1000 which was accepted immediately. I felt like I overpaid a bit, but I had wanted it so long, it it was graded gem mint so I was ok with it. I have almost 2000 feedbacks on eBay – but this was a first for me: The seller messaged me saying he received a higher cash offer after the sale, and that he would refund my money plus $100 if I was interested – or just ship me the card. It was a tempting offer but I am going to take shipment of the card – maybe I didn’t overpay after all. Thought you guys may find this interesting.
Congrats! I think you came up on that deal. Those cards are getting harder to find with each passing year. The value for that card will only appreciate with time. These cards are so beautiful in hand. I love the feeling of finally acquiring a card I’ve wanted for so long. It’s like no other feeling. I felt that last March when I finally acquired a high-grade example of the famous 1990 Topps Frank Thomas NNOF. A great sense of achievement. Congratulations again Paul. I’m really happy for you. 🙂
Hey Patrick small world, my name is also Patrick and about 1 year ago I bought an overpriced box 97 finest from a local hobby shop. I happened to pull the same Thomas you have pictured if you are at all interested in having another make a fair offer and I am sure we can work something out. I would say offer a trade normally but recently purchased my first home about the same time 1 year ago and any extra cash goes into maintanence of the home.
I am 60 yrs old .Bought a pack of cards in 1997 on a wim only pack left in box ,pulled the Embossed die cut Griffey jr Refractor. Opened in front of the shop owner. Bingo the holy grail. 2 years later tradedit for 2 vintage 1957 Mickey Mantle cards. I still wish I had that card. God bless
I think any Mickey Mantle career-year cards are great to have. Thanks for sharing.