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The birth of the Refractor?

For as long as I have been collecting, I have always been attracted to bright, shiny baseball cards. When Topps introduced the Finest line in 1993, it also came packaged with the debut of Refractors. Today, you can find these parallels in seemingly dozens of colors in every Topps product imaginable. That wasn’t the case in 1993 as they came just one per box.

Before Topps produced Finest, they needed to test out the technology to see if it could be done. In 1990, Topps chose six fronts from their Traded set and created what is now known as ‘Experimental Mylar Stickers’. The set, which features just six cards is valued at $400 dollars, according to Sports Collectors Digest.

Below is a scan of one of the six cards. The others are: Shane Mack, Alan Mills, Alejandro Pena, Gerald Perry, and Dave Winfield, which has a book value near $200 dollars. Unfortunately, I could not find any in current or completed eBay auctions but I will be keeping an eye out for them.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Refractors are easily the most popular trading card parallel in The Hobby today. Who knows what Topps may have come up with instead had this experiment gone awry. Today’s Refractor may be overused but it’s still one of the best things about collecting in my opinion.

Should Topps produce a throwback to the Experimental Mylar Stickers in 2010?

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12 Responses to "The birth of the Refractor?"

  1. dayf says:

    I’d heard of those but I’ve never actually seen one. That looks pretty cool, I bet they’re really nice in person. I wouldn’t mind a shiny mylar sticker insert in 2010 Topps.

  2. gobigpelf34 says:

    cool, nice little history bit there.

  3. Jeff W says:

    I’ve never seen one either, very cool find. I don’t know if this was the general sentiment, but my collecting buddies and I always felt that chrome/refractor technology would last longer than some of the other innovations in the 90′s, it just has better appeal. I don’t collect it much now, but man when cool innovation hits, it changes everything.

  4. unclemoe says:

    i remember the ones from NBA ones from 93-94. People were going crazy for those. I still <3 refractors.

  5. Mario A. says:

    I’d do anything just to see one of these in person!

  6. jl says:

    again another rare subset from the 90′s I never knew exsited. How were these distrubuted. Were they seeded, inserted, or given to dealers. Why is it now almost 20yrs collecting I have never seen these or the preview cards listed from another blog….

  7. Mario A. says:

    JL, I am always looking to add something a little different than the usual stuff found elsewhere.

    No clue how they were distributed but I will try to find out.

  8. John Melillo says:

    I collect Yankee refractors, the ones below are the only ones I need to have every base & insert Yankee refractor ever made.
    32 cards is all that eludes me in my quest. Please email me if you have any of these.
    I don’t collect parallel refractors, just the base refractors. I hate that Topps does so many levels of refractors, it’s to much.

    Remaining Yankee Refractor Checklist: (Revised 8/11/09)

    1998(1):
    1998 Finest The Man Refractor #TM9 Derek Jeter $40-100 (Serial #’d To 75)

    1999(2):
    1999 Topps Chrome Early Road to the Hall Refractors #ER2 Derek Jeter $40-100
    1999 Topps Chrome Fortune 15 Refractor #FF3 Derek Jeter $40-100 (Serial #’d To 100)

    2000(14)
    2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractor #5 Bernie Williams $5-12
    2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractor #50 Derek Jeter $20-50
    2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractor #108 Mariano Rivera $8-20
    2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractor #148 Wily Pena $3-6
    2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractor #185 Craig Dingman $3-8
    2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractor #193 Alfonso Soriano $6-15
    2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractor #245 Donny Leon $3-8
    2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractor #258 Alex Graman $3-8
    2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractor #268 Juan Rivera $3-8
    2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractor #284 D’Angelo Jimenez $3-8
    2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractor #298 David Walling $3-8
    2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractor #314 Scott Seabol $3-8
    2000 Topps Chrome Refractor #478A D.Jeter MM 1996 ROY $15-40
    2000 Topps Chrome Refractor #478E D.Jeter MM 17 GM Hit Streak $15-40

    2001(4):
    2001 Topps Chrome Golden Anniversary Refractor #GA20 Jose Canseco $5-12
    2001 Topps Chrome Retrofractor #46 Jose Canseco $3-8
    2001 Topps Chrome Retrofractor #133 Roger Clemens $10-25
    2001 Topps Chrome Retrofractor #560 Shane Spencer $1-3

    2003(3):
    2003 Topps Fan Favorites Chrome Refractor #9 Graig Nettles $2-5 (Serial #’d To 299)
    2003 Topps Fan Favorites Chrome Refractor #40 Don Mattingly $10-25 (Serial #’d To 299)
    2003 Topps Fan Favorites Chrome Refractor #53 Bobby Richardson $2-5 (Serial #’d To 299)
    2003 Topps Pristine Refractor #121 Chien-Ming Wang R $40-80 (Serial #’d To 99)

    2004(7):
    2004 Topps Fan Favorites Refractor #15 Bob Sheppard ANC $3-8 (Serial #’d To 299)
    2004 Topps Pristine Refractor #6 Javier Vazquez $4-10 (Serial #’d To 49)
    2004 Topps Pristine Refractor #10 Alex Rodriguez $15-40 (Serial #’d To 49)
    2004 Topps Pristine Refractor #40 Derek Jeter $20-50 (Serial #’d To 49)
    2004 Topps Pristine Refractor #53 Kevin Brown $4-10 (Serial #’d To 49)
    2004 Topps Pristine Refractor #80 Jason Giambi $4-10 (Serial #’d To 49)
    2004 Topps Pristine Refractor #85 Mike Mussina $6-15 (Serial #’d To 49)

    Grand Total Refractors Left: 32

  9. Chris says:

    OH GREAT!!!! I follow a link here and start to read about these test refractors and see the list of nobodies (except Winfield) and then I scroll down to see the sample card!!! JOE CARTER!!! The only player I super collect!!! I finally get a friggin aqueous test card of him and now this one becomes the new “white whale!!” AGHHHHHH!!! IF anyone has any leads please let me know.

  10. John Melillo says:

    I collect Yankee refractors, the ones below are the only ones I need to have every base & insert Yankee refractor ever made.
    21 cards is all that eludes me in my quest. Please email me if you have any of these.
    I don’t collect parallel refractors, just the base refractors. I hate that Topps does so many levels of refractors, it’s to much.

    Remaining Yankee Refractor Checklist: (Revised 01/24/10)

    1998(1):
    1998 Finest The Man Refractor #TM9 Derek Jeter $40-100 (Serial #’d To 75)

    1999(1):
    1999 Topps Chrome Fortune 15 Refractor #FF3 Derek Jeter $40-100 (Serial #’d To 100)

    2000(11)
    2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractor #5 Bernie Williams $5-12
    2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractor #108 Mariano Rivera $8-20
    2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractor #148 Wily Pena $3-6
    2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractor #185 Craig Dingman $3-8
    2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractor #245 Donny Leon $3-8
    2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractor #258 Alex Graman $3-8
    2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractor #268 Juan Rivera $3-8
    2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractor #284 D’Angelo Jimenez $3-8
    2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractor #298 David Walling $3-8
    2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractor #314 Scott Seabol $3-8
    2000 Topps Chrome Refractor #478A Derek Jeter MM 1996 ROY $15-40

    2001(4):
    2001 Topps Chrome Golden Anniversary Refractor #GA20 Jose Canseco $5-12
    2001 Topps Chrome Retrofractor #46 Jose Canseco $3-8
    2001 Topps Chrome Retrofractor #133 Roger Clemens $10-25
    2001 Topps Chrome Retrofractor #560 Shane Spencer $1-3

    2004(4):
    2004 Topps Fan Favorites Refractor #15 Bob Sheppard ANC $3-8 (Serial #’d To 299)
    2004 Topps Pristine Refractor #6 Javier Vazquez $4-10 (Serial #’d To 49)
    2004 Topps Pristine Refractor #53 Kevin Brown $4-10 (Serial #’d To 49)
    2004 Topps Pristine Refractor #80 Jason Giambi $4-10 (Serial #’d To 49)

    Grand Total Refractors Left: 21

    • John Melillo says:

      Well, 3 years later, here’s what I’m done to needing. HELP!

      2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractors #108 Mariano Rivera $8-20
      2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractors #148 Wily Pena $3-8
      2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractors #185 Craig Dingman $3-8
      2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractors #245 Donny Leon $3-8
      2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractors #258 Alex Graman $3-8
      2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractors #268 Juan Rivera $3-8
      2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractors #284 D’Angelo Jimenez $3-8
      2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractors #298 David Walling $3-8
      2001 Topps Chrome Golden Anniversary Refractors #GA20 Jose Canseco $5-12
      2004 Topps All-Time Fan Favorites Refractors #15 Bob Sheppard ANC $4-10
      2004 Topps Pristine Refractors #53 Kevin Brown $3-8
      2009 Topps Factory Set Target Ruth Chrome Gold Refractors #1 Babe Ruth $8-20

      • John Melillo says:

        Well, 3 years later, here’s what I’m done to needing. HELP!

        2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractors #108 Mariano Rivera $8-20
        2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractors #148 Wily Pena $3-8
        2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractors #185 Craig Dingman $3-8
        2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractors #245 Donny Leon $3-8
        2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractors #258 Alex Graman $3-8
        2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractors #268 Juan Rivera $3-8
        2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractors #284 D’Angelo Jimenez $3-8
        2000 Bowman Chrome Retro/Future Refractors #298 David Walling $3-8
        2004 Topps All-Time Fan Favorites Refractors #15 Bob Sheppard ANC $4-10
        2009 Topps Factory Set Target Ruth Chrome Gold Refractors #1 Babe Ruth $8-20

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