30 Day Baseball Card Challenge

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Nifty 90's Nostalgia #7: 95/96 Finest Gold Refractors

I dumped a lot of money during the 90's on sports cards... believe it or not... much more than I spend these days. And it no doubt peaked during the mid 90's... when I was chasing the gold refractors out of 1995-96 Finest Hockey.

I'm not 100% sure what I paid for wax boxes, but I'm sure it was close to $100... if not more. And guess how frequently these bad boys were pulled? One gold refractor for every 288 packs. In other words... one gold refractor per 12 box case.

Eventually... I saw the light... stopped busting boxes... and started buying singles. At one time, I had over 75% of the set. I owned a Wayne Gretzky, Patrick Roy, Ray Bourque, Mario Lemieux, Teemu Selanne, Eric Lindros, Pavel Bure, and Brett Hull. In fact... the only big names that I was missing were Martin Brodeur, Steve Yzerman, and the infamous Jaromir Jagr.

If you've never heard the story behind Patrick Englert and his Jagr gold refractors, I encourage you to read this article: Too much of a good thing...

Essentially... Topps originally announced that only 150 of each gold refractor was produced. But somehow Mr. Englert obtained 159 of the Jagr card. Hmmm... it doesn't take a math magician to figure out somethings wrong with that picture. Especially when Mr. Englert had spent over $50,000 on these Jagr gold refractors. Oh... don't feel bad for him... the guy ended up winning a lawsuit against Topps that paid him $177,000. Talk about making a killer investment.

Okay... back to me and my investment. Ummm... let's just say that I didn't fair so well. I sold most of my gold refractors several years later when interest in these cards had dropped and values tumbled. I have no idea what I received, but I'm sure it was less than 25% of what I spent.

Today... I have only three different cards left from that set:

1995-96 Finest Gold Refractor #41 Brian Leetch

1995-96 Finest Gold Refractor #123 Keith Tkachuk

1995-96 Finest Gold Refractor #140 Alexander Mogilny

Up until yesterday... these were sitting in my tradelist... but I was bored last night and decided to sift through my tradebait. An hour or so later... I had pulled out these and probably 25 other inserts that I've decided to keep for sentimental reasons.

These cards are a healthy reminder to myself that I should NEVER... and I mean NEVER collect sports cards as an investment. Some people are smart and/or lucky enough to make a living off of this hobby... but I'm not one of them.

Today... I look at collecting sports card the same way I look at gambling. It's a form of entertainment. I only spend what I can afford to lose.

So... today's your opportunity to brag about your best and worst card investment:

What's the best card investment you've ever made?

What's your worst?

I'll keep my best investment story for another day... but my worst is probably these gold refractors. Sure I invested a lot of money on Ryan Leaf and Michael Olowokandi, but nothing near the amount I dropped on 1995-96 Finest Hockey.

By the way... the photo at the top was ripped from Ebay... where you can purchase boxes of this stuff for around $80 shipped... so assuming people are paying close to this... I guess unopened wax of this product has "sort of" held its value.

Happy Sunday everyone! Tomorrow... I'm headed back into the classroom... so my streak of seven posts in seven straight days will probably be coming to an end sooner than later. Thanks for reading my blog. Sayonara.

Extra Edition

Mr. Engert read this blog post and was kind enough to email me some information I didn't have access to before:

The lawsuit against Topps cost him around $135,000 in lawyer fees and when you throw in the $10,000 spent on the Jagr refractors... it wasn't as much of killer investment as originally thought.  But money isn't the only thing that came out of this situation.

Mr. Engert still owns 150 copies of the Jagr and has one helluva story for his grandchildren.  


  1. Great article for a Sunday morning.

    Really, the only real chance at making serious money is baseball prospect investing. But that is a full time job. But you can really get into it if you have the time...I don't though.

    My worst investment? For sentimental reasons, I think I said this once, I bought all the Bowman Edgar Gonzalez RC's I could, including gold refractors (all which I still have). The guy was already like 30 years old when he played back in 08 alongside his brother Adrian. And that was only because Iguchi went down with injury that year. But I loved the old dog still getting the chance to live his dream. I'll never forget watching him hit his 1st homer. The look on his and Adrian's face was priceless. It transcended baseball. It was family and history in one great moment.

    That was a long response. But it holds true. I'll never sell my E-Gon cards. They represent what a man can do with a dream at any age. That's a good thing for me to have going into 30 years old this year.

    Best investment? I'm still going to go with my Nicolas Batum collection. I jumped on that boat before anybody. Already, right now I'm 100% positive that I could sell off what I have of him for a 40-50% profit. That's not bad. I won't sell, of course. But knowing his market, it's nice to know that I could sell and make a hefty profit over all that I've paid to obtain his RC's.

    Great post Fuji.

  2. I'm with you on the 90s bandwagon. The thing is that most boxes were so much cheaper back then (pre-Finest and some of the more high end products that started to pop up). Heck, even stuff like Upper Deck SP was only around $55 a box if you got it right when it first came out.

    What makes things worse about my spending habits in the 90s was that I bought everything because there weren't nearly as many sets. I've got tons of hockey cards from the 90s and I didn't even watch the sport. I just needed stuff to bust. Most sets were completed after opening one box and there weren't annoying short prints to chase so completing sets were easy. After I spent a little bit on my player collections, there was money to be spent on wax and so I bought everything. (Getting most of it at cost when I worked at the card shop helped as well.) Boy do I wish that I had that kind of disposable income these days.

    I haven't really invested much. I bought a ton of Al Jefferson stuff when he was a rookie that might be worth something now. I picked up some Rondo stuff before it really took off. If Bryce Brentz becomes a big star, I've got a ton of his stuff. I picked up a lot of Glen Davis stuff cheaply and a lot of that has increased along with his popularity. There isn't anything there that I would sell though so I guess it's not really an investment.

    Buying a Mike Piazza 92 Bowman rookie for $3 would have to be my best investment though. I searched all over for that card, but most dealers weren't selling it because Beckett had listed it so low. Funny how dealers swear by Beckett until it's "wrong."

  3. g moses - mornin' g... i'm ashamed to admit this... but i didn't even know adrian had a brother... and never put edgar and adrian together. did he retire? i haven't heard his name in awhile.

    i give you props for collecting him... that's a pretty cool reason. i tried to find a youtube clip of the homerun, but came up short.

    no doubt your batum collection is impressive... you were the first person i ever heard talk about the guy. the only reason i have an autograph of him is b/c of your blog.

    offy - speaking of short prints... 95/96 finest hockey was one of the first products to have different levels within their base cards. bronze were the commons... silver were uncommons... and the golds were rare. at one time i almost had a complete silver base set (not refractor set)... but i think i gave up.

    nice call on rondo... if they win it this year... you'll see another big jump in his cards since he's the future of the franchise.

    $3 for a piazza bowman rookie? that's one helluva pickup... congratulations!

  4. I ended up on the Piazza bandwagon early due to fantasy baseball. I read about him in a preview magazine and grabbed him in the league I was in at the time and he quickly became my best player. I usually didn't have too difficult of a time picking up his cards after that first one because there weren't too many people in Massachusetts collecting Piazza especially once he joined the Mets.

  5. Egon? He's currently playing in Japan. But yeah, they were one of the rare sets of brothers to play at the same time on the same team.

    He was pushed out of San Diego when they decided to bring up the next generation of farm players. Really I think the only reason he lasted as long as he did was because the team didn't want to piss off Adrian by shipping him off.

    He played for Mexico in the WBC - I think AGon played with him there. But last I checked, he went to Japan. Hopefully he can come back to a league closer to the US so I can follow him again.

    When I say I bought a lot of his cards, I mean I bought a lot. I probably have 40-45 Egon cards.

  6. offy - damn... didn't even know they had fantasy baseball back in the 90's... do you still collect piazza?

    g - japan heh... i guess a lot of mlb players head over there after their careers are done over here. i just bought some packs of japanese baseball cards. maybe i'll pull one of him. if not... i'll have to grab one of his cards for my padres collection.

  7. Yep, I still collect Piazza's. You saw the epic Piazza trifecta and then some post I did a couple of months ago, right?

  8. offy - that's right... a super duper trifecta... nice collection of piazza.

  9. I don't know it I have a really bad investment, but I'll share the dumbest thing I've done in a while. I sold a 09/10 Threads Blake Griffin letter auto that I traded for for about $25 in September of last year. Why didn't I hold on to that!

    I could have bought a Kia with that money if I sold it today!