You Be the Judge! – King of 1997

If ever there was one year that catered to the infamous “Joe Collector”, it was 1997. Sure, Topps Finest had already created the favored drug of the Joe Collector years earlier with the debut of the Refractor and made them much easier to come by thanks to Bowman’s Best and Topps Chrome, but 1997 was just a special year for trading cards, maybe baseball in general.

Below are ten of my favorite releases of that very special season of trading cards. In this very special ‘You Be the Judge’ I am asking you the collector to chime in with your favorite brand from 1997. Was it SPx, with it’s beautiful and sometimes creepy holographic images? How about the first-ever release of Bowman Chrome or the original Bowman “Chrome” autographs released by Bowman’s Best? Maybe like me, you are a “Pinnacle Man” who loves Certified and Totally Certified, or perhaps you keep it old school with the bad ass Topps Finest of the year. If you collect and love this hobby and were around in 1997, this is your chance to speak your mind. Is your favorite 1997 baseball release not pictured? Please, let us know!

Finally, here is a full scan of eight of the images combined which would make a decent wallpaper, if you are a big enough card collecting nerd. Unfortunately, I had to leave out two products and chose Upper Deck SPx and Bowman’s Best. You can view the Wax Heaven wallpaper by clicking HERE.

Upper Deck SPx

Pinnacle Totally Certified

E-X 2000 (Fleer)

Donruss Signature Series

Topps Finest

Flair Showcase (Fleer)

Leaf Limited (Donruss)

Bowman’s Best

Pinnacle Certified

Bowman Chrome

11 thoughts on “You Be the Judge! – King of 1997

  1. 1:Man…tough question. The ’97 Finest Embossed Refractors are some of my favorite cards of all-time so I’d have to give my vote to Finest.

    2: Pinnacle Certified was a great looking set w/ Mirror Red, Blue, Gold, Certified Gold Team/Mirror Gold Team.

    3: Pinnacle Totally Certified was a better looking set than Certified IMO, but the Platinum Gold was really the only thing worth pulling.

    4: E-X2000 had great looking base cards but kinda lacking in the inserts. However, ’97 Essential Credentials are some of the best looking inserts ever IMO.

    5: My food is getting cold and i’m tired of typing.

  2. If you polled every collector around, you’d see an astounding Bowman Chrome vote.

    However, I’d go with Donruss Signature Series

  3. This was when my collecting slowed. The only packs I ever really got into were 97 Fleer, with the “perfect for autographs!” matte finish, and even those were only because it was the only brand of cards sold at the Navy Exchange near my house. Though I remember looking every where for the Travis Lee and Kerry Wood Bowman RCs!!!

  4. I wasn’t collecting in 1997 (what can I say… college screwed up my priorities a little – lol )

    If I had been, I think I would have been trying to come up with the cash for the Donruss Signature Series cards (I’ve always loved autographs) or the Upper Deck SPx cards (holograms are fun.)

  5. I wasn’t a collector in ’97 so Bowman Chrome doesn’t do anything for me (see Paul). The Signature series is definitely a cool concept, I assume they actually had major leaguers and weren’t stuffed with 28-year old rookie middle relievers. How much did packs of those go back then? The SPx and Totally Certified are LOUD but very nice looking cards you don’t really see nowadays. Though I am not a fan of the “protective coating” stuff, has anyone in their right mind ever peeled them? (I have some of the original Finest and it never crossed my mind)

  6. Dammit Mario, now I’m going to go open some ’97 Bowman’s Best thanks to this post. But to answer the question…at the time, I was mostly into the Certifieds and SPx. My personal fave, however, was Flair Showcase (I was a Fleer fanboy). I’m DYING to find a box of that (like you are with Totally Certified). The inserts rocked (Wave of the Future, Hot Gloves, Diamond Cuts) and of course the hunt for the 1/1 Masterpieces was crazy. I remember going to a show back then and seeing these 2 guys with half a display case of just the Legacy parallels which included all the big stars (Ripken, Jeter, A-Rod, etc…)!

  7. Bowman Chrome, simply because I absolutely loved the 1997 regular Bowman series. So many good players had rookie cards in there: Chavez, Tejada, Berkman, Vernon Wells, Roy Halladay, Carlos Pena, etc. Plus the chrome set was a landmark release. We all can thank Kerry Wood for that. Before his 20-strikeout game, Chrome almost seemed to be treated like a parallel of regular Bowman. Most of the Chrome rookies were simply two times whatever the Bowman card went for. Wood’s record-tying performance brought lots of investors to the game of cards. All of this drove up pack prices, and then the cost of singles, particularly of star rookies.

  8. At the time, I went nuts over the SPX LEaf Limited and Totally Certified. Now I would be after the Leaf Signature. Back then, of all these products, Bowman Chrome was completely off my radar.

  9. 1997 Pinnacle Totally Certified. Dufex was (and still is) one of the best insert concepts to come from Pinnacle. Second place would be Donruss Signature. On card autos at a rate of 1 per pack? Sign me up! I don’t care about prospects, so Bowman Chrome has no place for me (except for my player collection). Refractors are nice, but we see them everyday and they aren’t as hard to find anymore.

  10. Oldschool …. don’t bother with Bowman’s Best, the autos were hard to get, and the base product was pretty crappy. That said, it does contain nearly all the rookies from the Bowman Chrome series, so that’s a plus.

  11. I thought at first this would be a toss up, but then remembered back to the products, It was between Flair and Donruss signature. But I have to give the edge to Donruss. I remember I bought 2 boxes of this stuff for one thing, and I got it. A Frank Thomas Signature. Today collectors might say Thomas, but back in the 90’s that signture was gold. You have to look at the others as well most players did not develope until late 90’s early 2000. I could get the Ortiz for 10.00. The Donruss was a groundbreaking set, to me it remains one of the best products of that decade.

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