As you may have already heard, Fanatics purchased Topps Company on January 4th, 2022 for $500 million. Having previously secured the exclusive rights to NBA & NFL trading cards last year, this move by Fanatics almost guarantees the return of Topps Chrome Football & Basketball, as well as rookie-themed Bowman products for all three major sports. This is potentially a huge win for collectors as it brings back Topps Chrome Refractors to NFL & NBA collectors and also likely drives a steak through the heart, figuratively speaking, of Panini America. Read here to understand why this is GREAT. Thank you, Fanatics.
As most know, Topps introduced Chromium and Refractor technology way in 1993 with Finest Baseball. Finest and Topps absolutely changed the world of trading cards seemingly overnight. Finest’s debut put and end to the “Junk Wax” era in the same way Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ album killed off hair metal. After Topps’ Refractors hit the market, nothing would ever be the same and I was dreading losing Topps’ wares after Fanatics took over. Now, I and millions of other collectors won’t need to worry. Fanatics has 70 years of traditions to fall back on and model its new products after.
Not long after the Fanatics/Topps deal was announced, a very special card hit my inbox. To be honest, it is a card I think about more than I’d like to admit. I originally wrote about this card way back in 2015 and have seen it hit auction sites a total of zero times since then. It is about as rare as cards can get with a print run that is to this day unknown. The card was produced by California-based, Signs & Glassworks, INC. in late 1992 or early 1993. There is actually a trademark which was filled in January of 1993 which you can find here. As you can imagine, there’s not much more information available.
The little bit of information that is available was passed on to me by a Dan Marino super collector who owned a copy and believed, take it with a grain of salt, that less than 10 were produced and that Signs & Glassworks’ owner, Craig G. Taylor, shopped his finished product to both Upper Deck & Topps but was met with little to no interest. What’s perhaps most fascinating is that Craig’s Chrome Marino card is titled ‘Football’s Finest’ and when Topps finally released their own Chrome product, they called it ‘Finest’. Could this be a case of ‘Good artists borrow, great artists steal’?
Unfortunately, Signs & Glassworks INC. is no longer in business and Craig G. Taylor doesn’t have much of a public, online presence otherwise I’d probably spend an hour asking him fanboy-type questions about his meeting with card manufacturers, what went into creating the first chrome card, and much, much more. Here’s what I do know, Baseball Card Blog reader, Brian, owns one of these extremely rare cards and is the reason we have a much better picture to display today. Brian plans on getting the card authenticated and eventually selling it to someone who will appreciate its history.
Today, card manufacturers produce artificial scarcity. That “one of one” you pulled from a $500 hobby box has other copies with a slightly different printing variations on it and that particular player has anywhere from fifty to hundreds if not thousands of “one of one” cards. In 2022, there is nothing truly rare about a low-numbered card, a certified autograph, or even a game-used memorabilia card unless it is of a player that was active pre-1980. If you’re a modern collector, odds are your player will have an assembly line of all parallels, refractors, game-used relics, and autographs being produced in your entire lifetime.
This Dan Marino Football’s Finest prototype is something completely different. It is a card that had a hand in inspiring this hobby’s greatest innovation (Chrome + Refractors), one that was never meant to see the light of day by regular collectors, and was produced in very small quantities. Considering that it is now nearly three decades old, there’s a good chance that more than a few copies have been lost or tossed into a dumpster. Ultimately, that means that there is likely less than 10 surviving copies in the world. As of now, it will remain in Brian’s collection but who knows where it will ultimately land?