Topps Finest 1995-96 Michael Jordan Mystery Test Refractor #M1
Luckily for us collectors, the fun doesn’t end at the Gold Refractor as Topps intended!
It is said that Topps originally intended to also include an orange bordered refractor card. However during testing these cards found getting the centering just right a real problem and so decided to leave the card out of the set altogether.
Topps printed a bunch of Test Refractor cards with the orange border and once they decided not to use them intended them to be destroyed. Somehow, however, some of these cards ended up in packs to give us what is know as the Michael Jordan Mystery Bordered Test Refractor.
It is commonly accepted that around 50 of these cards exist. They do show up for sale from time to time however! There are very few sales to go on however an ungraded sale price of around $2000 is not out of the question for this card.
Thank you to Jun Kim for supplying this great scan. At the time of writing Jun has this exact card up for sale on eBay.
Topps Mystery Finest 1995-96 Michael Jordan cards
This section discusses the Topps cards on offer – aside from the Topps Finest set. This is often a point of confusion for collectors new to these sets as the Topps set also featured Mystery cards.
I won’t go into details about the standard Topps cards from the 1995-96 set as I did above for Topps Finest – we will just look at the Topps Mystery cards available. As with Topps Finest in 1995-96, Topps also included the Mystery insert card with the opaque black coating and – making things very confusing! – called the set Topps Mystery Finest.
So above we have the Topps Finest Mystery set (brand: Topps Finest, insert name: Mystery). Below we are going to look at the Topps Mystery Finest set (brand: Topps, insert name: Mystery Finest). Confusing stuff!
Topps Mystery Finest 1995-96 Michael Jordan base insert #M1
Yes – they also have the same number as the Topps Finest cards!
This base Topps Mystery Finest insert features Topps Finest styled printing and a silver bordered design. It was inserted at a rate of one in 36 packs of 1995-96 Topps cards and sells for around $15 ungraded online.
Topps Mystery Finest Refractor 1995-96 Michael Jordan base insert #M1
As a parallel to the base insert Topps produced the Topps Mystery Finest Refractor – a refractor in a standard Topps set for the first time! This card was inserted at a rate of one in 216 packs and sells for around $150 ungraded online.
So there you have the Michael Jordan refractor cards available from the 1995-96 season – a season right when the Bulls were dominating! Hopefully you also have a good understanding of the Mystery cards and how to differentiate between them. They are fantastic cards and really stand out in any great Jordan cards collection.
Comments from Jun Kim
Jun and I have discussed these cards and he is happy for me to include some of his experience with Michael Jordan refractors. Thank you Jun.
You might also be interested in my interview with Jun.
Finest Refractor cards, in general, have always been one of my favorite types of MJ inserts of all time. I’ve been a follower ever since the first 93-94 Finest Series. I can distinguish which series has which Refractors without a problem.
1995-96 Finest had originally planned to have 4 sets of Mystery cards. The Bordered, Bordered Refractor, Borderless, Borderless Refractor. One of the reasons why they dropped the Bordered Refractor was due to condition sensitivity. The borders emphasized the off-centering too much as these cards had black coatings on them during the cutting process. That’s why the few that snuck out are all with terrible centering and have gobs of Refractor Lines. So dropping the entire Bordered Refractors, they released only the 3 card types. Bordered, Borderless, and Borderless Refractors.
I remember in 1995 there were articles in Beckett and Tuff Stuff, the 2 biggest Sports Card Price Guides in the 90’s, about the Finest Bordered Test Refractors that snuck out into packs. Beckett wrote that although the specific number is unknown, it is perceived to be very, very low as they were scarce Test Refractors that accidentally passed onto pack production.
Due to scarcity, there was no price listed. Tuff Stuff also had an article about the same card. It did in fact have these cards listed in their price guides. The Jordan refractor was booked at $2,500.00 dollars. Higher than any Michael Jordan refractor even till this day. No other MJ refractor came close to its value. Even throughout the entire 90’s with later serial #’d Refractors included.
People went nuts looking for these ultra rare Refractors. I remember going to conventions and local card shops, ripping these $19 dollar Finest Premium Packs hoping to land one.
It was a very condition sensitive set to begin with, but having the black coatings to peel off made it that much more to damage the corners, surfaces and edges. Finding a top notch Jordan Test Refractor has always been a very difficult and expensive feat to achieve. I was fortunate enough to run into a high end MJ collector who had it in his collection for over 10 years that eventually got graded to a BGS 9.5 Gem Mint.
1995-96 Topps had Mystery cards like the 1995-96 Finest series. Except there were only 2 versions. The normal Mystery card and the Mystery Refractor card which were both bordered.