I have been intrigued by this card ever since I pulled it in 1995.
I was almost finished with card collecting in '95. It was the second consecutive year in which I grabbed a few packs in the spring and immediately lost interest. By '96, I was totally done and really couldn't be awakened from my disinterest for another nine or 10 years.
I think I bought two packs of Topps in 1995. I actually like the set a lot -- probably my favorite Topps base set of the decade. But at the time, I looked at the cards from a distance. I was out of touch with the game and the hobby.
When I pulled this Jeff Conine card, I stared at it for a minute, and I'm sure I thought "so this is what they're doing with cards these days." It was different. Shiny. It consisted of a material that I could not place. And there was a film over the front of it that said "peel and remove."
If I had known much about cards at the time, I would know this card was a direct reference to Topps Finest, which had debuted a couple years prior.
But I knew nothing about Topps Finest. Finest was sold at card shops, and there were no card shops near me. I had operated under the card collecting model of accumulating your cards from the nearest retail outlet since I was 9 years old. I had no idea that there were cards available that weren't available at your local drug store. And considering my attitude about collecting at the time, I didn't care anyway.
So I didn't know that Finest featured the same shiny sheen as this Conine card, or that Chrome was on the horizon, or that this card that I pulled was a one-per-BOX insert. I had pulled a one-per-box insert out of 2 packs of cards.
All I knew then was that the card was different.
Today, I was prompted to find the card again, by a post at Lifetime Topps Project. He's going through the details of the 1995 Topps set right now. And his one-per-box Finest Total Bases insert was Tony Gwynn.
Even though I didn't know what the Conine card was for a long time, I kept the protective layer on it for quite awhile. The '90s was a time of "protecting your investment," and even though I didn't care about cards much, I did know that was what everyone did with their cards. I didn't want to look like I didn't know what I was doing.
So I suppose I did care a little.
Years later, I did pull off the film. And I did look at the back of the card, probably for the first time.
I love the math lesson provided so you can figure out how to calculate total bases. Not exactly calculating Offensive Wins Above Replacement is it?
A year after this insert set arrived, Topps Chrome debuted. Today, both Finest and Chrome are going strong, and I know each brand rather well. But this Conine card will always be my first.
My first shiny.