This set takes a concept Topps had used in 1996, another it had used in 1997 and merged them. The idea of Mystery Finest cards first came around in 1995 in football, and had its first baseball application in 1996. There weren’t any Mystery Finest cards in 1997, but there were cards made in honor of the beginning of interleague play. This 1998 set combined those two “Finest” themes for the 1998 Topps Interleague Mystery Finest set. That’s a mouthful!
Info about the set:
Set description: These cards have Finest-based technology, but when you pulled the cards, the fronts have a black coating. There are 4 players on the back from 2 teams who played in interleague play in 1997, with a write-up about how they did in the series. One of those 4 guys is the mystery player on the front – you need to peel the coating to figure out which player you have. After you’ve peeled, the fronts have a silver background with stars in the design and the background faded. The player’s name is on the bottom. There are 20 cards – so only 5 matchups available.
Set composition: 20 cards, 1:36 odds (1998 Topps series 1)
Hall of Famers: 6. Cal Ripken, Greg Maddux, Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, Mike Piazza, Frank Thomas.
How I put the set together:
- 1 cards from my series 1 hobby box
- 9 cards from Beckett’s Marketplace
- 7 cards from COMC
- 3 cards from Sportlots
Card that completed my set: #ILM-16 – Tim Salmon
I got this card from Sportlots in December, 2015, when I was going a bit crazy with Black Friday sales.
Thoughts on the set: I’m usually a little bit wary with inserts in flagship that have the same name and technology as another Topps product. But aside from that, this is a cool idea with the Mystery Finest. When I opened my series 1 box from 1998, I got to peel a card. It was like a little more fun after I was done opening packs. The interleague info is interesting, and the design, while not my favorite, isn’t bad. like the design, I like matching up players from two different leagues. I like that the theme was very relevant at the time – Inter-league play was about to start. In its first year, inter-league play matched up teams from the parallel division – so you’d have true rivals on these cards. Remember when inter-league play first came out how awesome that was? Cincinnati is matched up with Cleveland in the battle of Ohio. Baltimore was matched up with Philadelphia – a natural rivalry 2 hours away! Kansas City versus St. Louis – a rematch of the 1985 I-70 series! Dodgers versus the Angels for LA supremacy! And of course – Yankees versus the Mets!
Best card (my opinion): #ILM-20 – Albert Belle
I sometimes forget Belle played for the White Sox, and was a helluva 1-2 punch with the Big Hurt. I like this card.
My Favorite Reds card: There are none.
Here are both sides of the cards. You can tell by the scan, the KC / St. Louis card is actually a refractor. I ordered a regular card and got that, but I didn’t feel like sending it back to the seller for a rarer version
Any other tidbits: Here is a list of guys in both this set and the 1997 Interleague Finest set. That’s 8 out of a possible 10, with the Yankees and Rockies being the teams with cards in the 1998 set who had different players in the 1997 set. And Albert Belle was the Indians’ guy in 1997.
- Frank Thomas
- Sammy Sosa
- Tim Salmon
- Mike Piazza
- Todd Hundley
- Ken Griffey Jr.
- Chipper Jones
- Cal Ripken
- Albert Belle (Indians in 1997)