By 2001 Topps knew its 1993 Finest release had become a hobby classic. Several months earlier the firm had released its first ever “Heritage” set in basketball, drawing immediate acclaim for putting modern players on earlier designs that resonated with collectors. Drawing upon this success Topps decided to remind collectors why they fell in love with Finest in the first place and address the original’s lack of key rookies.
The result was Finest Origins, a 15-card set randomly inserted into boxes of 2001 Finest cards and featuring players who were omitted from the original 1993 release. Topps played a little loose with the selection criteria, depicting several players that had just been drafted and who were years away from playing in the big leagues. Nevertheless, collectors were given a chance to see what a Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez Finest rookie card could have looked like. Other stars making an appearance include Scott Rolen, Andruw Jones, Jim Edmonds, and Vladimir Guerrero.
Hindsight is 20/20 and the Origins checklist may have aged better with a few different selections. Topps certainly took liberties in imagining these cards and could have easily switched out a few names. The extent of the company’s reaching for names is evidenced by the inclusion of Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod was drafted in June 1993, a point in time when the set was already heading towards production and a period in which his likeness was exclusively under contract with Upper Deck.
Given the artistic license shown in the checklist, this set would have been better filled out with several additions. Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman, and Carlos Delgado each made appearances in the ’92 Bowman set. Manny Ramirez has a rookie card in both ’92 Bowman and Topps but would have made a popular ’93 Finest card among collectors. Jim Thome and Chipper Jones likewise would be highly sought after. Pedro Martinez didn’t get a regular Topps card until 1993 while his brother Ramon actually appeared in that year’s Finest set. The 1992 MLB draft made potential cards of Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon significant oversights from the Origins checklist as well. A Dale Murphy end-of-career retrospective card would have been a nice touch. The card would not be out of place considering the 1993 issues showing the retiring Carlton Fisk, Nolan Ryan, George Brett, and Robin Yount.
The design stays very close to the original and includes an attention to detail that is missing from later (2013 and 2020) throwbacks to the ’93 set. Cards were available in both base and refractor versions with the latter once again featuring the rainbow shimmer seen above. Production issues that often created “refractor lines” on originals were largely eliminated, producing much cleaner effect. Cards are numbered with an “FO” prefix to prevent confusion. Importantly, refractors are clearly marked as such under the card number to further aid collectors who often misidentify the ’93s.
As inserts in an already limited production issue, both the base and refractor Origins cards feature limited print runs. While exact production quantities were never released by Topps, a fairly precise estimate can be obtained from the insertion odds printed on wrappers for other inserts containing serial numbers. Based on this information there appear to be about 1,000 refractor sets produced, making the cards 3-4 times as plentiful as the originals.
Unlike the original ’93s, rarity and financial considerations are not limiting factors in completing a set. I found each of the 15 cards within a three month period with many acquired for next to nothing. They are all currently sitting in a PSA storage facility awaiting grading. Once returned I plan to add my cards to PSA’s Set Registry. Unlike most registry entries, the ’01 Origins set is not very competitive. Most cards in the set only have a couple examples that have even been reviewed by third-party graders.
The full checklist and details of each card can be seen here.
TOP 5 PLAYERS APPEARING IN 2001 FINEST ORIGINS