When I began collect sports card again back in Detroit, I set out with the goal to collect each card of Grant Hill from the 1994-95 season, his rookie year. I had been working for Joe Dumars, running his new restaurant in the Detroit suburbs. 1994-95 was Hill's rookie year, and I got to know him pretty well that season. One of his long-time friends (since they were around 6 or 7 years old) did Marketing for our facility, and the three of us didn't really know anyone in Motown.
Grant became a regular at my restaurant/bar, even spinning CD's from time to time as my Monday Night Football DJ. Classy guy, great player, and I had some great times during my stint there.
As you can imagine, collecting the cards of one of the more popular up and coming stars in the league, in the town he played in, had its pluses and minuses. Because he was a hot commodity for collectors, there wasn't a shortage of material. But also because of his high profile, his cards generally came at a premium.
There was one card that was especially hard to find, card #240 in the Topps Finest insert set of Refractors. These cards were cool, because they had a finish that gave off a rainbow effect when tilted under light. To make this card even more desirable, the set was split up into two series, with Hill (and other rookies-Kidd, Howard, Rose, and Jordan wearing #45). The Refractors were also insert into packs at a rate of 1:12, meaning that every twelfth pack had a single Refractor in it. With 166 cards in Series 2, you had to open a lot of packs just to find a Refractor, then a ton more to find a Hill (or Kidd, or Howard, or Rose, or Jordan).
Needless to say, with the scarcity and chance of pulling a good rookie in Series 2, many collectors chose to sell unopened product at a premium, with the the thought being the packs were worth more unopened (maybe you'll pull a Jordan!), than they were opened.
I have been chasing this card for close to 20 years, and finally, was able to score one off eBay. Here it is, in all of its glory:
The cards had a protective coating on them, which people initially peeled off (because it said so, right there on the coating!). Soon discussions took place within the trading community, wondering if you peeled the card, was it now no longer "mint"?
Personally, I wanted mine to have the peel, but the collecting community acknowledges that the cards should have the same value, peeled or not. I still like "unpeeled" as the more pristine card.
My Mona Lisa.