Collectors just can't get enough of Topps Chrome. A staple of the Topps family across several sports, the basketball product celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2006-07. Like its predecessors, this year's release is built around Chrome rookie cards, refractors and autographs.
Hobby boxes of 2006-07 Topps Chrome basketball hold 24 packs with four cards per pack. Collectors can expect one rookie autograph per box on average and one veteran or retired autograph per case.
NBA veterans and retired greats make up the first 160 cards of the Topps Chrome base set. As always, the card design mimics that of the regular Topps brand, but the white borders are now silver, making them extremely shiny on the Chrome stock. Complete career stats for each player - a rarity these days - are the highlight of the card backs. I found 71 of the 160 common cards in my review box with no duplicates.
The final 50 cards are 2006-07 rookies. Topps sell sheets say that the rookies fall 12 per box on average; the About.com review box yielded 15. As a tribute to the first Chrome basketball set, ten of this year's top newcomers - including Andrea Bargnani, Brandon Roy and Adam Morrison - also have alternate versions of their cards that mimic the design from the 1996-97 set. I pulled three: Rudy Gay, LaMarcus Aldridge and Tyrus Thomas.
The variations don't seem to be any more rare than the regular versions, and it remains to be seen if they will carry a premium on the secondary market. In 2003-03 Topps created foreign language variations of rookies born overseas, and while they initially traded at higher levels than their English counterparts, they eventually settled at identical values.
All but four of the rookies signed cards for the autographed rookie parallels which have become Chrome's trademarks, but unfortunately the four missing names are big ones: Aldridge, Gay, Thomas and Roy. All of the autographs are on Refractor stock and come in Black (unnumbered), Gold (numbered to 25), X-Fractor (numbered to 10) and hobby exclusive SuperFractor (1-of-1's) varieties. Ten veterans and legends, including Vince Carter, Allen Iverson and Larry Bird, also have autographed parallels in the same four tiers.
My review box produced an autographed Black Refractor of Cleveland Cavaliers rookie guard Daniel Gibson.
Arguably the most famous parallels in any sports card product, Refractors are back for another run of the entire 210-card base set. Regular Refractors are unnumbered, with four more levels identical to the rookie autographs and numbered to the same amounts, with the exception that Black Refractors are limited to just 99 copies.
Another important difference is that regular Refractors of the 50 rookie cards are numbered to just 199, ensuring they will once again be in high demand. Alas, my sample box contained six regular veteran Refractors.
The Last Word
This year's edition of Topps Chrome delivers exactly what collectors have come to expect from the brand with no major tweaks. Normally this would be no problem, as the Refractor rookie parallels and autographs are enough to make sure this set is always highly anticipated. But the omissions from the autograph list are especially troublesome this year - though not Topps' fault, as all four were unavailable to the company because of exclusive signature deals they inked with Upper Deck.
The long-term popularity of 2006-07 Topps Chrome basketball is likely to depend on whether other rookies rise up to become stars down the road. That makes this a product to hold for the long haul, meaning busting boxes will bring more quiet contentment than breathless excitement for the time being.