What is a Refractor Card?

At it’s absolute most basic level its a type of shiny trading card… in particular one with a reflective backing, however it’s not quite as straight forward as that! There are many different types of refractor cards, and even though a lot of companies make this type of card, a refractor is specific to the Topps Company who have the term “Refractor” registered as a trademark. Other examples of this type of card are the Reflectors by Press Pass, Prizms by Panini (which are probably the most well known alongside the refractor) and Mirrors by Leaf.

When buying a Topps refractor card, it will have an R or the word Refractor on the back of the card, except for the very first time it appeared in the 1993 Topps Finest Baseball set.


just showing the difference between a chrome and #refractor #tradingcard – in this case #topps #starwars #ushar

♬ Star Wars – Produced – Ettore Stratta

This type of card has a reflective layer on the backing of the card (which usually replaces the normal backing image or colour of that particular card, because they are often parallels of base cards in that same set) which when held at a certain angle, refracts the light to make a rainbow effect – hence the name! However there are a few different types of refractor:

  • Embossed refractors
  • Gold refractors
  • Blue refractors
  • Red refractors (usually very rare)
  • Orange refractors (usually very rare)
  • Green refractors
  • Black refractors
  • Pink refractors
  • Purple refractors
  • White refractors
  • Blue wave refractors
  • Sepia refractors
  • Prism refractors
  • Mosaic refractors
  • Pulsar refractors
  • Pigskin refractor (however this was only used in the 2009 Finest Football set but was found to be very unpopular and not used again)
  • Camo refractors (to honor the US armed forces)
  • BCA Pink refractors (for breast cancer awareness)
  • X-Fractor (which has a checker board effect and is some times available in the above colours)
  • Atomic refractors (which has a varying pattern in the background, is limited to Bowman’s Best sets and is possibly the second rarest type of refractor – usually 4 times a rare as a regular refractor)
  • SuperFractor (the rarest type of refractor which always has a production run of just 1 and will be labeled with a serial number of 1/1. They have a gold swirl in the background) Variations of this type of refractor include:
    • White SuperFractor
    • Bordered SuperFractor
    • Die-Cut SuperFractor
    • Auto SuperFractors (which as a 1 of 1 card as well as being hand signed by that person makes these very sought after and very valuable indeed)
    • Canary (has an elaborate refactor design with a gold border)

As mentioned above, these are insert cards which are included randomly in packs of trading cards by Topps and are rarer than the usual base set, usually appearing as parallel versions of those base set cards. They are generally more sought after but not always popular and not popular with all collectors, as they can some times be more difficult to see and read, especially with some of the more elaborate designs.

So remember – Topps are the only company making proper refractor cards, so head over to Topps.com to buy your packs and boxes and start hunting.

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