I've had this 1996 Bowman's Best Mirror Image Refractor card for years. I crossed it off of my checklist and continued to pursue other cards because I thought I was finished collecting cards of Scott Rolen that were produced in 1996. That all changed recently when a fellow collector, Thomas, pointed out one small detail. He posted a question in a Facebook group, asking if player collectors made sure they picked up both versions of this card.
I thought to myself, "Both versions?" I thought that perhaps he was confusing these for the Mirror Image cards produced in 1997 that included an "inverted" version where the stars and rookies had their images swapped on the card. But I continued reading Thomas' post and he pointed something out that I probably would have never noticed. Near the bottom of the card on the back, the small word "Refractor" was missing from my card. Thomas shared pictures of cards in his collection that had two different versions of this card; one with the word "refractor" and one without the word.
With this new knowledge, I went to my duplicates box to see if I happened to have one with the word on it, but out of all of my copies, not one of them contained the word. Of course I just had to have both versions of this card, so I checked eBay from my phone and I couldn't find one at all. Thomas was nice enough to find one on eBay and he posted the link in the Facebook group. At the same time, I was checking eBay from my computer and I found the same one that he provided the link to. The price was a little higher than I would normally pay for this card, but I wasn't sure just how rare either version was, especially since none of the copies I had contained the word, so I hit the Buy It Now button and the card was on its way to my collection.
I quickly figured out why this card has been easily overlooked for so long. For one, I already had the card in my collection and I didn't know that I needed to look for the variation. For two, the placement of the word "refractor" is obscured by Chipper's shoe. As you can see in the gif here, you can barely even read the word.
Like I said earlier, I'm not sure if one version is more rare than the other. But as far as my personal collection stats show, the version with "refractor" printed on them seems to be more scarce. As a collector who is trying to obtain at least one of every Scott Rolen card made, variations like this can sometimes be a pain, but in this case, it was a welcomed addition. Big shout out and thanks goes to Thomas for pointing this one out! If you know of any other "under the radar" variation cards out there, please let me know!