Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Fleer project in full effect

I seem to be in the middle of a Fleer revival around here.

I am actively trying to complete 1984 Fleer and I'm probably a couple of weeks away from putting up a want list for 1981 Fleer. And then a few weeks ago I announced that if you don't have what I'm looking for in terms of Dodgers or sets, there's always 1981-88 Fleer.

So, even though the last thing I need to do is buy new binders to shove into a room that is screaming, "PLEASE, no more binders!" this is where I am.

Because I'm definitely going to need a binder for this.

This picture is the tell-tale mating call of 1988 Fleer. I'd recognize those red and blue stripes anywhere. And I am hooked.

This is the amount of 1988 Fleer that I was looking at before the big box of the Barbershop Pole Set showed up from Matt of The Summer of '74 blog. That's all I had accumulated over the years.

I collected very few cards in 1988, just a pack of Topps that year and that was it. While card companies churned out cards at a rate never before seen, all of that 1988 Fleer and 1988 Donruss never reached me until repacks years upon years later.

The '88 Fleer set is one of those junk wax sets that gets little respect. Fleer greatly increased the production on their set over 1987. Plus, it was cranking out an update set and a glossy set and bunch of other smaller baseball sets. And Fleer's basketball sets were big news at the time. It was all leading up to a devaluing of the flagship brand.

You can now buy a pack of 1988 Fleer cards for the same price that it cost in 1988, probably for cheaper. That's what we're looking at here in terms of monetary value.

Still, this is one of my favorite looks ever made by Fleer.

I like the crisp, snow-white borders and the patriotic diagonal strips. I like the Fleer logo with the background that changes from blue to red to black to yellow.

Even though there is far less space devoted to the photo than on previous sets like '81, '82 and '84, de-emphasizing some of the quirkiness of '80s Fleer photos, I like the set's presentation.

The box that Matt sent does not contain the entire set, but most of it is there. I haven't had the time to go through to see what I still need to obtain, but the majority of the notable cards were in that box.

The '88 Fleer set is known for the usual: rookies, errors and SuperStar Specials. And I thought I'd show 10 notable cards from that set -- mixing in some of the overlooked aspects. Of course, you'll see more than 10 cards because this set leads me to tangents and other cards.

So join me in the year that the Dodgers won their last World Series, the last year I was in college and the first time I had a newspaper article professionally published. (And you thought 1988 was just the year of the Mark Grace rookie card).

1. Speaking of rookie cards: This is about as exciting as it gets in 1988 Fleer. Like every other set issued in '88, Fleer featured a card of Tom Glavine for the first time. It's worth no more than 50 cents now, but don't tell that to a collector from 1992.

Fleer featured seemingly a ton of prominent rookie cards in 1988. I didn't even show Edgar Martinez, Jack McDowell, Jay Bell, Ken Caminiti, Todd Benzinger or Jeff Blauser. I don't know if it was just the fixation on rookies at the time or whether Fleer actually did pack the set with more first-year players.

2. More rookie cards, sharing space with that other guy: Donruss was the only major brand to feature Mark Grace on his own card in the main set (Topps, Fleer and Score all caught up in their update sets).

3. The Mark McGwire obsession: Mark Grace had what all you youngsters would call "An Aaron Judge Season" in 1987. In response, Fleer threw just a few McGwire cards at collectors in 1988. Above is his base card.

Of course another card with his partner in crime.

A random card with Pat Tabler, because that's Fleer for you.

And a separate solo card recognizing his rookie home run record.

I don't know how many cards Topps is planning for Judge in 2018 flagship but I hope they can keep it under a dozen.

4. Errers: The '88 Fleer set has relatively few errors compared with previous and future Fleer sets. The Iorg/Iorq error is the one I've known about the longest. Since I already owned the Iorq error, I was hoping to pull the corrected Iorg out of the box that Matt sent. No luck. Another Iorq.

No luck on the Keith Moreland card either. This is the correct Moreland card, which I already owned. The error Moreland shows a picture of Jody Davis bunting.

5. A favorite for those who collect players in strange uniforms: This is the only card that I know of that shows Steve Carlton wearing a Twins uniform. There is also an odd sight of Doug DeCinces as a Cardinal in this set.

6. SuperStar Specials typically awkward titles: I imagine kids thought some of the SS card titles were cool, but I'm not so sure how pleasant it is to be called The Thief on your baseball card. Some context is needed.

I've taken a few photos with that Gary Carter look.

7. A hint of what's to come: One year later, Fleer would show Bill Ripken holding a bat with a much more scandalous message on the bat knob than "3".

8. I'm a little upset that they couldn't get Sam Horn into this card.

9. Free advertising: Here we see Tom Bolton advertising the new Gillette Atra Plus and Coca-Cola (as well as a hidden Budweiser sign). Two years later, Bolton would graduate to featuring a Ferris wheel on his card.

10. There's the Fleer that I know and love: I was able to dig out a few amusing photos that could not be confined by the shrunken photo space.

Even though 1988 Fleer is a set that has been rehashed in untold collectors' homes it's still a thrill to pull cards of Doc Gooden, Roger Clemens, Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds, Kevin Mitchell, Barry Larkin and others for the first time.

This made up for never opening a pack of Fleer in 1988, and that's what I'm trying to do with this Fleer project. Although my heart is with 1981, 1982 and 1984 Fleer, sets that I collected in packs, I want to get to know those familiar players in the other Fleer sets that I didn't see that much.

So far this has been a lot of fun.


  1. Whenever you realize what cards you need to complete the set let me know. I got them, trust me. Need to get them off my hands

  2. Can't believe you missed the fact that the Bolton card proudly shows off Section 36!

  3. I'm looking for the corrected Iorg as well..

  4. This set should be nicknamed "the toothpaste set"...sorry looks like a box of toothpaste to me

  5. Great article with some good looking cards. As a collector (not an investor), I try not to focus on the cost or value of cards. However, binders are expensive and I have a hard time justifying the cost of the binders and card sleeves to hold all my 80's and 90's cards when I know they are basically worthless. How do you do it?

  6. You should do a throwback post pricing every card with 1989 Beckett.

  7. Oh how I missed the days of collecting Sam Horn, Ellis Burks, and Matt Nokes rookie cards.

  8. Tim Flannery once told me he was surprised when he saw the 88 Fleer card, because when the picture was taken it was just a plain white surfboard. Evidently the name on the board is that of a relative of the photographer and was added after the photo was taken.

  9. I have loved the design of this set since I first saw it.

  10. Glad you're getting some use of it!

  11. I have some cards from that set. And it's for sure one of the best to give you a good laugh