I bought no cards in 1996. I bought exactly three packs of cards in 1997 -- one pack of Topps, one of Donruss and one of Fleer.
Even that far removed from the card-collecting hobby, I knew Fleer had done something vastly different with its '97 set.
When I left the hobby in 1994, it was a glossy, glitzy world. It's still a glossy, glitzy world. But in the 1990s, if you wanted your card set to be purchased by collectors, you had better make it as glossy and shiny as the audience at a Hannah Montana concert.
But Fleer -- apparently in the midst of a death wish -- decided to issue a set with a matte finish. I'm sure all the other card companies thought it was quite odd. It was as if your company decided to remove all of the computers in the office and replace them with typewriters. Whaaaa???
I realize Fleer did this first in 1996. But I like the card backs in the '97 set better. And I think it says something about Fleer that they did this two years in a row. What that is, I don't know.
Fleer did issue Tiffany versions of its sets during these years, just to keep the gloss-addicts at bay. But I applaud Fleer for doing something a little different with its base set.
There's the back of the '97 Fleer. That is a nice-looking card back.
It's not a lot different from the card backs of '96 Fleer, but the positioning of the elements makes more sense in '97 Fleer. The photo is at the top of the card instead of the bottom. The photo is bigger. The card number is at the top of the card instead of the bottom, which I always like.
I don't mind the positioning of the bio blurb too much, but I can see why it's a problem. It's scrunched in between the photo and the stats, even though there is all that white space available.
Like the 1996 set, the back is color-coded with the team's colors, which is always cool. It would have been even cooler if Fleer adjusted the colors to match with each team in the career stats. For example, Jon Lieber's first year with the Cubs could have been coded blue.
Shane Reynolds. He was the ace of my fantasy pitching staff back in the day. About the only guy who could do anything right. Then he got injured.
The stats appear difficult to read on these scans, but really they are rather easy to read. I love the entire presentation of the card back. Nice job, Fleer. Even if everyone was accusing you of career suicide.
Best of the set:
I don't have very many of these cards, but let's say Chili Davis:
First, you have to like the "traded to Royals" note on the front of the card. That's a nice OPC-like touch. Secondly, I love a card back with piles of career stats. And Fleer even had room for a one-sentence bio, even if it squished it in under the photo.
(Previous card back countdown selections):
50. 1978 SSPC Yankee Yearbook
49. 1993 Score
48. 1999 Skybox Thunder
47. 2000 Upper Deck
46. 1999 Skybox Premium
45. 1953 Johnston Cookies Braves
44. 1995 Topps