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OK, '86 Fleer, you win

Three or four years ago I announced that I would be attempting to complete all the 1980s Fleer baseball sets.

The '80s is the last decade that contained the players from my youth and with all the '80s Topps sets out of the way, that left Donruss and Fleer. (Score and Upper Deck showed up at the end of the decade and '89 Score is a conversation for another day. '89 UD is a conversation for never).

Donruss, I could take or leave, even when it was first arriving on the scene and I was 16 years old. Wasn't much of a fan. I may finish most of the '80s Donruss sets eventually, but 1980s Fleer was clearly where I should go next. Fleer IS the '80s (did they even make sets any other decade?). I need those cards in my collection.

So, with 9 flagship Fleer sets to collect (I finished off 1984 about four years into the blog), I had an idea of what order I would complete them:

1981 Fleer would come first, because it was the first Fleer set I ever saw and collected. 1982 Fleer would come second because it was second. 1983 Fleer would be third, because third. 1987 would be next because I always liked that ice blue. 1988 after that, love the barbershop pole set. 1985 and 1986 -- which I have confused with each other for two-thirds of my life -- would be next. And 1989? Who cares? I didn't even want to complete it when I first announced this plan.

Well, the collecting gods don't really care in what order you finish sets. Sure, you have some control, but not ALL the control.

I did finish 1981 Fleer first. But 1988 Fleer completion came next. And then somebody plopped an entire box of 1989 Fleer on me. Alright, I guess I'll finish that next!

From there, I finished 1982 Fleer, earlier this year. That left 1983, 1985, 1986 and 1987.

1983 is almost done, just need to pull the trigger on that Gwynn rookie. That would mean 1987 should be next, icy blue, remember? But I have so many more 1985 cards already, so '85 looks like it's next after 1983.

1986? Oh, yeah, forgot about that one.

I always forget about 1986. There are very early blog posts in which I mention how '86 Fleer fell into a black hole back in the '80s and when I would think about those mid-1980s Fleer sets even a few years later, I would mix up '85 and '86 all the time, think the '85 design was 1986 or even just skip over the blue-bordered '86 altogether as if it didn't exist.

But 1986 has had enough of that. It demands to be counted! It IS somebody.

That's why, when I wasn't looking I received two packages heavy with 1986 Fleer. My goodness, someone actually collected this set? Didn't Fleer shut down in '86?

This group of 1986 Fleer stars arrived from Chris, The Collector. It was a late birthday gift.

It also came with a couple of Bills from the same period. I'm as deficient in '86 Topps Bills as I am '86 Fleer baseball cards.

Then, on the same day, I received another package from Greg of The Collective Mind. It was stuffed full of 1986 Fleer -- more '86 Fleer than I have seen in one place since 1986 ... no, since EVER!

Ha, ha! OK, 1986 Fleer, you win.
These two mailings really cut down my want list. Before they arrived, I still needed 140 cards to finish the set and I was pretty much ignoring it. The 1985 Fleer want list had only 69 needs and I was gearing up to tackle that set next.
But after all those cards, I am down to needing 69 cards, just like 1985. Nice! It's fitting that both of those sets have the same number of wants left.
1986 Fleer has gotten my attention.
Even with a renewed focus, I'm never going to consider 1986 Fleer one of the finer Fleer sets. There's just not a lot to it and Fleer really fell into a period of malaise from 1985-90. Many of the photos and poses are similar between the sets and compare card stock for Fleer for the first part of the decade (1981-84) and the rest of the decade. 1986 Fleer is kinda flimsy in comparison.
However, all those guys are the guys I grew up watching. The 1986 Fleer set says "1985 World Series" and "1986 World Series" and I know those two championship moments, game by game, because I watched every single one.
 Welcome, Willie McGee, Mookie Wilson and all those other mid-1980s players again. You're the players I want to see on my baseball cards.

Sorry about all that dismissiveness, 1986 Fleer.


This set came to mind recently and I couldn't for the life of me picture what it looked like. So yeah, it's forgettable.
Chris said…
Greg put my PWE to shame, lol.

1986 Fleer isn't as sharp as '84, '85, or '88 Fleer but was one of - if not the first - card sets I ever saw. I still remember seeing packs of '86 Fleer on the shelf at my local Wawa. Because of that I bought a completed set - or so I thought. Had to go get a Dwight Gooden to actually finish it off.

Alan Deakins said…
-I had a harder time finishing off 86' than '85 Fleer for some reason....Still trying to finish '83 and '84.....I would really like to have the '84 Fleer Update set, but that is a discussion for another
That is a ton of 1986 Fleerness Collective Mind. Wow. I just looked at it a second ago and already I've forgotten what it looked like.
Fuji said…
I've always admired the simplicity of the mid 80's Fleer baseball designs. I was really, really getting into collecting those years (sort of my formative years for card collecting)... which is why I've never confused the 85 and 86 Fleer designs. However if someone quizzed me on anything after 1992, it'd get ugly.

As for set help... I might be able to help out with 1987 Fleer. Let us know when you have that want list up.
bryan was here said…
'86 Fleer, the "cartoon speech balloon set", as I've always referred to it.

Fleer had a nice run of attractive sets throughout the '80s, culminating with the blue gradient '87. Unfortunately, they lost their way by 1990, resulting in the "lemon", the infamous '91 set. I've always considered the 83-89 Fleer sets as some of their best with their simple, straightforward designs and easy-to-read backs. A nice alternative to the steady-as-she-goes Topps offerings.
jacobmrley said…
It's funny, we're exact opposites when it comes to Fleer and Donruss. Back in the 1980s, I always considered Fleer to be the boring also ran and Donruss to be the sturdy #2 to Topps. Hell, to this day I still order cards in my player binders Topps-Donruss-Upper Deck-Fleer-Score-Pacific-everything else. But now I have to ask, or perhaps be reminded, what do you have against 1989 Upper Deck?
night owl said…
Short answer: '89 Upper Deck is one of the most overrated sets of all-time.