Thanks to the price of the average Hobby box going through the roof and a long-slumping economy, collectors have suddenly found new interest in those forgotten wax boxes from the mid-90’s, in hopes of pulling rare inserts.
By 1996’s standards, Fleer Ultra was nothing special. Even back then, brands like Topps Finest, Select Certified, and SPx had all the collectors buzzing thanks to true “high-end” technology.
It’s only now, thirteen years after its release, that one can truly appreciate the greatness of 1996 Fleer Ultra. For starters, the checklist is 600-cards deep and features pretty much everyone who suited up for a game in 1996.
The parallel is flashy and a bit over the top but you won’t need to track down fifteen different versions. It’s simply an exact copy of the base card but with a thick, gold background.
Each base card features not one or two but three photographs of the player featured on the card. Find me one single release in the past three years that even has two photographs on the card back, let alone three.
Where Ultra really shines, however, is with the inserts. You could bust an entire case (doubt you’d find one today) and still not get tired of the inserts as there are 18 different kinds to pull.
While some of those 18 inserts have not aged well, many of them still look and feel fresh, like the ‘Hitting Machine’ insert. Seeded just 1:288 packs, the 10-card checklist features superstars like Ken Griffey Jr. and Frank Thomas.
Fleer Ultra is almost perfect except for the fact it’s missing two very popular elements collectors can’t seem to live without: autographs and game-used relics. Aside from that, I’d highly recommend this product to any collector and fan of the game of baseball.
As for the Ultra brand, it was last seen as a disastrous “high-end” release in 2007. Since then, Upper Deck, who bought Fleer when they filed for bankruptcy, has retired the name in their baseball line-up.
Who else thinks that 2010 is a perfect time to resurrect the Fleer name and tradition? If they can follow in the steps of 1996 Ultra and not the terrible 2007 version, they could have a surprise hit on their hands next year.