Aging Like Fine Wine or Moldy Cheese?

Much like humans, baseball cards age. Not just physically thanks to creased corners, mysterious stains or that terrible cigarette odor you’ve likely encountered at one point or another as a collector. No, the card designs themselves age. Don’t believe me? Look at some late-90s releases from the likes of Pinnacle Brands and Pacific Trading Cards. It’s hard to find that perfect baseball card with a design that can live forever in the hearts of collectors and then of course, there are the players. Let’s just face facts, some cards could be created by Rembrandt himself but if the player on the front is, say someone like Chris Sabo  or Dan Uggla … you’re SOL.

Now, I’m not saying the player on the card has to look like (insert good-looking actor/model/whatever) but it helps if he’s easy on the eyes at least a little. The 80s weren’t exactly known for “cool” baseball cards but to me something about Fleer’s 1987 “Award Winner” set always stuck out in my mind. Especially now in a world of two dozen parallels, 10 versions of sticker autographs, and whatever piece of memorabilia that can be inserted. To me, nothing beats a plain, old GREAT-looking baseball card and this set had quite a few. Award Winners featured great action photography (Kirby Puckett, Roger Clemens) but also threw in some nice posed shots from Canseco (below) and Don Mattingly.

Yes, there were also some really BAD cards like this Mike Scott but again, he’s not very easy on the eyes to begin with. That’s where the Jose Canseco card below comes in. To me, it’s almost perfect. Notice how there’s no intrusive serial numbering or an ugly piece of chopped up wood ruining the overall look. And if you like sticker autographs, you will have to go elsewhere because this is a no-frills, no gimmick … as cheap as it gets in terms of baseball cards. Even back in 1990, these cards carried little to no weight when making a trade. Simply put, they were barely a step above a non-licensed, 7/11 or Wonder Bread release because they weren’t a major, flagship release. They were practically worthless and used as filler to add to your player collection so one could imagine their level of respect from collectors nearly 30 years later.

Basically, unless you have a gem mint graded copy … it’s worth almost about us much as a few plies of toiler paper. In fact, you can buy a case of 240 sets for $65.99 on eBay. That’s approximately 11,000 of these cards. Well, there you go. As for graded copies, the most expensive one recently sold was a Gem Mint Jose Canseco which came in at $35.99. I don’t know exactly how many Gem Mints there are of this card but I can’t imagine there are many. I’d venture to guess less than 10.

Last I checked, Fleer was a dead brand in baseball. It’s a damn shame because this set would make for an AMAZING buyback program. At least from the players who are still with us. Topps was making some god-awful cards for K-Mart and Walgreens during the same period and now they can be found as Buyback autos. In my mind and I’d imagine in the mind of other collectors out there, these now-forgotten gems put Topps’ best second-tier releases to shame and still deserve a better fate than eBay purgatory.

Here’s hoping Fleer has one final run in our hobby.

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