Wax Heaven is a blog, hosted on WordPress, that can be found on the Internet, which was created by Al Gore. These are all factual statements. In 1999, Skybox/Fleer produced one of the final releases of its quirky but very fun ‘Metal’ brand. One of the inserts was the now very dated ‘www.Batterz.com’ which you can see images of the front and back below. If you surfed the web in the late 90s, you will recognize the browser used in the design because essentially, that’s what they all looked like. I used Netscape Navigator and my guess is that’s what these inserts were made to look like.
Thanks to the Internet Wayback Machine I was able to find out that at some point, Batterz.com was an actual, functioning website but what about, I do not know. All the images found were dead and there was no text on the site aside from the Fleer, LLC. copyright information at the bottom of the page. While no domain information is available, it looks like Fleer owned the name at least until 2006. Does anyone remember exactly what Batterz.com was? For anyone looking to splurge, the domain is available today for the low price of $1,795.
As for the inserts themselves, they were somewhat common, falling at 1:18, making the 10-card set easy to complete. Unfortunately, 1999 Metal Universe was a departure from the two, previous year’s comic book-style design which may have been due to Marvel dumping Fleer. A big mistake was a change to the look of their biggest contribution to The Hobby, the Precious Metal Gems, which if continued, would have been the PREMIER parallel over anything Topps or Upper Deck could ever come up with, yes, even the Superfractor.
Sadly, it was not meant to be. Below are two sample cards from ’96 and ’97 Metal which were produced while Marvel owned Fleer, an acquisition that cost them $340 million. Take at look at this brilliant output, which Fleer was responsible for. These cards were not setting the world on fire but simply unique, “outside the box” baseball cards that made collecting fun as all could be. Marvel filed for bankruptcy and sold Fleer for just $30 million dollars in 1999.
Now, take a look at the final three years of Metal without Marvel’s creative output. These cards lacked personality and were just too dark. Fleer was now owned by a father and son named Alex and Roger Grass. Alex died in 2009, while Roger’s own son made some big headlines a few years back for being a war hero. In 2004, Upper Deck offered $25 million to buy Fleer, which was rejected. They ended up buying the company one year later for $6 million.
That folks, is a shocking $334 million dollar loss in just 14 years. It is no wonder Jerry Meyer of Pinnacle Brands gave up on baseball cards in 1998. He saw the future and it looked bleak. Today, we have a Topps monopoly in baseball with two companies producing unlicensed baseball cards (Panini & Leaf) while Upper Deck has completely left the baseball card market. Topps’ exclusive deal ends in 2020 but will there be anyone left to apply for a license to compete with Topps in a couple of years?