Looking Back: 1991 Fleer Baseball

For my previous “Looking Back” segments, I selected a few baseball card sets that were appealing to me, for different reasons.

This column details my thoughts on what I consider one of the most ugly and worthless sets of all time: 1991 Fleer Baseball.

Now, before you start calling me a hater, I tried – I really tried – to like this set.

In early 1992, these wax packs were in clearance bins at retail department stores and for the first – and only – time in my life, I became a cheater at card hunting.

Yes, while more savvy card collectors now “search” packs in hopes of finding autograph and game-used cards in them, I hunted for the “Pro Visions” subset, because if you looked carefully along the side of the wax packs, you could make out the black border sticking out from the sea of yellow.

Fleer did try to do some good things with its 1991 product.

I liked the clear card fronts and most of the photos. The player’s last name is in large, upper-case letters at the top of the card fronts, with the first name in a smaller-sized font above the last name. The team name and position anchor the bottom of the card front in small enough text so as not to make it appear garish. Horizontal lines at the top and bottom of the cards give them a more “boxy” feel, but also make miscut cards stand out like sore thumbs.

The card backs featured a close-up “mug” shot of the players in a circle, and many feature both major and minor league stats. Some, such as the Ken Griffey Jr. card, provide biographical information where space allows.

When I think about it, the 1991 Fleer Baseball set actually has many of the elements I like to see in a card design. So why does it drive me nuts?

One word: Yellow.

The garish yellow card stock – both back and front – make this set look as if somebody got sick on it.

I simply can’t escape it. When I begin rooting through boxes, looking for cards to take to the stadium for autographs, I invariably come across the bevy of 1991 Fleer Baseball sets, near-complete sets and extras. And they’re just too easy to spot, with the garish yellow cards instantly making me wince.

There are several rookie cards in the set, although, Jeff Conine is likely the only one that would draw any interest outside of the immediate families.

Star cards are not in abundance, and book around a buck apiece. Nolan Ryan and Ken Griffey Jr. are among the only real standouts.

There were a few error cards in the set, some of which were uncorrected. Among them, Mark McGwire’s card (#17) says he had 183 extra-base hits in 1987 (that would be a neat trick); and Steve Balboni’s (#656) birthdate is incorrected listed as Jan. 5, 1957 (it is Jan. 16). Variations, including the Griffey Jr. (#450) card, which has him batting .300, is the most valued mistake card.

If you don’t already have a 1991 Fleer Baseball set, you shouldn’t have trouble finding one. You likely have a friend – or three – who has an extra one they’ll give you, if only to clear space on the card shelf.


1991 Fleer Baseball

Complete Set: 720 cards.

High book: NM, $10.

Top Stars: #17 Mark McGwire error ($0.75); #33 Barry Bonds ($1); #90 Roger Clemens ($0.75); #302 Nolan Ryan ($1); #426 Greg Maddux ($0.50); #431 Ryne Sandberg ($0.50); #450 Ken Griffey Jr. error ($1); #490 Cal Ripken ($0.75); #552 George Brett ($0.75); #710 Ken Griffey Jr.-Barry Bonds ($1).

Top Rookies: #507 Luis Gonzalez ($0.50); #553 Jeff Conine ($0.50).

Filed in: Featured, Looking Back

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9 Responses to "Looking Back: 1991 Fleer Baseball"

  1. sanjosefuji says:

    I hated this product back when it was released… but just like 1986 Topps baseball… it’s starting to grow on me (not enough for me to bust a box… but I don’t hate it anymore).

  2. paulie3jobs says:

    Also not a big fan of the yellow. But the one thing that Fleer did that I do like, is putting the year next to their logo. I’ve been collecting since 1974 and I use to be able to tell you what year a card was just by looking at it. Not anymore, too many sets that look the same.

  3. duaned77 says:

    When I’m looking through the Beckett listing, it shows a card #395A and a #395B for Lenny Dykstra. Any insight on that? were there 2 versions of his card?


    • Joey Sprinkle says:

      One version has “Lenny” on the back, and the other has “Len.” Not sure which is the error, though I believe they book for about the same.

  4. Rich says:

    When psychedelic 90 Topps and fiesta 90 Donruss came out I bought a lot of 90 Fleer in support of good looking product. So I felt betrayed when Fleer put out that piss yellow 91 set and stopped collecting completely. Upper Deck was the way to go of course but paying $1.25 per pack back then seemed outrageous.

  5. JasonP says:

    I didn’t have any probems with the color of the cards, and felt they were a step up from 1990, but at the same time, why did Fleer have so much problem with grainy photos? They went from murky and dark in 1981, to blurry in 1982 to pretty clear (if boring) in 1983-1986, had some oddly soft-focus, but colorful shots in 1987, to being horribly grainy from 1988-1991. 1990 actually managed to mix blurry, soft-focus and grainy all in the same set.

    I think the biggest problem in 1991, for all the companies, is just that there were absolutely zero standout rookies, so nothing to help elevate what were otherwise mundane sets.

  6. Todd says:

    Man I remember these. These were just around the time I decided to stop collecting cards, I was young and the “hobby” was becoming just too expensive for me. I’ve recently come back to collecting cards, still way over priced but hey I’m 37 now and can afford a $5 pack of cards. Ugly they were but affordable they were as well.

  7. coltssteve says:

    I don’t know whats worse (1) the fact that someone took the time to do a retrospective article on such a putrid product, or (2) that I actually glanced at the article! I think I have a case of this stuff somewhere. It would make good kindling in case of an apocalypse!

  8. Pablo says:

    1991 was the year I got deep into collecting baseball cards for me so anything ’91 is a favorite of mine. I especially liked Fleer, Score, and Topps ’91 and never tire of them. Ugly and boring? Try ’86, ’88, or ’90 Topps! Yuck!

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