The 1987 Fleer Baseball Card Set
While the changes from the previous year’s effort were subtle, I immediately appreciated the design of the 1987 Fleer baseball cards. I made multiple attempts to acquire the cards but they were very difficult to track down. My recollection is that the product was highly sought after and the prices quickly exceeded a threshold that I was not willing to cross. As I wasn’t a big fan of the 1987 Topps offering at the time, I focused instead on my ‘87 Donruss collection. Many years later I was able to locate a dealer with a 5000-count box of 1987 Fleer commons, so I finally got my hands on the majority of this set.
Ok, I’ll say it, I personally liked the Fleer set the best in 1987. It was not the most glamorous, didn’t have the Rated Rookies like Donruss, but there was something about that set that made me want to buy those wax boxes and create set after set. I believe I made three if I am not mistaken. Again, if you are looking for a reason, I don’t have one, and sometimes it’s cool that certain players or sets just strike your fancy. Well the set did have some solid cards in it. Will Clark, Ruben Sierra, Bobby Bonilla were hot items in ‘87, though their stars would fade as the 90’s approached. “Wally World” Joyner lit up the league and his “rookie” card was in the set, and the same can be said for Barry Bonds. Like I stated prior, this set didn’t light the world on fire, but it also didn’t disappoint. Sadly, to me, this was the peak of baseball card collecting. I think the 1988 sets just lacked any real star power, and in 1989 the saturated market officially moved the hobby from collecting to greed.
Fleer softened the color scheme from the dark blue in ‘86 to a two-tone border, using a lighter blue on the top half with white towards the bottom. Player names and primary fielding positions are incorporated into the upper left corner while the team logos are affixed to the lower right. The readability of the card backs is improved from the prior year due to the color scheme, which utilizes the light blue-white combo along with a pair of pink columns. The formatting of each player’s biographical and statistical information mirrors previous Fleer releases. Similar to past releases, the set is ordered based on the final standings from last season and alphabetically by the player’s last names. The back end of the set includes nineteen “Superstar Specials” (usually two or more players with a specific theme), ten “Major League Prospects” (two players per card) and seven checklists for a total of 660 cards.
Fleer opened the floodgates with regards to their production of subsets in 1987, ramping up the offerings from seven in ‘86 to seventeen one year later! The six-card “Headliners” substituted for the previous season’s “Future Hall of Famers” in Fleer rack packs. A twelve-card “World Series” subset were issued in collated sets only to hobby dealers. Subsets that were composed of 44 cards and sold exclusively in chain stores include “Award Winners” (7-11), “All-Stars” (Franklin), “Exciting Stars” (Cumberland Farms), “Hottest Stars” (Revco), “League Leaders” (Walgreens), “Limited Edition (McCrory’s), “Record Setters” (Eckert’s Drug Stores). Multiple chain stores distributed “Game Winners” – Bi-Mart, Pay’n’Save, M.E. Moses, Mott’s, and Winn’s. All of the subsets featured standard size cards with the exception of the “Mini” series which were printed on 1 13/16” by 2 9/16” stock.
The subset values according to the 1997 edition of the Beckett Almanac of Baseball Cards and Collectibles are as follows: Update $15, Glossy $30, Update Glossy $10, Mini $6, All-Stars $22, Headliners $8, Award Winners $4, Baseball All-Stars $5, Exciting Stars $4, Game Winners $5, Hottest Stars $5, League Leaders $5, Limited Edition $4, Record Setters $4, Sluggers/Pitchers $5, Star Stickers $15, World Series $2.
None of the players in the 1987 Fleer set qualify for the ‘one-and-done’ designation (i.e. all appeared on other regular-issue cards during their careers). This does not include multi-player cards such as “Major League Prospects”.
Did You Know?
Fleer card backs replaced the career highlight information from previous offerings with a “Pro Scouts Report”. Pitchers received rankings for six different pitch types ranging from “average” to “awesome” while hitters depicted three strike zones outlining the locations where they produce the best results.
The 1987 Fleer set does not contain any significant error variations.
Barry Bonds, Bo Jackson, Barry Larkin, Will Clark, Kevin Mitchell, Wally Joyner, Ruben Sierra, Bobby Bonilla, Devon White, Chuck Finley, Jamie Moyer, John Kruk, Terry Steinbach, Mitch Williams and Mike Stanley highlight the list of players making their cardboard debuts in the ’87 Fleer set.
Price Guide (Then and Now)
The “Beckett Baseball Card Monthly Price Guide” (December 1987 edition) cataloged the 1987 Fleer Baseball complete set at $40. The Major League Prospects card (#652) featuring Orioles’ backstop John Stefero along with Royals’ rookie sensation Kevin Seitzer fetched $7 during the winter of ‘87 but was eclipsed in later years by Fleer’s first regular issue cards of Barry Bonds, Will Clark and Bo Jackson, among others. At the present time, a Bo Jackson (#369) with a grade of PSA 9 can be found in the $20-$40 range.
Please add a comment below if you would like to share any memories from collecting the 1987 Fleer baseball card set or your experiences with card collecting in general!
Articles in the Series
References and Resources
Beckett, Dr. James, Rich Klein and Grant Sandground. Beckett Almanac of Baseball Cards and Collectibles. Dallas, TX: Beckett Publications, 1997. Print.
Beckett.com (requires subscription to view prices):
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About the Authors
Derek Bain is a New Jersey native with a passion for baseball, statistics, computers and video games who enjoys spending quality time with his family.
Tom Corby – Cousins with Derek, I am a history teacher at New Egypt High School. I have three kids, Addison, Jaclyn, and Mason and I’m happy that I get to coach them in their sports as well. In my spare time I enjoy reading, anything beach related, and fishing when time allows.
Hardball Architects examines the trades, free agent acquisitions, draft picks and other transactions for the 30 Major League Baseball franchises, divided into a 2-volume set (American League and National League). All key moves are scrutinized for every team and Sabermetric principles are applied to the roster construction throughout the lifetime of the organization to encapsulate the hits and misses by front office executives.
“Hardball Retroactive”, published in June 2018, is available in paperback and digital (Kindle) format at Amazon.com. Hardball Retroactive is a modest collection of selected articles that I have written for Seamheads.com along with my Baseball Analytics blog since 2010. Exclusive content includes the chapter on “Minors vs. Majors” which assesses every franchise’s minor league successes and failures in relation to their major league operations.
“Hardball Retrospective” is available in paperback and digital (Kindle) format at Amazon.com. Supplemental Statistics, Charts and Graphs along with a discussion forum are offered at TuataraSoftware.com. In Hardball Retrospective, I placed every ballplayer in the modern era (from 1901-present) on their original teams. Using a variety of advanced statistics and methods, I generated revised standings for each season based entirely on the performance of each team’s “original” players. I discuss every team’s “original” players and seasons at length along with organizational performance with respect to the Amateur Draft (or First-Year Player Draft), amateur free agent signings and other methods of player acquisition. Season standings, WAR and Win Shares totals for the “original” teams are compared against the real-time or “actual” team results to assess each franchise’s scouting, development and general management skills.
Don Daglow (Intellivision World Series Major League Baseball, Earl Weaver Baseball, Tony LaRussa Baseball) contributed the foreword for Hardball Retrospective. The foreword and preview of my book are accessible here.
“Hardball Retrospective – Addendum 2014 to 2016” supplements my research for Hardball Retrospective, providing retroactive standings based on Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and Win Shares (WS) for each “original” team over the past three seasons (2014-2016). Team totals from 2010 – 2013 are included for reference purposes. “Addendum” is available in paperback and digital (Kindle) format at Amazon.com.