Ted Williams is, without question, one of the greatest players in the vast history of baseball. How great was he? Well, Williams was so great that Fleer decided to dedicate an entire set to the legendary slugger. That's not all. What is even more astonishing is the fact that Williams was still an active player when they released the set. Williams became a legend before his career came to a halt. He was that good.
Williams, who passed away just about one year ago, is featured on a host of extremely popular cards. Some of them are considered to be the most desirable of the era and most valuable in the issue. You have the incredible rarity of the 1954 Wilson Franks card (which sold in excess of $100,000 recently), the visual beauty of the 1954 Topps #1 and #250 cards that "bookend" the set and the historical significance of the 1941 Play Ball card that symbolizes the incredible .406 campaign of the Splendid Splinter.
While almost all of Teddy's cards are high on the list of popularity and significance, virtually none of them offer the one thing that can be very appealing to a collector of limited financial resources -- affordability. Very few people can afford a PSA Mint 9 1939 Play Ball rookie card or a PSA NM-MT 8 1954 Bowman rarity. If you can afford any of those gems, the more power to you. They are certainly the type of keys that remain significant for generations to come due to their importance to the hobby.
For the rest of the collectors out there who may be on a limited budget or for those who are new to the hobby and would like to own a vintage issue featuring Ted Williams, the 1959 Fleer set is for you.
Comprised of 80 cards, the 1959 Fleer Ted Williams set features the great slugger in a variety of settings. From baseball to fishing to flying, Williams could seemingly excel at whatever he put his mind to. That is part of what makes this set so unique and so intriguing. The cards, from 1-80, read like a short biography of the American icon -- at least through the year 1959. Not that this is any surprise to the readers but his life story is just about as compelling as any major athlete I can think of. He was a real hero in every sense of the word, not just on the field as a Red Sox slugger.
The set, in addition to being very attractive and feasible in size, features several great combo cards and fan favorites. There are two cards where Williams is pictured with his idol, Babe Ruth. There are also others that picture Williams with other great baseball players and sports heroes like Jimmie "The Beast" Foxx, Joe Cronin and Jim Thorpe -- considered to be one of, if not the greatest all-around athlete of all-time. There are several other collector favorites in the set such as #63 Ted's All-Star Record, which may be the most visually attractive card in the set.
The first and last cards in the set, #1 The Early Years and #80 Ted's Goals for 1959, have represented tough challenges in high-grade -- especially the #1 card which is very elusive in PSA NM-MT 8 or better. The centering and overall wear is usually a huge condition obstacle for that desirable #1 card. That is the primary reason why that card remains the second most valuable card in the set.
So, what is the most valuable card in the set? That is an easy one. The #68 Ted Signs for 1959 has long been considered not only the most valuable cards in the set but also one of the most desirable cards in the hobby. The card, which features Williams along with Bucky Harris, was pulled from production early due to a contract dispute with Topps. No, interestingly enough, the dispute wasn't about the use of Williams -- it was centered on Harris who was under exclusive contract with Topps at the time. That card, while not as scarce as once thought by hobbyists, is still very popular and clearly the key to the set.
One major condition obstacle, that is evident on many of these great cards, is the presence of "crimping" or "blunting" at the corners. Some of the readers may be very familiar with this characteristic. Many of the cards simply were not produced with pointed corners and other cards fell victim to poor packaging that, in essence, enhanced the "blunting" at the corner's edge. Cards that exhibit minor "blunting" can still reach the Mint levels if there is truly no wear evident.
The problem on many of the cards that have more severe "blunting" or "crimping" is that the defect will, in turn, cause minor surface wrinkling on the reverse. The presence of surface wrinkles can cause a severe downgrade if present, so beware of this sometimes hard-to-see defect. It is also not uncommon to find minor surface wrinkles on the front of the cards as well. Wrinkles, in addition to minor corner bends, are probably the most missed defect by PSA submitters because they can be so difficult to find.
One thing to keep in mind is that there are unopened packs still circulating in the hobby. Those packs, while certainly valuable and collectible in unopened form, do offer an enticing and tempting project for those collectors looking for high-grade examples. Breaking unopened packs is always somewhat risky but the risk can be what makes it fun. In addition, many collectors who have tried this have reported solid success in finding nice cards unlike those who try to open various Topps packs from the 1950s and 1960s. There the risk is far greater.
If you are a Ted Williams fan, a novice collector or an experienced one with a tight budget, the 1959 Fleer Ted Williams set offers an exciting and affordable set building opportunity. Remember that these cards were actually produced during Teddy Ballgame's playing days, they are not mere commemorative cards. The cards are attainable in high-grade, not just from a availability standpoint, but also from a financial standpoint and this is important to most collectors who want to participate in the hobby but simply cannot afford a more expensive issue featuring, perhaps, the greatest hitter who ever lived.
There may never be another set quite like this one and there will certainly never be another legend like Ted Williams.
Click here to view the JH Set -- the Number One Current Finest 1959 Fleer Ted Williams Set on the PSA Set Registry (as of May 2003).
Good luck on the registry!