By Joe Orlando
n 1963, Fleer decided to abandon their strategy of placing former baseball legends (with the exception of Ted Williams in the 1960 set) on the faces of their cards and instead, focus on the stars of the current day. Instead of former legends like Ty Cobb and Jimmie Foxx, they chose players like Bob Gibson – a future legend at the time. Unfortunately for Fleer, Topps decided to bring a lawsuit against Fleer and it stopped the set in its tracks after only one series of production (cards 1-66).
Luckily for collectors, the one series did produce enough stars to make the set interesting. The fact that Mickey Mantle did not make it into the first series certainly hinders the nationwide appeal of the set but, regardless, the set has carried on as a popular one due to its reasonable size and attractive designs.
It's true, there's no Mantle, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Harmon Killebrew, Stan Musial, Al Kaline, Yogi Berra, Duke Snider, Eddie Mathews, Ernie Banks or Pete Rose (rookie) cards in the set. Not to worry. In this 66-card set, you can still find Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax, Roberto Clemente, Brooks Robinson, Carl Yastrzemski and several other Hall of Famers. There are also some very tough rarities in the set, such as the checklist and the #46 Joe Adcock card.
In addition to the nice star selection, despite the small size of the set, the cards are very attractive. The photo quality is very strong; capturing many of the athletes in full smile like Mays and Robinson. Their simplicity is also very appealing. The vast majority of the card design is dedicated to the image itself, rather than a bizarre assortment of designs that detract from the photo of the player. With many of the modern cards today, collectors will notice the unnecessary complexity of card designs. Pretty soon, you might not be able to make out who the players are underneath layers of reflective materials and foil coatings.
As far as condition obstacles are concerned, centering and reverse chipping are two of note. Due to the large images on the front, the white frame around the photo is very defined. In other words, side-to-side centering is very easy to determine. When it comes to top-to-bottom centering, make sure that the bottom border doesn't encroach too severely into the small, diamond images near the bottom left and that the team name/position information isn't too close to the base.
The backs of the cards have a green border that frames all of the biographical and statistical information. Chipping, as long as it is not severe, will usually not cause a downgrade in the PSA NM-MT 8 grade and lower. When you journey up into the PSA Mint 9 and Gem Mint 10 grades, reverse chipping will be looked at more closely. Again, if the chipping does not hinder the eye appeal, then it shouldn't be a major factor.
This is one of those sets that certainly deserves another look from collectors. Its reasonable size, attractive design and nice star selection make it a very appealing production from Fleer. Compared to the 1963 Topps set, a great set in its own right and a monster to complete, the Fleer set offers some degree of affordability. It can be acquired for about 1/5 the price of the 1963 Topps offering. Of course, the Topps issue does contain almost 600 cards and it does have a Mantle.
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