How popular was Ted Williams in the late 1950s? The former Triple Crown winner was featured in his own card set. The 1959 Fleer Ted Williams set was the Philadelphia company’s attempt to make a splash in the baseball card industry. The company lured Williams away from Topps with an 80-card set that told his life story on the front and back.
The card showed Williams with Red Sox General Manager Bucky Harris, who was under contract to Topps. During the production process, the card was yanked from the set, creating a rarity that has driven set builders crazy for years.
In his Topps Archives blog, collector Dave Horish recently featured a letter Fleer had sent to hobby pioneer Buck Barker who wrote to the company in the summer of ’59, asking if the card existed and if so, why he couldn’t find one. Fleer’s assistant promotion manager responded that “due to legal overtones” the card “wasn’t put on the market for sale”. However, he apparently sent Barker several copies. Others who wrote in apparently received the missing cards as well, with Fleer asking only that they not sell them.
It’s a fascinating little tidbit probably well known years ago to adult hobbyists who knew Barker or corresponded with him, but known to only a few veterans today.
It’s not the most rare card of the post-War era, but it’s still a challenge. PSA has only graded around 400 of them as NM 7 or better, which would seem to indicate that Fleer distributed quite a few through the mail.
Counterfeits are out there, but many were marked as such by dealers who tried to get them removed from circulation over the years. Authentic graded NM and better examples of the #68 card often bring $700-$1,000 today. Mid-grade examples of the card still sell for around $400-500. Click here to see them.