Most collectors tend to think of Fleer as a modern trading card company. But what many don’t realize is that Fleer actually got its start in baseball cards in the 1920s with the 1923 Fleer set. Fleer’s baseball cards pre-date Topps, Bowman, and even the pre-war Goudey cards.
Fleer’s 1923 issue was a strip card release, which were popular in that era. An extremely scarce issue, this set appears to have taken images from the more common W515 blank-backed issue.
1923 Fleer Basics
The 1923 Fleer set still remains a mystery of sorts. 120 different cards are believed to exist since the back states that consumers can collect the complete set of 120 cards. However, all of the cards have yet to be discovered. In fact, only a relatively small number of cards are believed to have been found to date. The images are the same as the W-515 strip card issue and in addition to baseball, there are non-baseball cards as well. With 60 cards known in the W-515 baseball card set, this would leave 60 non-baseball subjects in the 120-card release.
The difference between the 1923 Fleer cards and the W-515s is seen on the back. While the W-515s are blank on the reverse, the 1923 Fleer cards include a short advertisement, which gives insight to their distribution. The ad states that one card was included in each five-cent pack of Fleer’s Bobs and Fruit Hearts product. Finding any sort of substantial information regarding that product is also difficult so there is no way to determine the amount of distribution of the cards.
The cards included a color illustration on the front along with the player’s name in question as well as his position and team at the bottom. The ad was printed in black on the back and measured approximately 1 5/8″ x 2 3/8″.
Hard To Find
The 1923 Fleer cards are beyond obscure. As previously stated, all of the 120 cards have not yet been seen by the public. They rarely appear for sale or up for auction and PSA has only three shown in their entire population report – a Babe Ruth, Whitey Witt, and Dutch Reuther. In fact, the total number of cards grading by SGC and PSA number less than ten. While they have appeared on eBay from time to time, you usually won’t find them there, either.
For that reason, collecting even a few of these would prove to be difficult. Pursuing an entire set seems utterly impossible given how few have been found to date. Their rarity is part of the reason that many collectors are not even aware of this release.
Big Names And Common Joes
You’ll find both Hall of Famers and no names here. Assuming the same checklist as the W-515 cards, the biggest names to be had are Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Casey Stengel, Tris Speaker, Walter Johnson, John McGraw, Grover Alexander, Rogers Hornsby, Zach Wheat, and Eddie Collins, among others. Note that there are two Ruth cards in the set.
Like most strip card issues, the cards aren’t that attractive. However, there’s a full roster of Hall of Famers to impress most collectors.
1923 Fleer Price
With 1923 Fleer cards so difficult to find, you might expect these to be quite expensive. After all, not only are these cards desirable to pre-war baseball card collectors, but also to rare card collectors or those that collect only certain players.
Despite their rarity, however, these cards haven’t really taken off in terms of price. They are nearly impossible to find, but when auctioned, they are often quite affordable. A Wally Schang graded SGC 60/5 sold last year at auction for only a little over $100. A poorly-cut Babe Ruth sold for under $200 several years ago. A lot of 19 W515s with one Fleer-backed example sold for under $150 previously. While not available often, these cards don’t usually break the bank.
Finding them is the difficult part.