Fleer returned from a nearly 40-year absence in the production of baseball cards in 1959 with a special set commemorating the career of Ted Williams. While that set featured only the Red Sox slugger, the company had bigger plans the following year with the 1960 Fleer Baseball Greats set which included a massive collection of talent. The cards helped lay the groundwork for the company to begin competing in the growing baseball card industry.
The 1960 Fleer Baseball Greats set, featured a collection of baseball’s biggest stars. The 79-card release included only former players with the exception of Williams, who was still playing but had an exclusive deal with Fleer.
Like the 1959 Fleer Ted Williams set, Fleer kept the traditional card size of 2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ for this issue. The cards featured full color images of players inside of an octagon with four different border options – red, blue, yellow, and green. The borders did not change for each player so each player has only one variation. The backs include some statistical information as well as a biography and a card number inside of the famous Fleer crown logo. One slight difference is that Williams’ card has a larger than normal border on the left and right sides.
In all there are 79 cards in the set, although an 80th has made its way into the hands of collectors (more on that in a bit). 17 cards were double printed.
These cards were initially sold in five-card packs for five cents each with a box consisting of 24 packs.
A Who’s Who Collection Of Talent
The set is appropriately named Fleer Baseball Greats since the issue has baseball’s biggest stars. There are numerous Hall of Famers and greats such as Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, Cap Anson, Cy Young, Jimmie Foxx, Honus Wagner, and many others. More recent stars are there, too with players such as Williams and the recently-retired Hall of Famers Bob Feller and Ralph Kiner.
One player noticeably absent was the popular Joe DiMaggio, who starred in the 1940s. However, this set as a whole includes a large collection of stars with few holes.
The goal was to highlight as many big name players as they could and, suffice to say, mission accomplished.
While only 79 cards were issued in Fleer’s set, an unofficial No. 80 also has been discovered. There are actually several that are deemed as No. 80 – Pepper Martin proofs.
These cards have been found with various players on the fronts but with Martin’s information incorrectly on the back.
As they were hand cut or have a slit at the bottom, these were possibly error prints that were kept by factory workers and later given away or sold. Possible players on the front include Lefty Grove, Joe Tinker, and Eddie Collins.
Coincidentally, the set offers collectors the chance to pick up some of those names at bargain basement prices. Despite the issue being nearly 60 years old, it’s incredibly affordable. That is particularly true compared to the Topps sets of its generation. Ruth, Gehrig, and Cobb are among the most popular cards in the set, as is Williams, since it is a contemporary card of his. Mid-grade cards often sell for under $50.
Since this is a set of ‘greats’, there really aren’t true commons like those found in larger sets. However, the ‘lesser’ Hall of Famers and stars can be found for under $5.
If it’s an entire set you’re after, those are relatively common, too. Complete raw mid-grade sets are usually available at under $500 and sometimes sell for significantly less. There are a few on eBay right now.
The Martin proofs are the exception to that rule. These rare cards command considerably more money and usually sell for thousands of dollars. One graded Authentic by PSA with a Collins front sold earlier this year for nearly $4,000.