Collectors saw a new company try to break into the current card market in 1963, but it didn’t last long.
Topps had beaten back Bowman. In 1963, it set out to foil Fleer.
The upstart Philadelphia company had spent 1960 through 1962 producing baseball card sets of old timers. Ruth, Gehrig, Johnson, Cobb and other pre-War stars came to life again, but for kids who never saw any of them play, the cards wouldn’t stack up against a fresh set of modern players.
Topps had a stranglehold on the gum card industry in the early 1960s, so Fleer tried to sneak into the game by creating its own cards and putting them in packs highlighted by a cherry-flavored cookie. No gum, no problem thought Fleer. But it didn’t turn out that way.
Topps was hopping mad when Fleer hit the stores that spring, featuring stars like Carl Yastrzemski, Roberto Clemente and even Willie Mays. There were 66 of them in all, plus an unnumbered checklist.
Topps sued Fleer, which backed off its plan to continue issuing cards throughout the year. The mini sampling would be all kids and collectors would get.
Fleer never got to issue a Mickey Mantle card. Collectors never saw Hank Aaron or Stan Musial in anything but a Topps card for the next two decades.
The 1963 Fleer set, small as it may be, still retains a lot of interest today among vintage collectors who chase the pure, simple, clear photos on the front. Sandy Koufax is among the more popular choices, valued at around $100 in ungraded, NM form. Joe Adock was pulled from the series and his card, #46, is much harder to find that most of the others. The checklist, too, is rare and sells for $200-300–sometimes more in high grade form.
Chipping on the light green backs can downgrade the chances for a high grade set and centering is all over the board, but the set has plenty of fans thanks to a fairly strong supply of high grade examples and the ease of putting a set together at a reasonable cost.
A complete set, in average grade, sells for around $600-800.