In 1991, Fleer had already jumped into the premium market of baseball cards with their first set of Fleer Ultra. But two years later, the company went even further in efforts to keep up with more expensive brands, such as Topps Finest and SP, with its inaugural 1993 Flair set. This year marked the 25th anniversary of the set and I thought it fitting to take a look back.
1993 Flair Overview
The 1993 Flair set was introduced as a super premium item. The Ultra cards produced by Fleer in 1992 had already given the company a ‘shiny’ type of card, which was becoming popular. But the 1993 Flair set, like others, sought to become the industry’s latest king of baseball cards.
Suffice to say, it didn’t really do that. The Flair set was certainly popular but I’d argue that Topps Finest probably edged it out a little in terms of popularity with its refractor parallels and also because the brand was used for cards to satisfy a growing basketball market. Flair, by contrast, didn’t jump into the basketball market until 1994.
The brand, as a few other early 1990s brands did, sort of was the start of a crowding of the market. Instead of new companies being founded, the ones that already existed were simply producing more and more brands. The idea was to produce some sets with a higher degree of scarcity to justify the higher prices being charged. While the exact number in produced isn’t known, this site says that Fleer claims 15% of the company’s total Ultra production run were made.
Still, the cards were something to behold and that was mostly because of the way they looked. The cards were super thick and super glossy. Most notably on the fronts, each card contained two pictures of a player – both a foreground and a background shot. A slick black packaging with a gold foil home plate for the box didn’t hurt, either. Each box contained 24 packs of ten cards each.
The 1993 Flair set included only 300 cards so it wasn’t as large as the company’s base Fleer set. But it still provided plenty of opportunities for big names to be included.
All of the usual suspects are included. There’s Ken Griffey, Jr., Cal Ripken, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Mike Piazza, Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens, Frank Thomas, and a lot more. Where the set lacked, though, was in rookie cards. J.T. Snow is really the headliner here and, while that was a desirable card back in 1993, it never really held up. Today you can find it for $1 or, more likely, even less. No Derek Jeter and not much beyond Snow, unfortunately.
The set’s lone insert set was intriguing, however. ‘Wave of the Future’ was a 20-card insert set focusing on young stars. Heavy hitters there included Mike Piazza and Manny Ramirez, but Jim Edmonds, Trevor Hoffman, and a few others are popular as well.
1993 Flair Prices
I’m sure executives thought they had produced a winner 25 years ago. And when the cards were selling for big money, it seemed that way. But while the cards were somewhat revolutionary with an uber-thick design, like most 1990s issues, they haven’t held up well from a value standpoint. The set is certainly more valuable than Fleer’s flagship or Ultra sets, but still very cheap.
Today, the most expensive stars in the set can probably be bought for a $1 or less. Even the Piazza Wave of the Future card, which was once much more valuable, isn’t too hard to find for around $5. Unopened boxes are available in the $20-$30 range on eBay. Complete sets also fall in that $20-$30 area as well.