In 1963, Fleer produced a set of cards hoping to challenge Topps, which was the only mainstream producer of baseball issues. However, a lawsuit by Topps ended Fleer’s hopes of creating sets featuring current players. Finally by the early 1980s, Fleer won the court fight to be allowed in the baseball card game with current players. However, the company didn’t keep quiet in the years leading up to that. After that 1963 Fleer set, the company developed a variety of issues focusing on teams and former players.
Here’s a look at some of the Fleer baseball products that fell outside the mainstream, but still helped the company sell its skinny sticks of gum.
One of the company’s first products after that 1963 Fleer release was a set of Major League Baseball team logo patches and quiz cards. Fleer produced a few other issues with team logos but these were the first of those after the 1963 issue.
Fleer distributed the patches/quiz cards with gum from 1968-1970. The cloth patches could be affixed to clothing or other items, an idea that didn’t always make mom happy. The quiz cards included a team logo and some questions about that particular team. A relatively large quantity of these was produced and they’re still fairly easy to find intact today, although the patches tend to peel away from their backing over time.
Despite being nearly 50 years old, cards/patches from both sets are inexpensive and can be had for very reasonable prices.
Fleer used noted cartoonist Robert Laughlin to produce some entertaining World Series cards it sold in 10-cent packs. The colorful cards featured a cartoon on the front, often using a well-known player, as well as a breakdown of the series on the back, complete with game results.
The set was a cool way to produce cards of some of the game’s biggest stars in the biggest moments in postseason history. Just a few of the names included were Cy Young, Christy Mathewson, Ty Cobb, Grover Alexander, Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, Rogers Hornsby, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Hank Greenberg and Roberto Clemente. Even cards with the biggest names are still very affordable and most don’t sell for more than a few dollars.
Complete sets of the cards that were issued in 1970 and ’71 are usually available on eBay.
1973 Fleer Wildest Days and Plays
In 1973, Fleer produced a 42-card jumbo set featuring some of the craziest plays, incidents, and games in baseball history. Among them were events such as the debut of Eddie Gaedel, a Buck Weaver at bat that featured 17 consecutive foul balls, an inning featuring 14 hits, and more. The set also features a number of Hall of Famers, such as George Sisler, Kiki Cuyler, Mel Ott, Christy Mathewson, and Jimmie Foxx. The cards are hard to find but inexpensive, only selling for about $1-$2 each.
One of Fleer’s most attractive issues after the 1963 set is the 1975 Pioneers of Baseball set. The 28-card release is popular because it includes some of baseball’s earliest players. The set includes players from the late 1800s as well as the early 1900s such as Cap Anson, Buck Ewing, Pud Galvin, Ty Cobb, Nap Lajoie, Cy Young, and many more.
The cards were sold in packs, along with a stick of gum and a cloth team pennant and patch.
Not all collectors will find this set appealing since it includes names that many younger fans won’t recognize. But it’s a great look into the first stars of the game. Cards can be bought in the $1-$3 range and even complete sets can be bought for around $20.
This 1970s issue included some historic baseball ‘firsts’ in baseball. Among the moments recognized are baseball’s first slide, bunt, radio broadcast, knuckleball, fine, grand slam, All-Star Game, unassisted triple play, pinch hitter, curve ball, .400 hitter, World Series ,and ironically, baseball cards. The set also included some of baseball’s first equipment, including the catcher’s mask, shin guards, batting helmet, and glove. These cards are a little difficult to find but still only sell for around $1-$2 each.
There were a few other Fleer baseball sets from 1970-80 including a 24-card oversized “Big Sign” set that was simply a team logo and baseball illustration meant for hanging and a very rare 1969 ‘Cap Plaque’ set sold with 3D-style impressions of each team’s cap on plastic stock. Those were sold in a wrapper with an easel backing board and are seldom seen today.