Friday, January 5, 2018

At Last

The dying days of Fleer were a wild ride.  Before the bankruptcy auction, unfilled redepmptions, and brief, zombie-like, resurrection under Upper Deck, the writing was on the wall. 

It's a period I'd imagine few would reflect on fondly, and even fewer collectors even think of at all.  But Fleer was my brand.  While Donruss delivered the best value in my eyes, I loved Fleer's overall products.  Their designs were unique, never afraid to incorporate foil or color.  The cards has an element of whimsy that I loved, and while not perfect their embedded stickers were at least a step up from the silver rainbow abominations used by Topps and Donruss at the time.

And Fleer showed love for my favorite player, Jack Wilson.  Jack was coming off an All-Star year in 2004.  And while the Pirates weren't well-represented in card sets across the board at this time, Jack managed to fit his way into most of the Fleer releases of the day.  Better yet, they had included Jack in quite a few of their autograph checklists for the 2005 season, almost all of which were inserted as redemptions.  Donruss had some autos as well, but I believe those were reused stickers from his rookie year 2001 signing session.

So Fleer was it.  And the checklists looked glorious.  Autos, patches, high end cards to chase galore.

...except most of them never saw the light of day.  Most of those redemptions went unproduced and unfilled.  The company went under.  And my collector dreams were crushed.  For quite a few years, it was still hard to get a clear sense of what was or wasn't released.  Beckett's checklist continued to show cards that I was fairly certain were never produced, but could never be quite sure.

Fleer Authentix was right in the thick of the chaos.  Jack had an autograph that was inserted into products with versions /100, /40, /5, and a 1/1.  There were also supposedly patch/autos inserted as redemptions, which Beckett still shows on their checklists.  I've long assumed the redemptions never existed.  And I have a copy of the auto /100, so I knew that one made it out the door.  But the lower numbered autos?  I had never seen a copy.  A card /40 typically isn't impossible to find, especially when you've been regularly scouring online for anything and everything of a player for the better part of two decades.

But a few weeks before Christmas, I spotted a copy on ebay.  The price was a little high, but I had a $10 ebay coupon that made it a no-brainer.  Not bad for a card you weren't even sure existed.

Anyone else have any run-ins with the chaos of Fleer's dying days?


  1. No personal experience with the dying days of Fleer - I was only just edging back into the hobby at the time. However, congratulations on tracking down such a mysterious card! Who knows what else is out there?

    1. I remember there being some unreleased cards from 2002/03 sets that came out in the auctions that had never been released. I believe they may have been retired players and presumably the contract with the player/estate fell through.

      There was a card back to a Jack Wilson card that was never produced that kept being relisted on ebay for years. I think it was one of the patch cards that never came out. At the time, I didn't think it was worth paying $4-5 for a card back if I couldn't at least also have the front of the card.

      Of course now that I only find a handful of new cards every year that I don't have, I sure wish I would have just picked the darn thing up. Or at least saved a jpeg.

  2. I really need to do inventory on my Wilson collection. It was the Wild West in the mid 2000's in terms of cardboard. Almost impossible to keep track of. Like you, every so often I'll see a card pop up on eBay and think to myself where in the hell did this come from.

    1. Looking back it's just mind blowing how many sets were released. I was at the LCS each week opening at least a couple packs of each new product that came out, and it seemed like something new came out each week.

      And then the retail only parallels! It's somewhere between a player collector's worst nightmare and an absolute dream to have so many cards to chase. A decade+ and there are still some parallels that were, at least according to pack odds, readily available and not serial numbered that I have never once seen for sale online or at a show.