Thursday, January 27, 2011

Complete Set Chronicles: 1981 Fleer

Welcome to the Complete Set Chronicles.  This is a semi-regular feature of the blog where I highlight a complete set that I've collected.

Today's set is (I believe) the oldest complete set that I own.  In fact, it was produced one year before I was born, so to me, it's ancient history!

1981 Fleer

In the grand scheme of things, the 1981 Fleer set is rather unremarkable.  In fact, my "hot off the two-year-old presses" Beckett magazine says the set was worth $15.00 back in February of 2009.  However, to me the set is special.  For one, it's one of the only complete sets that I own that feature plenty of members from the Big Red Machine.  Second, it's a set my father gave me a few years back - and that's more special than any Beckett price tag!


The 1981 Fleer set begins with Pete Rose as card #1.  Of course, this was almost a decade before Pete's fall from grace, so it was a wise (and popular) choice at the time.  How does it up hold now?  Pretty good, it's hard to argue with Charlie Hustle (on a baseball card at least).  Of interest, by 1980, Pete had collected 3557 hits and only 155 of those were homeruns.


The last card in the set is #660, Steve Carlton.  Once again, Fleer nailed it with a great player in a prime position in the set (depending on how one stacks a set, either Rose or Carlton would pretty much always be on top of the pile).  It is interesting, however, that both the first and last card in the set are Phillies - and yet, the players were grouped by team throughout the majority of the set!

Card Design:

The front of the card (such as #50 Jamie Quirk) features a white border, a cartoony baseball with the team name in script font, and the player name in front of a yellow background.  The vast majority of the cards in the set feature boring photographs (such as Carlton above) but there are a few action shots like the Quirk card.  In fact, the Quirk card is one of my favorites in the set simply for its quirkiness (pun intended).  Check out the guy with flowing locks on the far right in what appears to be some sort of camel-fur vest thing.

The back of the cards are also clean and simple.  The card number is in the upper left corner while the upper right corner holds a key career number of the player in question (career batting average or career ERA).  There are also full career statistics (a nice touch that I fully support).  In general, I don't mind the backs, except for the whole career statistic number in the upper right corner - it's confusing to look at two numbers and try to remember at a glance which is the card number (and yes, I know there is a decimal point but when you are sorting a lot of cards in a hurry it's easy to miss such nuances).


As I mentioned above, the vast majority of the cards are sorted by team.  It makes for a nice "team yearbook" effect thirty years later - find the team in the binder and you get to see the majority of the team's roster within three binder pages.  A quick glance at the binder page above shows you what you can expect though from most of the photos, boring mug shots!  At least the photographer had the players look in different directions sometimes to add a little spice to the photos.

There are a few inconsistancies however.  Most notably, the cards at the end of the set are simply numbered in a goofy fashion.  Someone at Fleer thought it would be a good idea to take the team checklists and intersperse "special" cards.  In the end, it simply looks sloppy, especially when looking through a binder.


The 1981 Fleer set gets a 5/10 for me.  It scores high on personal intangibles and clean design but gets docked serious points for boring photos and slightly confusing card backs.


night owl said...

As someone who bought packs of Fleer in 1981, the things that stood out for the "new" kid on the block were:

1. The teams grouped together by card number.

2. The players who received more than one card (very unusual at the time)

3. The team checklists that featured two teams (didn't like that)

4. The batting average or earned-run average highlighted opposite the card number. That was different and I thought quite cool.

Community Gum said...

This is the only set I have a want list made up for. Any extras? NO already sent me some but I'm still shy a handful of variations and stars. I have LOTS of early Fleer to trade! -Andy

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