After years of trying to find their way into making MLB baseball cards with current players, Fleer finally got the chance in 1981. Alongside Topps and another newcomer to the sport, Donruss, the popularity of the hobby would explode in the years that followed. Dozens of notable 1980s Fleer Baseball Rookie Cards would come from these sets, many of which still command attention today.
Here are the ten biggest and most valuable Fleer Baseball Rookie Cards from the ’80s.
10 Most Valuable 1980s Fleer Baseball Rookie Cards
Please note that this list covers only cards with the RC tag in the Beckett database and price guide. XRC cards found in many Fleer Update sets during the 1980s are not, hence the lack of 1984 Fleer Update Clemens and Puckett cards, among a few others.
10. 1986 Fleer Jose Canseco/Eric Plunk RC #649
Remember the days when this was an alternative of sorts for those who couldn’t afford the $100-topping 1986 Donruss Jose Canseco Rookie Card? The days of pricey Canseco RCs has long since passed and they’re not coming back like M.C. Hammer’s genie pants seem to be. Even if it’s not worth much anymore, this is one of the decade’s classic cards. It doesn’t help that Canseco is paired with someone else. Eric Plunk had a 14-year MLB career but he was never a star like Canseco was. Bonus fun points have to be given, though, for the bitty mustaches of both men.
9. 1989 Fleer Ken Griffey Jr. RC #548
It might not be as iconic as the 1989 Upper Deck card, but a Ken Griffey Jr. RC is a beautiful thing no matter the set. Fleer was one of just three companies to get The Kid into their main 1989 set (along with Upper Deck and Donruss). Topps and Score didn’t get him in until their update sets. It’s a somewhat plain design compared to many of the era’s other colorful releases, but that’s okay. While still a very notable card, Griffey is overshadowed in the set by one of the most notorious errors of all-time, the 1989 Fleer Bill Ripken.
8. 1983 Fleer Wade Boggs RC #179
When it comes to hitting, Wade Boggs was one of the best in he 1980s and ’90s. The third baseman won five American League batting titles and finished his career with a .328 batting average. His 1983 Fleer Rookie Card is one of several strong ones in the set. Outside of top-end graded copies, this card remains very much affordable.
7. 1983 Fleer Ryne Sandberg RC #507
1983 was a great year for baseball cards, especially if you are a Rookie Card collector. Sandberg joins Boggs as one of the top 1980s Fleer Rookie Cards and for good reason. The Hall of Fame second baseman might not have the gaudiest numbers in Cooperstown, but he was a major star for more than a decade with one of baseball’s most popular teams.
6. 1987 Fleer Barry Bonds RC #604
One can debate Barry Bonds’ spot in baseball history, whether he belongs in the Hall of Fame and how it all impacts his cards. But no matter the case, the 1987 Fleer Barry Bonds is a beautiful card. From the gradient blue borders to the old cap, there’s a classiness to it. Bonds’ expression is also appropriate. He’s not exactly smiling, but you can’t say he’s angry either. Much like his numbers versus his legacy, there’s some conflict there that can be interpreted in different ways. Given the sheer number of copies that are out there, landing a Mint graded copy isn’t too hard. But there’s a steep drop-off when it comes to Gem Mint, likely in large part due to the dark borders.
5. 1985 Fleer Roger Clemens RC #155
Like Bonds, there’s a level of controversy surrounding Roger Clemens. While few will question his place as one of the most dominant pitchers of all-time, the Hall of Fame alludes him. Similarly, collectors seem torn over him as well. He’s still a marquee name today, but not to the extent that his numbers suggest they should be. The 1985 Fleer Roger Clemens Rookie Card still commands solid prices but it’s still very reasonably priced. Undoubtably, the 1984 Fleer Update XRC plays a role but his legacy should also be considered. The close-up shot is a good one, capturing both his focus and intensity on the mound.
4. 1983 Fleer Tony Gwynn RC #360
Tony Gwynn completes the 1983 Fleer hat trick. And rightfully so. The design is simple but there’s a lot of nostalgia squished onto that 2.5″ by 3.5″ piece of cardboard. Brown and yellow uniforms? Check. Swinging Friar logo? Yes, please. A young Tony Gwynn ready to set forth and become a pure-hitting, hard-playing superstar exuding the joys of baseball? Thank you very much. Simply put, when it comes to 1980s Fleer Baseball Rookie Cards, this is one of the best.
3. 1985 Fleer Kirby Puckett RC #286
Like Roger Clemens, Kirby Puckett has a 1984 Fleer Update XRC. And, like Clemens, that might cut into the value and prestige of his 1985 Fleer Rookie Card to a certain extent. But it doesn’t take away from its beauty and status of being a top 1980s Rookie Card. Like virtually all ’80s baseball cards, finding a copy isn’t hard. However, you’re probably not going to find graded Gem Mint copies in any sort of significant quantity.
2. 1984 Fleer Don Mattingly RC #131
When the hobby was growing exponentially throughout the 1980s, Don Mattingly was one of baseball’s biggest stars. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he remains a hobby favorite today even though his career didn’t play out as well as some hoped. Even still, you can’t go wrong with any Don Mattingly Rookie Cards. His 1984 Fleer trails his Donruss RC but that’s 1984 baseball cards for you. Just because it’s not worth as much shouldn’t take away from the beauty of this card and the set it comes from.
1. 1982 Fleer Cal Ripken Jr. RC #176
The combination of “Cal Ripken” and “Rookie Card” is a winner no matter what. Even when it comes to the lesser-loved Fleer baseball card sets of the 1980s. Like Mattingly, Ripken gets a lot of love in the hobby. But unlike Mattingly, Ripken stayed at his peak significantly longer and breaking some major records in the process. The post-season success Ripken enjoyed early on certainly helps, too. Gem Mint copies of the 1982 Fleer Cal Ripken Jr. are extremely tough to find. Centering is an issue on a lot of cards, both with the sides and top to bottom.