1987 FLEER BASEBALL ERROR CARDS

The 1987 Fleer baseball card set is renowned among collectors for containing some of the most valuable and significant error cards ever produced. While errors are common in the mass production of sports cards, a few stand out from the 1987 Fleer issue that captivate the attention of hobbyists to this day. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most notorious mistakes from the 1987 Fleer checklist and explore what makes these variants so unique.

One of the most famous errors from 1987 Fleer is the “Billy Ripken F-Word” card. Card number 638 in the base set was supposed to feature Orioles’ second baseman Billy Ripken in a typical baseball pose. An obvious mistake was made – when the negative was placed on the printing plate, the words “F*** Face” were visible on Ripken’s bat. It’s believed someone wrote this as a joke in the locker room and it went unnoticed during the photo and production process. Naturally, this caused Fleer tremendous embarrassment once collectors began opening packs. While most of the error cards were pulled, a few lucky finders managed to acquire the now infamous variant, which can fetch $10,000-$15,000 in gem mint condition today.

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Another standout mistake involved Mets’ pitcher Dwight Gooden on card number 281. On Gooden’s proper issue, he is pictured from the chest up in a Mets’ uniform. Around 10 examples exist that mistakenly used an action shot of Gooden pitching which obscured most of his face. While not as scandalous as the Ripken, the rarity of these “headshot” Dwight Gooden errors make them a true prize for diehard collectors, earning over $5,000 in top grades.

An untold number of 1987 Fleer cards were afflicted by missing signature errors. Players’ autographs were a new inclusion that year but some slipped through QC without being applied. The most valuable absent-autograph errors involve hall of famers like Ryne Sandberg, Ozzie Smith, and Don Sutton. Without a signature, these variations can sell for $300-$700 depending on condition and demand. Other missing signature errors abound too for stars like Wade Boggs, Tim Raines, and Jim Rice.

Beyond missing signatures, there were mistakes with signatures themselves. Perhaps the most eye-catching occurred on card #78 featuring Cubs’ first baseman Leon Durham. While the majority of issues have Durham’s name autographed in blue ink, approximately 10 examples exist where his signature was erroneously filled in multiple colors resembling a rainbow. This visually stunning error can sell for over $2000 today. Another signature mishap befell Dodgers’ hurler Orel Hershiser on card #315 – a small number of prints show an extra loop on the tail of the ‘R’ in his autograph.

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Most errors from 1987 Fleer involve distinguishing negative or printing flaws, but perhaps no mistake was stranger than Mark Langston’s card #384. While Langston is pictured as normal in Angels’ attire, some prints wrongly placed his name and stats on the back of Expos’ pitcher Bill Gullickson, who has Langston’s stats on the back of his card instead. How this swap occurred is anyone’s guess but it makes for two highly confusing yet collectible variants.

Beyond specific player variants, there were also anomalies with team logos, colors, and uniform designs. The Tigers and Pirates logos were inadvertently swapped on several cards throughout the set. Unusual color renditions of uniforms appear, like cream-colored Expos and Reds jerseys instead of the proper blue and red respectively. Design elements on certain cards also printed with missing or extra stripes, pinstripes, or gradients versus the standard issues.

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Of course, miscuts were inevitably part and parcel of the 1987 Fleer production cycle as well. Examples exist where the cardboard stock was cut off-center, revealing parts of another player’s photo on the same card. In particularly dramatic miscuts, sections of 2-3 different players can be observed on a single variant. Miscuts involving stars multiply an error’s value several times over for collectors.

The numerous mistakes throughout the 1987 Fleer baseball card set have kept enthusiasts fascinated and searching packs for 35 years. Errors provide a history lesson in mass production while also satisfying our innate attraction to the rare and unique. For errors of specific players like Ripken, Gooden, and Durham, finding an example is a true trophy piece for any collection. The saga of the 1987 Fleer errors has become intertwined with the fabric of the hobby.

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