DOES FLEER STILL MAKE BASEBALL CARDS

Fleer was founded in 1885 by brothers Frank and William Fleer as a chewing gum manufacturer based in Philadelphia. In 1956, Fleer obtained the license to produce major league baseball cards as competition to the dominant manufacturer at the time, Topps. Fleer’s entry into the baseball card market shattered Topps’ monopoly and initiated the modern baseball card collecting hobby.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Fleer produced highly popular sets that competed directly with Topps’ offerings each year. Some of Fleer’s most iconic early baseball sets included their 1963, 1965, 1971, and 1975 issues. Fleer pioneered innovations like color photography, patented border designs, and multi-player cards that advanced the visual style and varieties of cards available to collectors. Stars of the era like Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Nolan Ryan appeared in their rookie cards through Fleer sets in this period.

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As interest in collecting sports cards boomed through the 1980s, Fleer attained licenses to produce NBA and NFL cards as well. Producing cards for multiple major sports leagues drained Fleer’s capital resources over time. A series of ownership changes occurred as larger confectionery and trading card businesses acquired Fleer. In 1992, Fleer’s 61-year MLB license expired and was outbid by rival manufacturer Upper Deck, dealing a major blow.

Through the 1990s, Fleer still held licenses for the NBA and NFL but faced growing competition from new issuers. Fleer’s quality and originality declined compared to competitors. Poor management decisions saw Fleer take on unsustainable debt levels. In 1991, Fleer was purchased by Cadbury Schweppes but by 2000 had filed for bankruptcy protection. Later acquisitions by Topps in 2003 and French company Panini in 2008 failed to revive Fleer’s prominence in the trading card field.

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Today, Fleer no longer produces or holds licenses for any major professional sports leagues. Topps has held the exclusive MLB license since 1993. Upper Deck, Panini, and rival companies like Donruss have dominated the MLB card market for two decades. Although historic Fleer sets remain popular with vintage collectors, the company has transitioned to specialty sets focused on nostalgia and pop culture cards instead of active sports leagues.

In summary, Fleer revolutionized the baseball card industry in the mid-20th century but overexpansion and failure to maintain their MLB license ultimately led to the company’s decline. While once a leading competitor to Topps, Fleer has not held the rights to produce official MLB, NFL or NBA cards for many years now. The heyday of Fleer as a pioneering force in the trading card field is relegated to history, as newer companies have assumed control of the modern sports card market.

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