After years of sitting on the bench, Fleer finally got back in the game in 1986 with the release of it's second ever basketball set and the timing couldn't have been better! The dawn of the NBA's "golden age" had been spurned on by the bitter rivalry between it's two brightest young stars a few years earlier, and a new wave of talent had crashed over the league sweeping fans away in a cheering frenzy. League-wide attendance was at an all time high, the scoring was frantic, folks from coast-to-coast couldn't get enough of Larry "Legend" and Magic Johnson...and then...with the third pick of the 1984 Draft...things got really interesting. The Jordan Era began and basketball would never be the same.
All the while during this great boon, as stadiums sold out, record books were rewritten, and TV ratings soared, one thing was missing though, a major card set from an established manufacturer that would document the men responsible for this resurgence. Topps had retired from the game after 1980-81 and while Star tried to fill the void, their limited printing prevented them from ever being taken seriously. That left an opening for Fleer and they ran with it.
Able to capitalize on the wealth of young talent and the absence of any major competitor, they rolled out their well designed, 132 card set, along with 11 additional stickers (which came one per pack) and filled their line up with the best names in the game. A mixture of featured players, future stars, and future Hall of Famers - the likes of which hadn't been seen since the 1957 Topps release.
On the card's front were crisp full color photos of the men in action surrounded by a thin gold frame and then a thicker red, white, and blue border. A blue name plate rested along the bottom with the player's name, position, and team printed in white, while in the upper right corner was Fleer's "Premier" crown logo. The back side of the card was colored in varying shades of red and was highlighted by a corresponding team logo that sat above the player's personal information and statistics.
This particular, colorful style of layout while appealing to the eye, did turn out to be quite unforgiving. The red and blue portions of the border chipped and scratched easily, and edge wear of any degree was very noticeable. Furthermore, its bright appearance in contrast to the darker main images, also drew attention to issues with centering. All of which have made condition the main factor when considering scarcity.
Let's put the spotlight back where it belongs though, on the this incredible roster that by default included the rookie examples from an astonishing eleven future Hall of Famers! At the head of this prestigious class is Michael Jordan's instantly recognizable card number #57, which is joined by first year specimens from the likes of Charles Barkley, Clyde Drexler, Joe Dumars, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, Chris Mullin, Hakeem Olajuwon, Isiah Thomas, Dominique Wilkins, and James Worthy! Not to be overlooked is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's card #1, while this was far from his first inclusion in a major set, his presence in the league was still a force to be reckoned with. In addition, it's position as the first card in the set made it vulnerable to the exposure and over handling we're all too familiar with when dealing with the "bookends", so pristine examples are few and far between and prices reflect this shortage. To put that into perspective, of the nearly 1,800 examples that have been nice enough to submit to PSA for grading, less than 3% have come back with the GEM MINT distinction! It's gets even more scarce for high-grade Jordan examples, as less than 2% of the 14,500+ examples submitted to PSA have come back as GEM MINT!
The 11-piece sticker set has taken on a life of it's own in recent years, as collectors scramble to get their hands on the few high quality survivors that were spared from being pulled from their backings and applied to trapper keepers, lockers, and albums. This demand has driven prices through the roof and the fact that each player (Abdul Jabbar, Bird, Erving, Ewing, Johnson, Jordan, Olajuwon, Thomas, and Wilkins) featured on a sticker is now in the Hall of Fame makes owning the complete set more of a priority - so bidding wars are common place when Mint and Gem Mint examples do surface.
To many, the 1986 Fleer run represents the last "great" vintage set. It also marks the divide between the vintage and modern era in collecting, the last hoorah before overproduction and infinite subsets flooded the market. Regardless of what your stance might be, there's no denying the fact that pieces of this set are in overwhelming demand and the few fortunate enough to own any number of them are in prime position to cash in on the rush.
Are you ready to enter your prized piece of the '86 set into the auction arena? Are you interested in selling it outright? Just Collect, the industry leader in vintage sports and non-sports cards for nearly a decade is eager to hear from you. Our trusted team of experts is available to answer any and all of your questions and our satellite offices across the country are usually only a car ride away. If you can't make it to us, we offer safe and secure shipping worldwide, and are even willing to come to you if the collection is too large or too valuable to ship. Call us today to discuss your options!Return to See More Just Collect Sets
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