1981 Fleer Roundup

I’ve finally taken the time to go through the old Fleer lots and take down some numbers. I got very close to the 1981 Fleer set, which is awesome because (as I’ve mentioned before) that’s my birth year and I’ve always wanted to put together a set of ’81s from some manufacturer or another. So why not start with the worst! 

Borrowed from COMC because I don't have this card (or the variation of it). HELP ME GET IT!


1981 Fleer always struck me as a totally amateur endeavor. And that was before I learned that the set contained something like 40 errors in its intial printing. Luckily (sarcasm, natch), all those errors caused a frenzy and Fleer fixed the cards and kept the printers running. And running. And running. (I was doing my best Pee Wee there). These things came 17 cards to a pack with 38 packs in a box. That’s 289 poorly printed, poorly selected, poorly QA’d and poorly collated exclusive-flauting pre-Photoshop baseball card suckery. There are honestly maybe 15 good cards in this set, photo selection-wise. And 98% of those were likely ruined by totally effed centering, absolutely whack color replication and/or 3D-like registration issues. Did I mention that these cards suck? 

Apart from that, the only rookies of note are Fernando Valenzuela and Tim Raines (and a Kirk Gibson, for all our Detroit-loyal out there). Not exactly searching the packs for those gems in 2010 are we? Studs of the era (Pete Rose, Nolan Ryan, George Brett, Robin Yount) abound, though, as does a second year Rickey Henderson… all of which were, of course, absent from the common lots I bought to put this thing together. 

Looking for all those myriad (Jon’s favorite oft-misused word) errors and variations, I found this page that has a really great story about those errors from the horse’s mouth (Lou Sauritch, the photographer who took the photo on the once-famouse Tim Flannery reverse negative card). That site also has similar pages for almost every card set from the 70s and 80s. Great reads, all, though it looks like the author hasn’t gotten around to keeping them fully updated or added any new info recently. A more nuts and bolts guide to the errors can be found here at BaseballErrors.com- a site I didn’t know existed until Google told me it did. I really wish there were more photos, especially some describing what “small finger on back” means. I think I remember hearing about some cards with printing errors on the back that looked like little fingers. Can anyone verify? I do also wonder why there were so many photo change variations in this set… to me, that smacks of Fleer attempting to cash in on the variation crazy of that year- especially since so many of the variations are of stars! I’m very interested in any info I can gather on this set, as I’m a completist and won’t be able to sleep right until I have that Kent Tekulve error where it says he was pitching in the minors in 1071. (Insert joke about how his huge effing sunglasses are straight outta the middle ages). 

So, take a look at our trade page and let me know if you have any of these that I’m looking for. I would absolutely love to complete this set via trades from the blog, since I’ve yet to take part in a trade since we started 4 months ago!

3 comments to 1981 Fleer Roundup

  • Sheila Shull

    We have a complete set of 1981 Fleer Error cards. Which ones are you still looking for?

  • Sheila Shull

    Hi Andy,
    sorry it took a few days to get back to you. I have been VERY busy on Ebay selling off my husbands collection. He has decided to part with them. And when I say them, I mean about 20,000+ baseball cards and los of memorabilia.
    Are you looking to purchase? Like I stated before we do have a complete set of the 1981 Fleer Error Set.
    We are considering breaking it up, so if you are interested in the whole set, or certain cards, please let us know.

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