Friday, April 10, 2015

Baseball Card Evolution in the 1990s - Fleer

Fleer followed a similar evolution as Bowman and Donruss, at least in the early part of the decade. Then it started mutating and was gone before the end of the decade.

1990 Fleer #363 Larry Walker
1990 Fleer was not exciting, pretty much as Fleer had been for years. Fleer, like Donruss, started in 1981 and like Donruss sported white card stock from the beginning. While Donruss had mostly been about crazy borders in the 1980s, Fleer had mainly been about full or partial colored borders. Fleer had also been using team colors for some design elements for several years. The banner at the bottom of the 1990 card was based on the player's team colors. They went with white borders in 1990, but the card backs looked pretty much the same as they had for the past 7 years. So like Donruss and even the newcomer Bowman, change between card years was slow.

1991 Fleer #61 Eric Davis
Whether you like it or not (I like it) 1991 Fleer certainly made some sort of statement. But really, the only evolutionary change was the addition of a larger color photo on the back (beating Bowman, Donruss and Topps to this step). Fleer had been using colored borders on and off for years, this year just happened to be a bolder color. Notice also that the stats on the back are in the same style as 1990 with the use of team colors for accents.

1992 Fleer #6 Dwight Evans
The biggest evolutionary change in 1992 is the use of a larger photograph with on-field photos instead of just head shots like in 1993. They went with team colors front and back but the back stats are basically the same. I liked the color of the 1992 borders more than 1991, but I generally think that borders should be thinner. It is an interesting design element to have the player extend out into the right side border.

1993 Fleer #138 Tony Gwynn
1993 seems to have been a year of front design minimization for Bowman, Donruss and Fleer. The 1993 Fleer backs went off on their own however. A bit too much blank space in my opinion.

1994 Fleer #246 Lee Smith
The next evolutionary step is to add gold of silver foil, which Fleer did in 1994. While Bowman and Donruss jumped to gold foil and full bleed printing in 1994, Fleer chose to stay with white borders. 1994 Fleer is glossy for the first time as well. The backs moved forward with a larger photo, even if the photo is overprinted with stats.

1995 Fleer #388 Darren Daulton
Fleer made the jump to full bleed printing which they will stick with until the end, but in terms of front design, they seemed to jump the rails. This card represents just one of 5 abstract (some might say drug-fueled) designs. The back carried through from 1004 the full photo overprinted with stats with the addition of a large team logo. In most cases, the backs were hard to read.

1996 Fleer #13 Jeffrey Hammonds
Fleer stepped back from the insanity of 1995 with a simple design, more in keeping with main evolution, a full bleed printed front with gold foil and readable stats and an action photo on the back. But fleer added it's own twist to the concept, the cards are printed on a thin white card stock, with absolutely no finish front or back. This is one of very few card sets which have foil printing but no gloss. They offered a parallel glossy set (harking back to the 1980s). This set represents the peak of Fleer evolution in the 1990s.

1997 Fleer #176 Mariano Rivera
Fleer came back in 1997 with basically the same design as 1996 and then retired the brand name. They would issue cards under the "Fleer" brand a few times in the 2000s, but from here on, until their demise after 2007, the flagship brand would be called Fleer Tradition.

1 comment:

Fuji said...

Just like Donruss... I'm not really a big fan of any 90's Fleer base card designs. On the other hand, I love 90's Flair products.