Picture this: The year is 1991. Some of the best selling video games are Sonic the Hedgehog and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. You loved Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey and you can’t get Mariah Carey’s “Someday” single out of your head. The heated topic of debate is Desert Storm, and while you are not sure what your own views are, you do know that you love the Desert Shield stamped cards they came out with.
Baseball cards are a huge part of the culture, and you hold the envious position of being a designer for Fleer. You have been tasked with creating a premium design for the new line “Ultra”. The first year failed miserably in terms of competing with the higher end cards, so you have been brought on to bring the heat. The company is looking to you to design a card that will blow the doors off of the competition (namely Stadium Club). Something that is worthy of the name “Fleer Ultra”. If you don’t come up with something worthy, the plug will be pulled on Ultra entirely.
You spend countless hours designing something that your Fleer bosses will be pleased with. This is your shot at cardboard immortality! If you fail, that means Topps is one step closer to dominating the high end market, and ultimately having a monopoly in a matter of time. You go back and forth with different colors and various design elements. Fueled by Jolt Cola & pizza, you think you are onto something.
With the design meeting at 2pm, you need to wrap up everything. You and your team come up with a few designs and put them on presentation board, then tote them up to the 3rd floor where the “higher ups” are waiting eagerly to see your design offerings. Perhaps the most important work of your life is being held under your arm, on these presentation boards. Before you open the doors, you look at your work one more time and marvel over how proud you are of the work that you came up with.
As you sit down at the high-end mahogany table in the presentation room, you are facing 8 suit and tie executives.
All eyes are on you.
As you talk about the failures of the previous year’s offering, and discuss what you have tried to do with the new designs, you unveil to them your work. You have come up with 3 designs. Your work features Will Clark, Barry Larkin, Frank Thomas and Jose Canseco.
One by one, the cold stares turn into looks of optimism. The executives confer with one another under their breath, while making finger motions over the various designs, pointing to one and circling over another. You explain to them that the end product will be glossy on both sides. The VP says that you have done an amazing job, tells you what is liked from each design and gives you a small list of tweaks to get the design to where it needs to be.
As you get up from your chair to leave the meeting, you grab the presentation boards as a memento of the design work you came up with that knocked Fleer’s socks off. The design work that saved the Fleer Ultra brand, and maybe even Fleer itself!
Then, the VP calls you back and asks you to leave the presentation board with them. Apparently they would like it as a memento as well. With a smile on your face, you comply with their request, though you really, really didn’t want to.
Oh well – onward and forward! You have your marching orders to tweak your design work to create what will eventually become THE 1992 Fleer Ultra design.
Did the design for 1992 Ultra go down like that? I have no idea whatsoever, but I vividly remember the first time I laid my eyes on the presentation board that had the prototype design work affixed to them.
Over a year ago, Razor showed me some “top secret” stuff from his picture collection. My jaw dropped when I saw these.
When I saw them, my jaw dropped. Why? Because these were pieces that nobody knew about, and they aren’t supposed to exist. This is part of baseball card history!
Over the next few months, I would think back on these and how neat they were. A little while later, former blogger Mario from The Wax Morgue posted an article on these, stating that he felt that Fleer got it wrong – that one of the designs from the prototypes could have made for a better looking card.
The important thing to me, however, was that Mario posted the forum member MrMopar as the owner of these beauties. Quickly, I tracked him down to see if we could work something out. Initially, there was no desire for him to move them, but with a little time and more money, we ended up doing a deal!
A while back, MrMopar purchased them directly from Ted Taylor, former VP of Fleer. Today, I just got them in. It took OVER A YEAR to get a deal wrapped up, but I’m very happy to have them.
These should have never been seen by eyes outside of Fleer. They scratch an itch that checklisted 1/1’s cannot. They may not be two-sided, high quality, stamped 1/1 or even recognized in any checklist, but the history behind these (and items like these) is wildly entertaining and leaves you with a craving to let your mind wander and imagine what truly did happen decades ago.
I debated about if I wanted to leave them on the presentation boards, or if I wanted to cut them down. One of the more appealing things to me is when cards fit in top loaders. When they came in, I was dismayed with how thick the boards were (making it incredibly difficult to make a clean cut) and how well glued these were.
With a lot of time and patience, I was able to successfully get them down the card size (and pose them with the “real” card shown on the right):
Now they fit my box perfectly, they are protected by top loaders and they aren’t so clunky.
I was able to actually take them all off without any damage to the cards OR the presentation boards. 20 years of being glued took a long time to successfully take them off without any problems. Yes, I still have the boards in tact if I ever want to affix the cards to the boards again.
So anyway, that is my long-winded story about my latest pickup. I’m truly excited about them, and look forward to finding my next deal! One of these days, I’d love to track down the photos they used to make these, so I can re-create them to be “real” high quality cards.
Thanks for reading! As you know, today is Easter. If you follow Jesus, I encourage you to continue to live a life that is honoring to God, and invest your time into glorifying God by making disciples of the nations, helping the poor, the fatherless and the widow. Live a life worthy of your calling.
For those of you who are not Christians, (or who call yourself one but might not be following Jesus) and are a bit curious about what it means to be a follower, please contact me. I’d be pumped to talk to you about it!
Okay, so enough #churchtime for today in this post. Happy Easter. He is Risen!
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