In 2004 Upper Deck offered to buy the Fleer company for 25 million dollars. Fleer, who had been in financial trouble in the years leading up to the offer, thought their business was on the verge of a major upswing and rejected the offer. Only a year later in 2005 Fleer ceased trading card operations and began liquidating assets to pay back their creditors. It was then that Upper Deck swooped in and bought the Fleer brand…for a mere $6 million.
The following year Upper Deck did the Fleer brand justice with three all new Fleer sets; and I’m happy to report that they did a reasonably good job at it. There are hints of Upper Deck influence in the card designs, but you can also see the effort that went into keeping them as true to their Fleer pedigree as possible.
First they did something maybe Fleer should have done years before: simplify. They stripped away all the spinoffs and ran with the three core Fleer sets: flagship, Tradition, and Ultra. I have to wonder if maybe Fleer had done this they would have been able to weather the great cardboard slowdown of the 2000’s.
Next, it appears to me they also tried to streamline the Fleer aesthetic to that of a modernized vintage brand. Across all three Fleer brands we see a lot of bold, full-bleed, colorful cards with very little foil compared with previous issues. This direction made sense for Upper Deck, too, as Fleer was now their connection to the past having made cards in one way or another since the ‘60’s and continuously since 1981.
The acquisition of Fleer by Upper Deck is something I would have been skeptical about were I actively collecting in 2006, but looking back now I consider it to have been a good thing, while it lasted. A few years back when I heard that Disney bought the Star Wars franchise I was pessimistic to say the least, but having seen Episode 7, I feel a lot better about it now. That’s what 2006 Fleer is to me: proof that maybe Upper Deck would do this right.
|2006 Fleer #316|
The base cards are simple in a way comparable with the Fleer base designs of the early ‘90’s (wait...let me finish the sentence before passing judgment) but cleaner with more team-appropriate coloring (see? Not that bad). Upper Deck kept the great old crown logo that Fleer had already resurrected in recent sets. Also they refrained from including their own logo anywhere on the card backs, so the only way you could know these were Upper Deck cards was from the micro-printed legalese.
Speaking of the backs, if any part of this card is meant to say “throwback set,” it’s this part. Simple, clean, no photos, and a small blurb – it’s like an 80’s card back slightly modernized.
|2006 Fleer Lumber Company #LC-16|
Fleer made the Lumber Company insert for over a decade, and in that time they had their highs and lows as could be expected. When Upper Deck got a hold of it they were strong right out of the gate. Look at this wood-grain on this puppy! The cool insert logo, the tasteful foil – this is one of the better-looking Lumber Company designs in the whole timeline.
|2006 Fleer Team Leaders #TL-7 (w/ Aaron Harang)|
There’s not a whole lot to this card – it’s the same offensive/defensive leaders pairing by team we’ve seen many times before. It’s well-executed for what it is and probably the most valuable Aaron Harang base card available. On a side note, did every card in 2006 mention Junior’s Comeback Player of the Year honors? Because we are three-for-three at this point. Damn.
|2006 Fleer Top 40 #T40-1|
The Top 40 players in baseball according to Upper D….er, I mean Fleer. And Griffey got #1! Yeah! Take that, Harang.
I’m not 100% sure whether they gave Griffey card #1 because he was the best. Albert Pujols put up better numbers in 2005 pretty much across the board. My guess is they did it, at least in part, because everyone was still reeling from the steroid scandal and Griffey was a popular, All-American, non-implicated face to head up the set with. Or maybe I’m reading too much into it altogether.
Four-for-four on the comeback player thingy, btw.
|2006 Fleer Autographics Autograph #FL-KG|
Now we’re talking! This card is a bit historical in that it is the first officially-released Junior autograph on a Fleer card. Fleer Griffey autos had been sold before in the form of aftermarket releases from companies like Scoreboard who sold their wares in places like HSN and QVC, but this one is a legit release and one of the better things to come out of Upper Deck’s acquisition of Fleer (UD had an exclusivity deal with Griffey when it came to his autograph on cards). This is one of the short-printed cards from the Autographics insert limited to 150 copies.
The only drawback here is that the card fails to mention Griffey’s NL Comeback Player of the Year Honors. Scandalous! So, I grabbed a sharpie and fixed it:
So much better.
Here are the cards I still need from 2006 Fleer:
#316 Glossy Silver
#316 Glossy Gold
Fabrics Jersey Relic #KG
That glossy insert is not easy to come across but it shouldn’t be terribly expensive when I finally find it. The jersey relic is on eBay right now for $15.00 but that’s just a little more than I’d like to spend on it. Unfortunately the photos on that auction fail to show the card back, so I have no way of knowing whether Griffey’s NL Comeback Player of the Year honors get a mention. If not, well, that’s why God made sharpies, isn’t it?