Founded in 1885, Fleer was the first company to manufacture bubble gum. They went on to make the famous "Double Bubble", but it wasn't until 1923 that they started making baseball cards. For the next 84 years, Fleer would be a mainstay in the sports card industry and produce some of the most iconic basketball cards of all time.
1961 Fleer Basketball
Fleer produced it's first set of basketball cards in 1961. The 66 card set included multiple HOFers like Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, Elgin Baylor and Jerry West. The set holds incredible value today and is very desirable.
The highlight of the set is the #8 Wilt Chamberlain RC. In October 2021, a PSA 8 sold for $50,400. Not bad for a card that came out of a five cent pack!
After only one year, Fleer would discontinue it's basketball production.
1986 - The Holy Grail
After a 25 year absence from making basketball cards, Fleer jumped back in the game and produced the 1986 set. The #57 Michael Jordan rookie card headlined, but it also included the rookie cards of Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon, Karl Malone, Clyde Drexler, Isiah Thomas, Dominique Wilkins, Joe Dumars and Chris Mullin.
Thanks to the popularity of the documentary "The Last Dance", Michael Jordan's rookie card value has skyrocketed over the past few years. In January 2021, a pair of PSA 10's sold for $738,000 a piece. The price has come down since, but is still currently valued at over $150,000.
1987-1989 - Rise in Popularity
The popularity of the NBA rose in the late 80's with stars like MJ, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. The demand for basketball cards followed and Fleer's production steadily rose. Not yet produced at "Junk Wax" numbers, the 1987,88 and 89 sets still hold a lot of value compared to the 90's sets that followed.
As usual, Michael Jordan's 2nd, 3rd and 4th year cards bring the most money from these sets. A 1987 PSA 10 can sell for $15,000. There are also some big rookie cards, mostly coming out in the 1988 set. Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Reggie Miller and John Stockton‘s cards all debuted that year.
1990-1994 - The Junk Wax Era
By 1990, the Junk Wax Era was in full swing. Production of all sports cards went through the roof, including Fleer's basketball cards. But you can still find value in these sets. PSA 10 Michael Jordan's are always sought after as well as Shaquille O'Neal's 1992-93 rookie cards.
Fleer was purchased by Marvel in 1992 for $540,000,000 and was merged with Skybox. They would continue to produce cards while focusing on hobby dealers as opposed to retail chains.
The Final Years
Throughout the rest of the 1990's and early 2000's, Fleer continued to produce basketball cards. They were bought and sold a number of times over the years, but the company was ultimately acquired by Upper Deck in 2005. In 2007, the final Fleer branded cards (baseball) were produced.
While Fleer won't be making any basketball cards in the near future, collectors would love to see them back someday.