December 2013 Premium Holiday Auction
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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 1/4/2014

In 1981, after an 18-year hiatus from the market, Philadelphia's Fleer Corporation took the hobby by storm with its return to baseball cards. The previous year, a court decision had forced the Baseball Players Association to offer contracts to other card companies besides Topps, and both Fleer and Donruss jumped at the opportunity. Although riddled with errors, Fleer's 1981 set earned distinction as the #1 design of the year by Baseball Hobby News, and the company then set out to make improvements for its 1982 set. In addition to streamlining its design and improving its photography, Fleer decided it would improve its card stock as well. According to Sports Collectors Digest, "To test a proposed cardboard stock from International Paper Co., a run of 100 sheets of test cards was printed and delivered to Fleer officials. The cards on the sheet include various combinations, incorrect picture/name combinations and cards with no player identification. All cards have the words "TEST CARD" overprinted in black in the player identification area at the bottom center, along with the letters "o", "n" or both vertically at the left end of the oblong. Backs are blank. At least half of the 132-card test sheets have made their way into the hobby where they are offered both as complete sheets and as hand-cut single cards or panels... Each of the 66 cards is double-printed on the sheet."

Fortunately for collectors, the set's key card, the Cal Ripken Jr. rookie card, appeared on the sheet in two different variations, both with Cal's iconic image, but one with Cal's name and one with Dave Ford's name. Graded PSA Authentic -- PSA will not assign a numerical grade for this test issue -- Small Traditions is proud to offer one of the hobby's finest surviving examples of the latter in what appears to Mint to possibly even Gem Mint condition. Although approximately 100 examples of this card (inclusive of both versions) are believed to have made it into the hobby (that is, half of the 100 double printed sheets), surprisingly few have turned up for professional grading, most likely due to the poor condition in which most copies survived after circulating for the last three decades. Dallas-based Beckett Grading Services has graded only two, one NM-MT 8 and another Mint 9, while PSA has slabbed four copies, all Authentic, and New Jersey-based Sports Card Guarantee has slabbed another authentic copy, plus an SGC 60 EX 5. That's just eight total copies ever graded by the hobby's three leading third-party grading and authentication firms!

In short, here is a very rare opportunity to acquire an exceptionally high-grade copy of a card that most advanced collectors have perhaps heard rumors of but have never seen in person and certainly never called their own. Not believing the card even existed until seeing it with their own eyes, even former Fleer employees acknowledge it's extreme scarcity. While rookie cards numbered to 100 or less may be old hat in today's market, imagine, before you bid, if any other prominent Hall of Fame player from the 80s or 90s had a key rookie card variation limited to 100 copies? Imagine Rickey Henderson or Tony Gwynn rookies in alternate poses, or Ken Griffey Jr. or Derek Jeter with glaring errors such as the infamous 1990 Topps Frank Thomas No-Name, whose scarcity is not nearly as limited to just 100 copies. Now imagine such a variation of the most appealing rookie card of baseball's "Iron Man," or just click the image below to enlarge our scan and confirm for yourself that the rumors are true and that such a modern masterpiece actually exists.

Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $1
Final prices include buyers premium: $2,580
Number Bids: 27
Auction closed on Sunday, January 5, 2014.
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