April 03, 2008

1990 - 1994 Countdown: #13. 1994 Fleer

Note: I can't find the piece of paper that has my ordered list of remaining Countdown sets. I've decided to wing it, but I must warn you: there will be no set number 12. This will be corrected in later versions of this countdown.

When I say '1994 Fleer,' what is the first thing that comes to mind? The Update A-Rod rookie? The elegant design? How about the ridiculous amount of insert cards? Or is it so overwhelming a set that you're blinded by a swirl of all of the above? If your answer hovers somewhere around that last option, don't worry, you're not alone.

Following the logical design arc from the year before, 1994 Fleer not only boasts the best-looking front and back tandem of the company's decade, but considering the hodgepodge puke they released in 1995, the clean, almost flawless '94 seems like the end of an era.

Sure, the set's epically minimal design does sort of predict that 1995's design could possibly be the worst, most seizure-enducing stationary-subject product ever created by human hands (taking cues from the basic card backs of 1993 Score, the Fleer back-of-card used two lightly translucent boxes, set askew to suggest a very pleasant Frank Lloyd Wright sensibility), but the jump from a practically graphic-free layout to an overloaded frame the very next year is cause for alarm.

But enough about the design. This is clearly one of, if not the best Fleer checklist of the early decade. Following the new company tradition of an expansive set, each team had at least 20 players represented (the last 660-card Fleer checklist was released in 1990; subsequent sets from 1991 - 1994 consisted of 720 base cards. 1995's checklist dipped down to 600). Add in an Update checklist of 210 cards, not to mention a boatload of inserts--and by the way, this set should really be considered the epitome of the decade's insert mania--and you've got yourself a true 'master set.'

1994 Fleer and Update make nice additions to any collection, to put it mildly.And before I wrap this up, a quick note about Alex Rodriguez. I find it interesting that the two companies to produce his rookie in 1994 were Fleer and Upper Deck. Upper Deck now owns Fleer and Rodriguez himself is a Topps spokesman (Upper Deck's chief rival). It leaves the unanswered question of whether the hobby would have progressed differently had Topps, Donruss and Score produced Rodriguez rookies as well.

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