A Hobby GOAT: The Iconic 1963 Fleer Baseball Checklist Card

If you’ve been following my writing, you’ll know that I’m a little obsessed with checklist cards. I even have a page dedicated to them called Checklist Central. After studying checklists over the past few years, a resounding realization has taken hold: standing at the pinnacle of the hobby niche is the “1st Series” 1963 Fleer Baseball Checklist 1-66 card. In this post, I’ll explain why the card has claimed the title of the best checklist in the hobby (it’s a short print in a set with growing popularity, and the card has an awesome design).

1963 Fleer Baseball Background

First, here’s some background about the 1963 Fleer baseball set. The set has 67 standard-sized cards, including the unnumbered checklist. At the time, Topps had a monopoly on selling cards of current players with or without “confectionery” products, so Fleer, a small operation at the time, decided to release a set of current players with sugarless cherry cookies to circumvent the monopoly.

According to this article from Sports Collectors Digest, and the fact that the front of the card says “1st Series,” it appears that Fleer intended on at least four series of cards. However, most were marginal players or minor leagues, and rather than taking a financial hit if Topps sued them and won, they folded, sold their contracts to Topps, and didn’t produce any more series of cards that year. But Fleer did keep challenging Topps’ monopoly until it was overturned in 1980.

1963 Fleer Baseball Checklist PSA 9 – Front
1963 Fleer Baseball Checklist PSA 9 – Reverse

Despite its small size, the set still has a lot of star power and includes Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax, and Roberto Clemente – so its popularity is now rising since those stars are cheaper than their Topps counterparts. However, the checklist is usually considered the most expensive card in the set, and one of the reasons for that is how Fleer printed the set.

1963 Fleer Baseball Set Printing

A 66-card set is pretty convenient, considering a full sheet is 132 cards (66 x 2 = 132) – and okay, technically, 132 cards make up a ‘half sheet,’ but you get the point. However, in the case of 1963 Fleer, there’s a bit of a problem; there are 66 numbered cards and the checklist, making a total of 67 cards for Fleer to print. Fleer short-printed two cards by replacing one of the player cards on half the sheet with the checklist. So, Joe Adcock was selected. Each sheet of 132 contained just one checklist card, one Adcock card, and two of everyone else. So, scarcity is one of the big reasons the checklist is pricey and popular. 

I found this re-creation of the 66-card set laid out as an uncut sheet using a few uncut panels – I apologize that I don’t have a source. I don’t believe a complete uncut sheet of 1963 Fleer cards has ever been sold.

1963 Fleer Baseball Uncut Sheet Via Six Panels

The sheet looks plausible to me since Huggins and Scott have sold a few panels over the years that show an Adcock card between Cottier and Kaat (and the same layouts for the other cards), which is where the checklist is in the previous example.

1963 Fleer Baseball Uncut Panel – Example 1
1963 Fleer Baseball Uncut Panel – Example 2
1963 Fleer Baseball Uncut Panel – Example 3
1963 Fleer Baseball Uncut Panel – Example 4

The checklist card is even more scarce than regular short prints because a lot of kids threw checklists away when they got them. Others marked them up, making high-grade samples even rarer, adding to the card’s allure.

1963 Fleer Checklist Design

Another thing that makes the 1963 Fleer baseball checklist popular is its eye-appealing design. The front’s split blue/peach colors stand out compared to other checklists from the era, and the cartoon ball player in the middle is a nice touch, too. 

1963 Fleer Baseball Checklist PSA 9 – Front

The back is more eye-popping than appealing, given the bold green background – player cards only have a green border on the back with a few lines of green text. 

1963 Fleer Baseball Checklist PSA 9 – Reverse

1963 Fleer Checklist Graded Populations and Prices

The 1963 Fleer baseball set has been relatively cheap over the years, but it’s starting to catch fire a bit since it has good star power and an excellent design, and its small size makes completing a set a little more manageable. But, again, the checklist has always been the priciest card in the set. The high-grade examples are scarce, and bidders have driven up their prices, which trickle down into lower-grade examples – it just takes a few bidders to move a market. Plus, there are more hobby participants these days, and they aren’t printing more 1963 Fleer cards – and when they did, fewer were made than what Topps distributed.

PSA has graded 911 checklist cards (188 with qualifiers) and almost 1000 Adcock cards (the other short print). However, the Pop Report doesn’t signify the card’s scarcity. Frank Bolling is a non-short-print, and PSA has only graded around 400 of his cards. Anywho, back to the checklist, there are zero PSA 10s, 23 9s, and 117 8s in PSA’s Pop Report. PSA 6s are the most common grade, with 175 examples. SGC adds 181 checklists to the grading pool. There’s a single 9, two 8.5s, and eight 8s in their pop report, with an SGC 5 being the most common grade with 33.

In terms of pricing, along the grading curve, Probstein sold a PSA 9 in June 2023 for $2938.88, a PSA 8.5 sold for $1527 in April 2021 in a Mile High Card Co. auction, a PSA 8 was sold on eBay for $931 in February 2023, a PSA 7 sold for $515 in February 2023, and a PSA 6 sold on eBay for $213 in March 2023.

Robert Edward Auctions sold this SGC 9 in May 2010 for $1175.

1963 Fleer Baseball Checklist SGC 96 – Front
1963 Fleer Baseball Checklist SGC 96 – Reverse

Final Thoughts

The 1963 Fleer baseball checklist has emerged as the champion of post-war checklists. It’s got vibrant colors and a nostalgic cartoon. It’s a coveted short print (in a set with growing popularity) that adds an aura of exclusivity to the card and fuels bidding wars for the few ultra-high-grade examples that remain. Together, these attributes cement the card’s status as the “best” checklist in the hobby!

For some more related content, be sure to check out:

PS, the 1963 Fleer football checklist is pretty awesome, too.

1963 Fleer Football Checklist

Happy collecting, and don’t forget to subscribe to The Post War Cards Newsletter for a few weekly hobby tidbits.

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