I previously discussed the 1989 Fleer Bill Ripken #616 FF Error card in the article 4 Expensive Baseball Card Printing Errors – Modern Edition. Basically, Fleer began printing the 660-card set in late 1988. The card with the profanity made it through quality control and was released in packs to the public. Once Fleer realized their mistake, they covered the words on the bat up with scribbles, boxes, whiteout, etc. and printed those covered up variations, assuming the company didn’t intend the original release.
If you want to pull a 1989 Fleer Bill Ripken #616 FF Error card from a pack, here is what you need to do. You have to buy a case, or an authenticated box from a trusted source, with the right provenance.
There is a 5-digit number printed on 1989 Fleer cases. The case you buy needs the right numbing on it, or the box needs to list the 5-digit number of the case it came from. In the picture that follows, 83422 is printed in black ink on the lower right side.
The first digit is the print year, 9 for 1989, and 8 for 1988. The next three numbers represent the day of the year. 001 is for January 1st, 004 would be January 4th, and so on. The last digit is either a location or a shift.
Digits before 90171, January 17th, 1989, have the Bill Ripken FF error inside.
*** Update – April 17th, 2023 – I’ve been reading that the error has been verified in cases up to 90191 ***
The next two pictures, and the case above, will have the FF error since their codes are under 90171.
This 1989 Fleer Wax Box, authenticated by the Baseball Card Exchange, came from a case with code 90122; therefore, it may have a FF error inside.
The next two pictures are of cases that will not have the FF error since their codes are above 90171.
There are rumors of folks pulling FF cards from later numbered cases, but I haven’t seen that proven, so it’s a risky move if your goal is a FF card. If you pull a 1989 Fleer Bill Ripken #616 FF error from a pack, let me know in the comments or over on Twitter.