15 Most Valuable 1983 Fleer Baseball Cards

Most Valuable 1983 Fleer Baseball Cards

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With a design and color scheme that may seem a bit dull at first glance, the 1983 Fleer baseball card set often receives mixed opinions from hobbyists.

Some love it, some hate it, but most collectors are simply impartial about it...

But, they can at least agree that this is a set to keep an eye on for one simple fact: it contains three iconic rookie cards of some of the biggest Hall of Famers of the era.

Tony Gwynn, Ryne Sandberg and Wade Boggs all made their cardboard debut in this set, giving it a huge boost in collectibility.

And, there is plenty of other star power packed within the 660-card checklist.

And in this guide, we'll take a look at the 15 most valuable.

Let's jump right in!

Let's be clear: most of the cards from this set do not have any value these days.

Like the 1983 Donruss and Topps sets, large print runs saturated the market with these cards, driving down their values.

So, for the cards on this list to be worth much, they'll have to be graded by PSA to be in perfect, gem mint condition.

That means the card needs to be flawless.

Now that we got that out of the way, let's take a look at the list:

1983 Fleer #360 Tony Gwynn Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $400

After missing three weeks of his rookie season with a left wrist injury, San Diego Padres outfielder Tony Gwynn hoped his second year in 1983 would be an injury-free breakthrough.

Unluckily for the future Hall-of-Famer, he reinjured his wrist in a much more serious fashion during a winter ball assignment in Puerto Rico.

Gwynn had to miss Spring Training and the first two months of the 1983 MLB season, and when he came back, his swing was completely out of whack.

The former third-round pick was hitting just .229 as August approached, seemingly mired in an inescapable sophomore slump.

However, Gwynn wasn't content with writing off the '83 season just yet.

With the help of his wife, Gwynn recorded all of his home at-bats with a camcorder.

He reviewed his swing on the tapes, identified holes in his swing, and made adjustments during batting practice.

It worked like a charm and Gwynn scorched National League pitching in the final two months of the season, pushing his batting average to .309 by the season's end.

The Padres finished at .500 for a second-straight campaign, yet things were coming together for something truly special in 1984.

1983 Fleer #360 Tony Gwynn Rookie Card

1983 Fleer #507 Ryne Sandberg Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $300

After the Philadelphia Phillies traded him to the Chicago Cubs before the 1982 season, future Hall-of-Fame infielder Ryne Sandberg moved from shortstop to third base and received a chance to play every day.

And then, with one month left in the season, manager Lee Elia moved him again, this time to second base.

Sandberg responded well, finishing sixth in the National League’s Rookie of the Year race.

And after an offseason of intense preparation, Sandberg headed into the 1983 campaign looking to impress in his new role.

As was the case several times during his career, the 23-year-old struggled at the plate early in the year.

However, he found a rhythm as the season went on and finished with a .261 batting average, 37 stolen bases, and nearly 100 runs scored (94).

While Sandberg’s bat played hide and seek in ‘83, his elite glove solidified his place in Chicago’s starting lineup.

Posting an impressive .986 fielding percentage and showcasing great instincts and range, the sophomore second baseman earned his first of nine Gold Gloves.

In doing so, he became the first player in NL history to win a Gold Glove in his first full year playing a new position.

1983 Fleer #507 Ryne Sandberg Rookie Card

1983 Fleer #179 Wade Boggs Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $275

No matter where manager Ralph Houk slotted him in the batting order, young Boston Red Sox third baseman Wade Boggs just got on base in ‘83.

The Red Sox were mediocre, finishing at 78-84 and well out of the playoff conversation.

Boggs was a revelation, though, in the midst of an otherwise forgettable season in Beantown.

After finishing third in the American League’s Rookie of the Year race in ‘82, Boggs was even better in ‘83.

And regardless of whether he hit first, second, or fifth, the 25-year-old ripped opposing pitching to shreds all year long.

A lefty swinger that threw right-handed, Boggs opened up his stroke at Fenway Park to hit to the opposite field so he could use the Green Monster to play wall-ball.

The approach worked to perfection, as Boggs hit a daffy .397 at home.

He was no slouch on the road either, hitting .321 outside Boston.

It all added up to a .361 average and the 1983 AL (and MLB) batting title, 22 points ahead of California Angels star Rod Carew (.339).

Boggs also led the Majors in on-base percentage (.444) and scored exactly 100 runs on the year.

1983 Fleer #179 Wade Boggs Rookie Card

1983 Fleer #70 Cal Ripken Jr.

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $125

Hitting third and fourth, the 1983 Baltimore Orioles’ Hall of Fame duo of Cal Ripken Jr. and Eddie Murray keyed the franchise’s run to a third World Series title.

With five more years of MLB experience than his younger counterpart, Murray took Ripken under his wing and pushed him to bigger and better things.

After winning the ‘82 AL Rookie of the Year award, Ripken followed up with a scintillating sophomore campaign.

He led the Majors in hits (211), doubles (47), WAR (8.2), games played (162), plate appearances (726), and at-bats (663) while pacing the AL in runs scored (121).

With a .318/.371/.517 slash line, 27 home runs, and 102 RBIs, Ripken finished just a handful of votes ahead of Murray to become the Orioles’ first league MVP since Boog Powell in 1970.

As Ripken and Murray keyed the second-best scoring offense in the Majors, the 98-win Orioles pulled away to capture the AL East by six games over the Detroit Tigers.

In the ALCS, Ripken hit .400 with a 1.033 OPS and Baltimore dispatched the Chicago White Sox in four games.

And while Ripken hit just .167 in the team’s World Series clash against Philadelphia, the rest of the lineup picked up the slack in a five-game triumph.

1983 Fleer #70 Cal Ripken Jr. Baseball Card

1983 Fleer #463 Nolan Ryan

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $125

Less than a month into the 1983 MLB season, the Ryan Express steamed past Walter Johnson en route to the all-time strikeout record.

Seventeen years into his remarkable Hall of Fame career, the 36-year-old Houston Astros hurler recorded career strikeout number 3,509 on April 27th, 1983, against the Montreal Expos.

Little did anyone know at the time that Ryan would somehow play a decade longer and push the new record to a virtually unreachable total of 5,714.

As for the rest of the season, Ryan remained a boom-or-bust ace.

He missed six starts due to injury yet pitched to a 2.98 ERA with 183 strikeouts in 196.1 innings.

However, he still struggled with free passes, walking over 100 batters (101) for the 11th time in his career.

Regardless, he was unhittable more often than not, leading the Majors in hits allowed per 9 innings (6.1) for the third-straight year.

Ryan placed ninth in the NL’s 1982 Cy Young voting for an 85-win Astros squad that finished six games back of the NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

1983 Fleer #463 Nolan Ryan Baseball Card

1983 Fleer #519 Rickey Henderson

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $125

The 1983 Oakland Athletics were marginally better than their ‘82 incarnation, improving by six wins to 74-88.

It was a lousy year instead of a horrid one.

But, that was little consolation as another season of Rickey Henderson’s prime was spent racking up numbers for a mediocre squad.

After setting a modern-day MLB record with 130 stolen bases the year before, Henderson followed up with 108 steals in ‘83 to make it his third time in four years pacing the Majors with 100 or more.

He also led the AL with 103 walks and posted the second-best OBP in baseball (.414).

Add in over 100 runs scored (105) and a .292 average, and you get a 25th-place finish in the league’s MVP race and a third All-Star nod for the 24-year-old superstar.

On the other hand, Henderson’s flashy on-field antics grated on the nerves of some A’s fans (and members of Oakland’s front office).

His big-time production on the field often felt secondary to the show that accompanied it.

And as the losses piled up, it seemed a change would come sooner or later.

1983 Fleer #519 Rickey Henderson Baseball Card

1983 Fleer #639 The Silver Shoe (Rickey Henderson)

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $100

This set marked the first time Fleer included a "Super Star Special" subset in each flagship set through 1994.

Rickey Henderson appeared in this set in the guise of "The Silver Shoe" as a nod to his speedy nature on the base paths.

The reverse of the card commemorated Henderson's record-breaking season in 1982 when he passed Lou Brock's 118 stolen bases in a single season with 130 of his own.

1983 Fleer #639 Silver Shoe Rickey Henderson Baseball Card
1983 Fleer #639 Rickey Henderson Super Star Special Baseball Card Reverse Side


1983 Fleer #171 Pete Rose

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $75

After the Phillies added aging veterans Joe Morgan and Tony Perez to the roster before the '83 season, media members took to derisively calling them the Wheeze Kids.

And in truth, at 42 years of age, Rose's best days in the batter's box were behind him.

Still in dogged pursuit of Ty Cobb's all-time hits record, Rose suffered through long dry stretches at the plate.

The entire star-studded Philadelphia squad struggled out of the gate, too, costing manager Pat Corrales his job by the middle of the year.

Under new manager Paul Owens, the Phillies heated up, but Rose's playing time decreased.

Hitting under .250 by the end of August, Rose received just 50 at-bats in September as rookie Len Matuszek took his place on the depth chart.

Philadelphia ran away with the NL East with Matuszek at third, but oddly enough, that was it for his '83 season.

A since-changed roster rule deemed the rookie ineligible for the playoffs, giving Rose one last October hurrah for Philly by default.

Rose rose to the occasion (pun intended), hitting .333 in the team's nine postseason contests.

Regardless of Rose's success, the Phillies were convincingly bounced by the Orioles in a five-game World Series loss, ending Rose's five-year stay in Philadelphia on an utterly rough note.

1983 Fleer #171 Pete Rose Baseball Card

1983 Fleer #22 Ozzie Smith

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $65

Playing on a sizeable new contract for $1 million per year, St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Ozzie Smith wasn't affected by the team's championship hangover.

As cool as ever, Smith's star rose to new heights in '83.

His offensive numbers remained underwhelming, 30 doubles and 34 stolen bases notwithstanding.

Smith's defense, however, was something else.

Smith dazzled fans all year long at home and on the road as a one-man highlight reel of slick double-play turns and diving grabs.

The Cardinals faltered and fell back into the pack at 79-83, but Smith's second year in St. Louis was a personal breakout.

He was named the NL's starting All-Star Game shortstop for the first time, finished 21st in the NL's MVP balloting, and took home his fourth-consecutive Gold Glove.

The Wizard was also becoming a mainstream sensation.

Whether the Cardinals won or lost, he was must-see TV (or must-hear radio) every time he played.

1983 Fleer #22 Ozzie Smith Baseball Card

1983 Fleer #108 George Brett

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $60

Despite a solid start to the season, the '83 Kansas City Royals failed to live up to expectations, finishing second in the AL West at 79-83 and twenty games behind the Chicago White Sox.

To add injury to insult, star third baseman George Brett missed 39 games in 1983, a massive chunk of time for the team to be without the player with the best slugging percentage (.563), OPS (.947), and OPS+ (158) in the Majors.

Though the season ended in disappointment for the Royals, Brett still earned his eighth-straight trip to the All-Star Game.

However, the 1983 season and George Brett cannot be discussed without bringing up the infamous "Pine Tar Game" against the New York Yankees.

After Brett hammered a pitch off of Yankees closer Goose Gossage over the right field to give KC a 5-4 lead, Yankees manager Billy Martin asked umpires to inspect Brett's bat for an excessive amount of pine tar.

Tim McClelland obliged, ruled the bat out of compliance, pointed at Brett, and called him out to nullify the home run and end the game.

Brett immediately exploded into a pure rage.

After an appeal by the Kansas City front office, the game result was eventually overturned and the contest was finished nearly a month later, resulting in a 5-4 Royals win on August 18th.

1983 Fleer #108 George Brett Baseball Card

1983 Fleer #142 Dale Murphy

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $60

Humble as ever, Atlanta Braves outfielder Dale Murphy followed his tremendous 1982 NL MVP campaign with an even better encore.

And he did it while sidestepping the limelight the whole way.

Murphy was on another level at the plate in ‘83, hitting .302 with 36 home runs and an NL-best 121 RBIs.

He also led the league in slugging percentage (.540) and OPS (.933) while playing all 162 games for a second-straight campaign.

But that wasn’t all.

Whether in center field or left, Murphy’s glove turned sure hits into outs with regularity.

The 88-win Braves finished three games behind the Dodgers and missed the playoffs after winning the NL West the year before, but Murphy’s incredible individual showcase was the headline.

At 27 years of age, Murphy became the youngest back-to-back NL MVP in history.

Nonetheless, he wasn’t impressed with himself.

“I just still feel like one of the guys on the team,” Murphy said. “I don’t feel any different, and I don’t feel I should.”

1983 Fleer #142 Dale Murphy Baseball Card

1983 Fleer #51 Robin Yount

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $50

After capturing the AL pennant in ‘82 for the first time in franchise history, the Milwaukee Brewers looked primed for more October success in ‘83.

And then, the injuries came.

Reigning AL Cy Young winner Pete Vuckovich started just three games.

Future Hall of Fame reliever Rollie Fingers missed the entire season.

Outfielders Ben Oglivie and Gorman Thomas were struck by the injury bug and saw their production drop significantly.

And Robin Yount, the heart and soul of the Brewers, was bugged by lower back problems for at least the last half of the season.

Remarkably, the reigning AL MVP fought through it, missing just 13 games and posting a fantastic .308/.383/.503 slash line with an AL-best 10 triples, 42 doubles, 17 home runs, 80 RBIs, and 102 runs scored.

In severe pain, Yount somehow led the league in offensive WAR for the second-straight season (7.6).

The Brewers rallied behind the now three-time All-Star, leading the AL East as late as August 24th.

Then, the toll of injuries and missing pieces finally caught up with Milwaukee as they went into a tailspin, losing 18 of 24 games and finishing fifth in a stacked divisional race at 87-75.

1983 Fleer #51 Robin Yount Baseball Card

1983 Fleer #584 Johnny Bench

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $50

A living legend and a Cincinnati centerpiece, Johnny Bench announced his intentions to retire after the ‘83 season during the campaign.

Three years removed from his last year as a starting catcher and battling injuries both old and new, Bench was ready for the next chapter of his life.

His 17 years with the Reds from 1967-83 yielded 14 All-Star selections, an NL Rookie of the Year award, two NL MVP campaigns, ten Gold Gloves, two World Series titles, and a World Series MVP award.

As you might expect, the struggles of the 74-win Cincinnati Reds were back-page news in 1983.

Now at the age of 35, Bench was a part-time player experiencing diminishing returns through lingering aches and pains.

Because of this, Bench called it quits and was serenaded with cheers and standing ovations all year long.

And in his final at-bat on September 29th, 1983, he laced a two-run pinch-hit single to a deafening response from the home crowd at Riverfront Stadium.

It was a fitting curtain call for arguably the greatest catcher in baseball history.

1983 Fleer #584 Johnny Bench Baseball Card

1983 Fleer #93 Reggie Jackson

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $40

Despite a heartfelt reunion with his former manager, John McNamara, 1982 was the worst full season of Reggie Jackson’s storied 21-year career.

In the offseason, the Angels parted ways with Gene Mauch after he’d led them to a 2-0 ALCS lead over the Milwaukee Brewers, a lead the Angels promptly blew with three-straight losses.

With McNamara in place, California hoped to take the next step to their first World Series appearance.

Instead, they took several steps backward and finished with a dismal 70-92 record and nine games behind the AL West champion White Sox.

Part of the problem was a fall from grace for Jackson.

After finishing sixth in the AL MVP race in ‘82, the legendary slugger didn’t have it in ‘83.

Even with his former Oakland A’s skipper (1969-70) coaching him up, Jackson hit just .194 with a career-worst .630 OPS, 14 home runs, and 49 RBIs.

He also missed 46 games due to injury.

And while he made his 14th-and-final All-Star team on name value, some wondered if November had finally come for Mr. October.

1983 Fleer #93 Reggie Jackson Baseball Card

1983 Fleer #601 Tom Seaver

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $40

During the 1981 split season, Tom Seaver pitched so well for the Cincinnati Reds that he would've likely earned his fourth Cy Young Award had Fernando Valenzuela not taken the baseball world by storm.

However, things could not have gone much worse for Seaver during the 1982 season as he pitched through injuries on his way to a 5-13 record and a 5.50 ERA, both the worst marks of his career.

The Reds decided to trade Seaver back to the New York Mets during the offseason, where his Hall of Fame career began in 1967.

When he took the mound for the Mets on April 5, 1983, Seaver tied Walter Johnson for the most consecutive Opening Day stars with fourteen.

At 38 years old, however, Seaver didn't have the stuff he used to and finished the season with a 3.55 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, and a 9-14 record for a terrible Mets team that finished 68-94 and in last place in the NL East.

Seaver would sign to pitch for the White Sox in 1984, 1985, and part of 1986 before they traded him to the Red Sox, where he finished his Hall of Fame career.

1983 Fleer #601 Tom Seaver Baseball Card

1983 Fleer Baseball Cards In Review

Overall, this set is a simple, straightforward set that doesn't offer a whole lot of flashiness or hobby firsts.

But, it does contain three iconic rookie cards and plenty of stars and Hall of Famers within the 660-card checklist.

A given set is lucky enough if it contains a rookie card of one Hall of Famer but this one has three in Ryne Sandberg, Tony Gwynn and Wade Boggs.

For that reason, it's one of the most recognizable and collectible Fleer sets of the 1980s.

Unopened Box of 1983 Fleer Baseball Cards

The 1983 Fleer set wasn't loaded with as many subsets as some of the others during the 1980s, but Fleer did introduce its "Super Star Specials" subset with this release.

That subset was a staple of Fleer flagship baseball card sets through 1994.

In terms of overall price, the Gwynn, Boggs and Sandberg rookies will always be the most desirable but any of the cards on this list graded in PSA 10 condition will still have decent value.

If nothing else, this set brings back so many good memories of the era and is packed with plenty of nostalgia.

Ross Uitts
 

Ross is the founder of Old Sports Cards and has been collecting sports cards for over 30 years. He also loves to write about the hobby and has written for Beckett, Topps, SABR and of course, this website. Need help buying or selling cards or have a general question about the hobby? Contact him at [email protected]

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