15 Most Valuable 1984 Fleer Baseball Cards
Following in the footsteps of the 1983 Fleer set that featured three Hall of Fame rookie cards isn't easy, but the 1984 Fleer baseball card set does feature a rookie card of one of the decade's biggest superstars.
Like the 1984 Donruss and Topps sets, the Don Mattingly rookie card is the lifeblood of the 1984 Fleer set...
If you were a collector during the 1980s and early 1990s, you know how big Don Mattingly was in this hobby during that era.
And collectors full of nostalgia from those days are still paying big bucks for his rookies today.
That's not to say there aren't some other good rookies in this set.
Nor is it a knock against any of the rest of the big-name stars and Hall of Famers to be found within its 660-card checklist.
There's plenty to love about this set.
And in this guide, we'll take a look at the 15 most valuable.
Let's jump right in!
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Let's be clear: most of the cards from this set do not have any value these days.
Like the 1984 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:
1984 Fleer #131 Don Mattingly Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $850
Early in Spring Training, New York Yankees manager Yogi Berra had good and bad news for soon-to-be 23-year-old first baseman/outfielder Don Mattingly.
The good news was Mattingly made the team outright after two years of uncertainty.
The bad news was that he was ticketed for a reserve role.
Mattingly, who was hitting .474 at that moment, wasn't deterred.
"This is kind of hard to swallow without getting any kind of chance at all," Mattingly said in mid-March, "I feel I can change their mind."
Over the next few weeks, Mattingly was proven right.
He outplayed Berra's chosen starting first baseman, Roy Smalley, at every turn in Spring Training.
After putting together a three-week highlight reel of big hits and superb defensive plays, Mattingly earned the team's starting first baseman job just before Opening Day.
Attributing his improved swing to a stint in Puerto Rican winter ball a few months before, the future Yankees captain tore the cover off the ball all season long.
Named to his first All-Star team, the budding star hit .339 in the first half and had more home runs by the end of June (12) than in any of his minor league seasons.
As the Yankees fell out of contention in the second half of the season, a duel for the potential AL batting title between Mattingly and teammate, Dave Winfield, became the biggest show in the Bronx.
Heading into the final game of the season, Winfield led Mattingly .342 to .339.
However, Mattingly came up clutch in the campaign's final game, notching four hits to Winfield's one to win the title, .343 to .340.
1984 Fleer #599 Darryl Strawberry Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $175
After a scintillating 1983 NL Rookie of the Year campaign, 22-year-old New York Mets outfielder Darryl Strawberry was the apple of the Big Apple's eye.
With success, though, came distractions.
During the 1983 season, Strawberry dove deep into the New York party lifestyle, plying himself with cocaine and other substances while spending countless late nights out on the town.
However, he was still a talented, natural hitter when focused.
Case in point, Strawberry's 1984 campaign provided a tantalizing glimpse into what he was truly capable of doing on the field.
Helping to lead the Mets from the basement to the New York penthouse, the now two-time All-Star slashed .251/.343/.467 with 26 home runs, 27 doubles, 27 stolen bases, 75 runs scored, and 97 RBIs.
He was still inconsistent in the box and prone to protracted slumps.
And without the help of former hitting coach Jim Frey (who left before the season to take the Chicago Cubs' managerial job), he regressed from his overall offensive production in 1983.
Regardless, Strawberry was a dangerous impact bat and a central piece of New York's sudden reversal of fortune.
After finishing dead last in the NL East five of the previous seven years (and fifth out of six the other two), the Mets improved from 68 wins in 1983 to 90 and a second-place finish in 1984.
However, Strawberry's ascendance and the concurrent rise of a young, deep Mets squad would lead to much bigger things ahead.
1984 Fleer #239 Nolan Ryan
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $150
The 1984 MLB season was the equivalent of a 162-game shoulder shrug for the Houston Astros.
Houston traded wins and losses from the get-go, finishing three games under .500 in the first half and a game over in the second for a middling 80-82 record.
Missing the playoffs for the third straight year, the Astros could at least lean on the fact that they finished tied for second in the NL West, 12 games behind the division-winning San Diego Padres.
Regardless, it was a ho-hum year for nearly everyone involved, except six-time All-Star hurler Nolan Ryan.
Ryan didn't earn a spot on the All-Star team, nor did he receive Cy Young consideration during the 1984 season.
But it was mainly because the Astros were so uninspiring.
The 37-year-old righty started 30 games in 1984, compiling a 12-11 record with a 3.04 ERA and just 143 hits allowed in 183.2 innings pitched.
His 1.154 WHIP was well ahead of his final career mark (1.247), and his 197 strikeouts left him just short of a tenth 200-K season.
Ryan also dialed down his trademark wildness to an impressive degree, finishing with just 66 walks and a new career-best 3.4 BB/9.
Yes, he didn't top 200 innings and his 109 ERA+ wasn't spectacular.
But, it was still a good year by the future Hall-of-Famer's lofty standards.
1984 Fleer #301 Tony Gwynn
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $125
It's no coincidence that Tony Gwynn's first full season came in the same year the San Diego Padres finally broke the playoff glass ceiling.
After San Diego opened its baseball journey with 12 losing seasons and 15 October-free finishes, the 92-win Padres ran away from the NL West field in 1984 for their first postseason berth.
Leading the Friars' way into parts unknown was one of the greatest pure hitters of any generation.
At just 24 years of age, Gwynn put together a season for the ages in 1984, winning his first batting title with a .351 average and leading all of baseball with 213 hits.
A first-time All-Star and Silver Slugger winner, Gwynn put on a show with his bat and legs.
The young right fielder posted a strong .853 OPS, stole 33 bases, and legged out 21 doubles and ten triples while knocking in 71.
In October, the third-place finisher in the NL's MVP race had even more to give.
In the Padres' first-ever playoff series against the NL East champion Cubs, Gwynn hit .368 with three RBIs and six runs scored.
The Padres fell behind 2-0 in the best-of-5 NLCS showdown but roared back to take the last three and bring home an unlikely National League pennant.
San Diego's Cinderella run crashed in the face of a juggernaut Detroit Tigers squad that began the year with a mind-boggling 35-5 record.
The Padres fell quietly to the Tigers in five, as Gwynn hit .263 with a run scored in his first of two career World Series appearances.
1984 Fleer #17 Cal Ripken Jr.
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $80
After winning the AL Rookie of the Year award in 1982 and both a World Series ring and AL MVP honors in 1983, Cal Ripken Jr. set the bar insanely high for his third MLB season.
The young Baltimore Orioles superstar responded with another top-shelf performance, albeit one that left MVP voters wanting more.
Continuing to revolutionize the shortstop position with yet another atypical power display, Ripken hit .304 with a .884 OPS, 27 home runs, 37 doubles, 195 hits, 103 runs scored, and 86 RBIs.
It was good enough for a second All-Star appearance and Silver Slugger.
Yet, it wasn't enough to mount much of an MVP push.
Despite posting somewhat comparable numbers to his 1983 campaign in many categories, the reigning MVP fell to just 27th on the ballot in 1984.
And much of that had to do with the position in which the reigning World Series champs found themselves.
After winning 98 games in 1983 and securing the AL East by six games, Baltimore finished just 85-77 in 1984 and nearly twenty games back of the 104-win Detroit Tigers.
To make matters even more deflating, the Orioles finished fifth out of seven teams in what was undoubtedly the best division in all of baseball.
The Orioles were now an also-ran.
And Ripken's bid for an MVP repeat suffered because of it.
1984 Fleer #336 Ozzie Smith
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $80
The only thing in 1984 that could interrupt The Wizard's season-long magic show was an errant pitch from San Diego Padres starter Ed Whitson.
While the 84-win St. Louis Cardinals failed to make the playoffs for a second-straight year following their 1982 World Series run, Smith continued to announce himself as the league's most spectacular defensive shortstop.
Smith's offensive output was always secondary to his ability to make impossible plays look routine.
The now four-time All-Star did post a new career-high .684 OPS and a respectable .257 batting average in 1984.
But, the virtuoso glove work of his fifth-straight Gold Glove campaign left jaws on the floor.
And then, in a July 13th contest against the San Diego Padres, it all crashed to a halt for a bit.
Smith was struck on the right wrist in the second inning, suffering a fracture that cost him just over a month.
Smith rehabbed quickly and returned for the Cardinals' stretch run.
By that time, though, St. Louis was dead in the division water as the Cubs and Mets lapped them in the NL East race.
1984 Fleer #447 Rickey Henderson
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $80
Rickey was always going to be Rickey, for good and otherwise.
And that's part of the reason why his 1984 season was his last in an A's uniform for nearly a half-decade.
With his penchant for self-celebration and his regular habit of talking himself up in the third person, the flashy Oakland A's outfielder rubbed many baseball traditionalists the wrong way.
However, three 100-plus stolen-base seasons in four years made his disregard for baseball's "unwritten rules" easier to swallow for the stodgiest A's fans, coaches, and front-office members.
Henderson couldn't crack the 100-steal plateau in 1984 but still led the American League with 66.
And he remained one of the best all-around leadoff hitters in the game, hitting .293 with a .857 OPS, 16 home runs, 27 doubles, 86 walks, 113 runs scored, and 58 RBIs.
The problem was an organizational one.
After winning the AL West in 1981, the A's found themselves stuck in neutral.
Oakland finished at 77-85 in 1984 for a third straight losing season, compelling the team's management to reset and restock for future days.
And with the divisive Henderson's trade stock booming, the A's pulled the trigger on a five-player trade in December that sent Rickey to the New York Yankees for a five-player package (Jose Rijo, Stan Javier, Eric Plunk, Tim Birtsas, Jay Howell).
1984 Fleer #638 Pine Tar Incident
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $75
The story of the 1983 MLB season that lives on for George Brett and the Kansas City Royals is that of the infamous "Pine Tar Game."
On July 24th, the New York Yankees and Kansas City Royals met at Yankee Stadium in a pivotal interdivisional matchup.
Up 4-3 in the ninth inning, Yankees manager Billy Martin brought in Hall of Fame closer Goose Gossage to face Brett with two outs and a runner on first.
Brett greeted Gossage rudely, hammering his second offering over the right-field fence to give KC a 5-4 lead.
However, Martin left the dugout after the home run, asking umpires to inspect Brett's bat for excessive pine tar.
Tim McClelland obliged, measuring the bat against the 17-inch home plate to ensure it didn't surpass the maximum of 18 inches from the tip of the handle upwards.
McClelland ruled the bat out of compliance, pointed at Brett, and called him out.
This decision nullified the home run and ended the game, sending Brett into a pure rage.
Three umpires and two teammates held him back from McClelland as he furiously pushed his way toward the rookie ump while being restrained in a headlock.
After an appeal by the Kansas City front office, the teams finished the game nearly a month later, resulting in a 5-4 Royals win on August 18th.
It was one of the wackiest scenes in MLB history and Brett's reaction remains a perpetual favorite in highlight packages.
1984 Fleer #152 Tony Fernandez Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $70
As the 1984 MLB season progressed, it was clear that Tony Fernandez's time was nearing in Toronto.
A slick fielder with big-time potential as a gap hitter for average, Fernandez was seen by the Blue Jays' coaching staff and front office as the heir apparent to starting shortstop Alfredo Griffin.
However, the 22-year-old Fernandez had to wait his turn as Griffin played out the string in 1984.
Manager Bobby Cox did his best to work Fernandez into the lineup when he could, slotting Fernandez in at short, third base, and DH.
The young Dominican standout performed admirably for the 89-win AL East runner-ups when called upon, hitting .270 in 254 plate appearances (233 at-bats).
Where Fernandez truly shined in 1984 was in the field.
Five years younger than Griffin, he showed a veteran knack for clutch glove work in big moments.
From the spectacular to the mundane, it was clear that Fernandez was up for any challenge.
That made it easier for the Blue Jays to sell high on Griffin in the offseason.
After earning the first and only All-Star selection of his 18-year career in 1984, Griffin was shipped to Oakland to make room for Fernandez in the starting lineup.
1984 Fleer #504 Ryne Sandberg
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $70
A first-time All-Star, a first-time Silver Slugger, and a two-time Gold Glover, Sandberg posted a .314/.367/.520 slash line with an MLB-best 19 triples, an NL-best 114 runs scored, 19 home runs, 36 doubles, 32 stolen bases, and 84 RBIs in 1984.
He also reached 200 hits for the only time in his 16-year Hall-of-Fame career.
By the end of the season, Sandberg's incredible individual performance added up to the first MVP awarded to a Chicago Cub since Ernie Banks in 1959.
And after a mediocre showing in 1983, the Chicago Cubs found themselves in the playoffs in 1984.
The Cubs fell one game short of their first World Series since 1945, but not without a big-time showing from Sandberg.
The Spokane, Washington native hit .368 with a .928 OPS, two doubles, two RBIs, three stolen bases, and three runs scored in a thrilling five-game NLCS classic against the Padres.
1984 Fleer #186 Dale Murphy
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $60
Despite posting the same OPS+ as the year before (149) and leading the Majors in slugging (.547) and games played (162), Dale Murphy's bid for back-to-back-to-back NL MVP awards fell short in 1984.
Murphy posted a top-shelf .290/.372/.547 slash line with NL bests in home runs (36) and total bases (332), with 32 doubles, 19 stolen bases, 94 runs scored, and 100 RBIs to boot.
Throw in a third-straight Gold Glove for his work in center field, and it's daffy that the now four-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger finished just 9th in the league's MVP balloting.
Not that the exceedingly humble Murphy let it bother him.
A team-first leader to his core, Murphy's biggest concern was leading the Braves to just their second division title since 1982 (1969).
Sadly for Murphy and a loyal fan base, Atlanta's playoff hopes were undone by a back-breaking 12-17 August finish, allowing the Padres to run away from the 80-82 Braves and the rest of the NL West pack.
The team's underwhelming finish ultimately cost manager Joe Torre his job.
You can't blame Murphy after he continued to stake his claim as one of the best all-around players of the 1980s.
1984 Fleer #392 Wade Boggs
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $60
In a blistering, Hall-of-Fame clinching stretch from 1983-88, Boston Red Sox third baseman Wade Boggs became a household name with five American League batting titles in six seasons.
1984 was the only outlier.
Yet, it was still a damn good showing from one of baseball's brightest young talents.
Pacing a potent Boston Red Sox lineup that finished second in the Majors in runs scored (810), Boggs finished third in the AL with a .325 batting average.
Considering that he hit no worse than .357 in his five crown-winning seasons, it was as close to a down year as Boggs would have over the next half-decade.
Yet, that's all relative.
The 26-year-old star still eclipsed 200 hits for the second-straight year (203) while posting an on-base percentage over .400 (.407), 31 doubles, 89 walks, six homers, 55 RBIs, and 109 runs scored.
Boggs didn't make the All-Star team and didn't receive award consideration.
But, he was still an irreplaceable table-setter for an 89-win Red Sox team building towards something special.
1984 Fleer #46 Pete Rose
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $50
Just 199 hits shy of Ty Cobb's all-time hits mark entering the 1984 campaign, Pete Rose wasn't going to stop until the record was his.
Heading into his age-43 season, Rose wasn't the same hitter that captured three NL batting titles and eclipsed .300 in fourteen of fifteen seasons from 1964-1979.
However, he was still the sport's most recognizable figure and a guaranteed big-money attendance boost.
That's why the Montreal Expos took a flier on Rose in 1984 after his release by the Philadelphia Phillies.
Hoping to boost their receipts at the gate, the Expos slotted Rose onto a talented roster that included the likes of Andre Dawson, Tim Raines, and Gary Carter.
Rose was serviceable yet underwhelming in 95 games for the Expos, hitting .258 with a .629 OPS, no home runs, and 23 RBIs in 278 at-bats. Going nowhere with him taking regular at-bats, Montreal traded Rose back to where it all began: Cincinnati.
The deal came with a caveat.
Rose took on player/manager duties for the Reds, replacing Vern Rapp after just 121 games.
Rose performed admirably as Rapp's replacement, following his predecessor's 51-70 start with a respectable 19-22 mark.
And he appeared revitalized at the plate, too, hitting .365 with a .888 OPS in 96 at-bats.
Now 92 hits behind Cobb, Rose would have his hometown fans behind him as he chased down the legend in 1985.
1984 Fleer #344 George Brett
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $50
While the 84-win Kansas City Royals took advantage of a weak AL West to capture their second division title in five years, it never felt like they were much of a threat to win the whole thing.
Perhaps it was because the team's best hitter, George Brett, couldn't stay healthy.
Brett missed nearly two months of the 1984 season with a partial ligament tear in his left knee suffered in a Spring Training game against the Cincinnati Reds.
When he returned, the now nine-time All-Star wasn't quite himself.
Brett posted his worst batting average (.284), OPS (.802), and OPS+ (121) since his rookie year in 1974.
And while he clubbed a solid 13 home runs and drove in 69 in just 377 at-bats, it was clear that the 31-year-old third baseman was a step slow.
After going 3-for-13 with two strikeouts in a three-game ALCS sweep at the hands of the Tigers, Fogelman called out the former AL MVP.
"You've spent 43 days on the disabled list and I'm paying you more money than anybody else on the team," new minority owner Avron Fogelman told Brett after the ALCS. "Go get yourself in the best shape you possibly can, and you come to spring training and go help us win a World Series."
Brett was happy to oblige.
1984 Fleer #462 Johnny Bench
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $50
The heart and soul of Cincinnati baseball for 17 Hall-of-Fame seasons, Johnny Bench did it all in a Reds uniform.
Finishing his career in 1983 with the most home runs by a catcher in MLB history (325), Bench won ten consecutive Gold Gloves and tied Bill Dickey's MLB record with 13 consecutive seasons of 100 games caught or more.
Bench won two World Series with Cincy (1975, 1976), two National League MVP awards (1970, 1972), and captured World Series MVP honors in 1976 with a .533 average, two home runs, and six RBIs in a four-game sweep of the New York Yankees.
From 1967 to 1983, Johnny Bench was the Cincinnati Reds.
So, it makes sense that he was the first player in franchise history to have his number retired.
Following a pregame ceremony on August 11th, 1984, Bench's trademark #5 was off-limits.
The 14-time All-Star and former Rookie of the Year joined former manager Fred Hutchinson (#1) as the only two members of the organization to receive the honor.
"I am honored to be the first Reds' player to have his number retired," Bench said. "I can't think of a better ending to my career here in Cincinnati."
1984 Fleer Baseball Cards In Review
Fleer was never known for flashy designs, and this set is no exception.
Yet, the simple, straightforward look gives this set a classic feel in retrospect.
And it was a significant improvement over the somewhat flat design of the 1983 Fleer set.
Within the 660-card checklist, there and plenty of stars and Hall of Famers to collect.
But, the most desirable card in the set is, by far and away, the Don Mattingly rookie card.
If he were ever to be inducted into the Hall of Fame by a future committee, its value and desirability would skyrocket even more.
The only subsets were the "Super Star Specials," cards #629 - 646 and checklists, cards #647 - 660.
The "Super Star Specials" subset made its debut in the 1983 Fleer set and continued to be included in all Fleer flagship baseball card sets through 1994.
This set may not pack the rookie card power of the set that preceded it, but the Don Mattingly rookie and various other stars and Hall of Famers has helped it hold up well over time.
And I see no reason for that to change anytime soon.