15 Most Valuable 1986 Fleer Baseball Cards

Most Valuable 1986 Fleer Baseball Cards

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Whenever I look through the 1986 Fleer baseball card set, one thing immediately stands out: those dark blue borders.

Fleer came out with many non-white border designs throughout the 1980s and 1990s, but these dark blue borders seemed to stand out differently.

Some collectors loved them while others hated them...

But what isn't up for debate is how they can be a pain to maintain in top condition.

Even the slightest ding or scratch shows up immediately against the dark surface.

Design aside, this set is loaded with nostalgia and some of the biggest names of that era.

There's even a Jose Canseco rookie card lurking inside that used to send collectors in a frenzy back in those days.

While it's often overlooked, there is plenty to enjoy in this set.

And in this guide, we 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 1986 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:

1986 Fleer #649 Jose Canseco Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $325

Jose Canseco set the baseball world on fire with his breakout Rookie of the Year campaign during the 1986 season and the sports card hobby soon went nuts for his rookie cards.

During his rookie campaign, Canseco brought back memories of Reggie Jackson's all-or-nothing hitting style as he struck out 175 times but belted 33 home runs and drove in 117 RBI at the same time.

In seasons after, he continued to put up incredible power numbers, but in 1988 he really turned heads when he smacked 42 home runs and stole 40 bases, becoming the first player to turn in a 40-40 season in baseball history.

Throughout the rest of the 1980s and early 1990s, Canseco rookie cards were on fire.

The sky was the limit for Canseco and a future spot in Cooperstown seemed all but guaranteed.

Eventually, Canseco's connections to PEDs came to light, and his legacy became tarnished forever.

Even so, he remains popular in the collecting community, and while his 1986 Donruss and 1986 Topps Traded rookies are his most desirable, his 1986 Fleer rookie that he shared with Eric Plunk is still a must-have for Canseco collectors.

1986 Fleer #649 Jose Canseco Rookie Card

1986 Fleer #310 Nolan Ryan

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $175

Coming off a 1985 season in which Ryan made his second All-Star appearance in six seasons with the Astros at that point, the flame-throwing legend looked to keep things going in 1986.

However, he got off to a rough start going 3-6 with a 5.21 ERA before missing several starts in June.

There was no All-Star Game for Ryan that year, but he certainly looked like one after the break as he pulled things together to go 6-2 with a 2.27 ERA, 0.888 WHIP, and 10.8 SO/9 rate after the break.

The Astros rode Ryan's hot arm to the NLCS against the New York Mets with hopes of eventually taking home the World Series title.

However, the Mets roughed up Ryan in Game 2 as he gave up five earned runs in five innings of work that eventually led to a 5-1 loss to the Mets.

Ryan had a crack at redemption in Game 5, striking out twelve hitters while allowing one earned run in nine innings pitched, but the Astros eventually fell in twelve innings as the Mets clinched a trip to the World Series.

1986 Fleer #310 Nolan Ryan Baseball Card

1986 Fleer #109 Don Mattingly

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $175

Don Mattingly took home the American League MVP Award in 1985 and would've made it back-to-back MVP campaigns in 1986 had Roger Clemens not been freakishly good on the mound for Boston that year.

In many ways, Mattingly was even better in 1986 and "fell off" in really only two key categories by hitting four fewer home runs (31 vs. 35) and thirty-two fewer RBI (113 vs. 145).

Other than that, he improved his output from 1985.

His career-high .352 batting average was second only to Wade Boggs in all of Major League Baseball.

And his 742 plate appearances, 238 hits, 53 doubles, .573 slugging percentage, .967 OPS, 161 OPS+, and 388 total bases were not only career highs as well but the best in MLB to boot.

Timing is everything, though, and Clemens was phenomenal in his own right to out-pace Mattingly for the AL MVP.

1986 Fleer #109 Don Mattingly Baseball Card

1986 Fleer #653 Cecil Fielder Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $100

From 1985 to 1988, Cecil Fielder bounced back and forth between first and third base part-time for the Toronto Blue Jays, never appearing in more than 82 games in any of those four seasons.

In 1989, he packed his bags and moved to Japan to play full-time for the Hanshin Tigers, where he became known as "Wild Bear" after belting 38 home runs.

Looking to bring that refined power back to the States, the Detroit Tigers signed Fielder to be their everyday first baseman, and boy did that move pay off for the Tigers.

During his first year with the club in 1990, Cecil Fielder became just the second Detroit Tiger to cross the 50 home run mark since Hank Greenberg hit 58 in 1938 when he hit homers number 50 and 51 on the last day of the season.

Though he didn't put up the numbers to be a Hall of Famer, Fielder's reputation as one of the most feared power hitters in the game during the 1990s has boosted the popularity of this card in recent years.

Cory Snyder didn't make it to Cooperstown either, nor did he have nearly as much success as Fielder overall, but he did have a few solid early years for the Indians and finished fourth in the 1986 Rooke of the Year vote.

1986 Fleer #653 Cecil Fielder Rookie Card

1986 Fleer #323 Tony Gwynn

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $75

The 1986 season was a busy one for Tony Gwynn as he produced in a big way on both sides of the ball to finish ninth in the NL MVP race.

Gwynn played 160 games that season, the most of any season during his Hall of Fame career, which also led to personal bests in plate appearances (701) and at-bats (642).

His 211 hits were tops in the National League, while his 107 runs scored put him in a tie for the most with Philadelphia's Von Hayes.

Gwynn led all NL position players with a 6.7 WAR and barely missed out on his second batting title by batting .329, just behind Tim Raines (.334) and Steve Sax (.332).

While his production at the plate was as solid as ever, Gwynn led all NL outfielders in putouts (337) while leading all NL right fielders in defensive games played (160) and assists (21).

Not only did he take home a Silver Slugger that year, but he picked up a Gold Glove for that excellent work in the field, too.

1986 Fleer #323 Tony Gwynn Baseball Card

1986 Fleer #96 Darryl Strawberry

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $70

Darryl Strawberry made a splash during his MLB debut during the 1983 season and eventually took home Rookie of the Year honors after hitting 26 home runs and driving in 74 runs while slashing .257/.336/.512.

He remained remarkably consistent at the plate for the next several years and was usually good for about 30 home runs and 90 RBI.

The 1986 season was significant for Strawberry and the Mets as they rode his regular-season production into the playoffs for an NLCS showdown with the Astros.

In 22 at-bats in the NLCS, Strawberry struck out twelve times but was fortunate enough to collect five hits, two of them home runs, while driving in five runs.

His production at the plate in the World Series wasn't much better as he went 5-24 with one home run and one RBI to help lead them to a title over Boston Red Sox in seven games.

However, every little bit helped, and though he would've liked to do more, his popularity soared and made him one of the biggest names in Major League Baseball.

Later, after his eighth-straight All-Star season in 1991, things fell apart for Strawberry, and his career tanked because of substance abuse.

Despite a couple of good years with the Yankees in 1996 and 1998, the Darryl Strawberry of the 1990s was nowhere close to the Darryl Strawberry of the 1980s.

1986 Fleer #96 Darryl Strawberry Baseball Card

1986 Fleer #284 Cal Ripken Jr.

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $60

One of the most interesting statistical points of Cal Ripken's 1986 season is that his batting average (.282) and OPS (.816) were identical to his totals in 1985.

His OBP ticked up from .347 to .355 but, despite getting on base at a higher clip, he scored 18 fewer runs (116 vs. 98) than the previous season.

Ripken also drove in 29 fewer runs (110 vs. 81 RBI) in 1986.

Despite Ripken playing at pretty much the same level as the year before, much of his decline in runs scored and RBI was due to a decrease in the Orioles' production overall.

Eddie Murray and Mike Young had noticeably lower production numbers than the year before, but the team simply failed to produce as much as a unit, scoring 110 fewer runs than they did in 1985.

With Murray hitting only 17 home runs during the 1986 season, Cal Ripken became the first Oriole other than Murray to lead the team in home runs (25) since 1979.

1986 Fleer #284 Cal Ripken Jr Baseball Card

1986 Fleer #646 Paul O'Neill Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $60

Paul O'Neill appeared in three games for Cincinnati Reds in 1986, and in two at-bats, he walked and struck out.

That small sample size was not nearly enough to gauge what O'Neill's future would later become but the Reds remained confident in their fourth-round pick from the 1981 MLB Amateur Draft.

By 1988, O'Neill was a solid everyday producer for the team and was a key component of their 1990 World Series Championship run where they swept the overpowering Oakland Athletics.

In 1991, O'Neill made his first All-Star appearance as a Cincinnati Red, but the team decided to part with him after the 1992 season when they traded him to the New York Yankees for Roberto Kelly.

O'Neill's career soared even higher in Yankee pinstripes as he appeared in four All-Star Games, won a batting title (1994), and collected four more World Series rings.

1986 Fleer #646 Paul O'Neill Rookie Card

1986 Fleer #378 Ryne Sandberg

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $50

The Philadelphia Phillies drafted Ryne Sandberg in the 20th round of the 1978 MLB Amateur Draft and eventually made his Major League debut in 1981.

Sandberg saw six at-bats in thirteen games and collected only one hit to finish with a .167 batting average on the 1981 season.

Since the Phillies infield already featured Mike Schmidt at third, Larry Bowa at short, and Manny Trillo at second, the Phillies couldn't envision Sandberg having much of a role as a full-time infielder.

So, before the 1982 season, the team shipped Bowa and him to the Chicago Cubs for shortstop Iván De Jesús.

Nothing against Iván De Jesús but the Chicago Cubs won that trade by a landslide.

In 1984, Ryne Sandberg appeared in his first All-Star Game, won his second consecutive Gold Glove, picked up his first Silver Slugger, and won the National League MVP Award.

He may not have known it then, but he had just laid the groundwork for becoming one of the most iconic players in Chicago Cubs history.

Sandberg's production at the plate fell off a bit in 1986, but he still made the All-Star team for the third consecutive time and won his fourth straight Gold Glove.

Throughout the rest of the 1980s and 1990s, Sandberg was one of the most feared power-hitting second basemen in the Majors as he carved out his path to Cooperstown.

1986 Fleer #378 Ryne Sandberg Baseball Card

1986 Fleer #401 Kirby Puckett

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $50

Kirby Puckett led the Majors in at-bats (691) in 1985 but wasn't able to turn those opportunities into the kind of power display he'd be known for in later years as he slashed just .288/.330/.385 with four home runs.

He finished fourth in the American League in hits (199) and third in triples (13) while scoring 80 runs and driving in another 74.

It was a productive year for Puckett, but whatever he did during the 1985 offseason paid off in a big way as his power numbers soared to new heights in 1986.

Puckett's production exploded in 1986 as he slashed .328/.366/.537 and belted a career-high 31 home runs while driving in 96 runs.

He also continued his impressive defensive play in center field to pick up his first of six career Gold Gloves.

Things started coming together for Puckett in 1986, and a sixth-place finish in the AL MVP race that year proved it.

1986 Fleer #401 Kirby Puckett Baseball Card

1986 Fleer #108 Rickey Henderson

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $50

During his second season with the New York Yankees in 1986, Rickey Henderson continued his blistering performance on the basepaths as he led the Majors in runs scored (130) and the AL in stolen bases (87) for the second year in a row.

He also matched a career-high with 28 home runs, putting himself in the unthinkable "20/80" club for the second year in a row.

Needless to say, Henderson had settled in quite nicely in Yankee pinstripes.

From 1985-1988, he would lead the AL in stolen bases three times, earned a trip to four consecutive All-Star Games and won a Silver Slugger (1985).

But, his time with the Yankees didn't last much longer as they decided to trade him back to Oakland during the middle of the 1989 season.

As the game's all-time leader in runs and stolen bases, Henderson's legacy as one of the greatest players in MLB history is unquestionable.

1986 Fleer #108 Rickey Henderson Baseball Card

1986 Fleer #647 Andres Galarraga Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $50

Andres Galarraga showed a lot of promise during his 1986 rookie campaign but there was just one problem: he couldn't stay healthy long enough to show what he could do.

The Big Cat missed time in July because of a knee injury and in August, he was forced out again because of a pulled muscle.

Despite the setbacks, Galaragga finished the season with ten home runs, 42 RBI, and a .271/.338/.405 slash line.

Though his early career may have gotten off to a sputtering start, Galaragga remained focused and resilient in developing his game.

By 1988, he'd earn his first trip to the All-Star Game and solidified himself as the Expos' best offensive player by finishing seventh in the MVP vote.

Over 19 seasons in the Big Leagues, Galaragga was a five-time All-Star, two-time Gold Glover, two-time Silver Slugger, and the 1993 batting champion after settling in with the Colorado Rockies that year.

He put up some monster seasons with the Rockies, especially during the 1996-1998 stretch where he hit 132 home runs and drove in 411 runs.

The Venezuela native may not have found his way into Cooperstown but he was one of the best players of his era.

1986 Fleer #647 Andres Galarraga Rookie Card

1986 Fleer #644 Benito Santiago Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $50

Benito Santiago didn't make his official rookie debut until 1987 but, when he did, he made a big entrance on his way to earning the 1987 NL Rookie of the Year Award.

Santiago was sensational for San Diego that season as he slashed .300/.324/.467 while hitting 18 home runs, driving in 79 runs, and scoring 64 runs.

He rightfully took home the Silver Slugger Award that year, too, but it would take years for him to top any of those kinds of numbers with the bat again.

Still, Santiago remained one of the biggest stars in the league throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s as he collected four All-Star appearances, three Gold Gloves and three Silver Sluggers during his time with the Padres.

During the 1992 offseason, Santiago signed with the expansion Florida Marlins and hit the team's first home run during their 1993 debut season.

After a couple of years with the Marlins, Santiago would bounce around from team to team until he retired after playing for the Pirates in 2005, his ninth team overall.

He was one of the top catchers of his era, and in 2015 the San Diego Padres inducted him into their Hall of Fame.

1986 Fleer #644 Benito Santiago Rookie Card

1986 Fleer #345 Roger Clemens

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $50

Roger Clemens launched into full "Rocket" mode in 1986 as he roasted opposing teams from the mound that season.

That year, Clemens led the American League in wins (24), ERA (2.48), WHIP (0.969), and hits per nine innings (6.3) to go along with 238 strikeouts.

As a result, he won his first of seven career Cy Young Awards and became the first pitcher since Vida Blue in 1971 to be named MVP as well.

He also became the first pitcher to strike out 20 batters in a nine-inning game when he struck out the Seattle Mariners' Phil Bradley on April 29.

The Red Sox rode his scorching arm the rest of the regular season and into the ALCS, where Clemens went 1-1 with a 4.37 ERA to help the team get past the California Angels for a World Series showdown against the Mets.

Clemens was better in the World Series, recording eleven strikeouts and a 3.18 ERA in 11.1 innings of work but failed to get a decision in two starts.

Boston may not have secured a World Series ring that season, but they uncovered a pitching genius who would help lead them from the mound for years to come.

1986 Fleer #345 Roger Clemens Baseball Card

1986 Fleer #522 Dale Murphy

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $40

One of the best and most complete players of the 1980s, Dale Murphy continued a six-year run of absolute brilliance with another stellar season in 1986.

The Atlanta Braves outfielder earned his fifth of six-straight All-Star Game appearances and fifth and final Gold Glove in 1986, providing a spark for the Braves in all facets of the game.

He even earned a smattering of National League MVP votes for his efforts.

Murphy ended the 1986 campaign with a .265/.347/.477 slash line, 29 home runs, and 83 RBIs in 160 games (614 at-bats).

His raw offensive numbers were down in 1986 compared to the three seasons prior and his forthcoming 1987 campaign.

However, the eye test was a different story.

Murphy was still one of the most consistent and valuable players in baseball, and his worth to the Braves was borne out by much more than box scores.

1986 Fleer #522 Dale Murphy Baseball Card

1986 Fleer Baseball Cards In Review

As you can see, this set brings back many great memories of some of the era's biggest names, and many of them can still have decent value in PSA 10 condition.

Within the 660-card checklist, there are many stars and Hall of Famers like Nolan Ryan, Rickey Henderson, Cal Ripken Jr., Kirby Puckett and even a few decent rookie cards.

The Jose Canseco rookie card was then and is now still the top card in the set.

Even though his on-field legacy may be tarnished, he remains a hobby icon.

Unopened Box of 1986 Fleer Baseball Cards

The All-Star and Future Hall of Famer cards were some of the earliest inserts in hobby history, which gives the set a bit of a boost on the trivia side of things.

To top it all off, there were a couple of subsets as well:

  • SuperStar Specials (#626 - 643)
  • Major League Prospects (#644 - 653) 

And who didn't like those team stickers that were included one per pack?

Overall, this set packs plenty to enjoy and with the hobby boon in recent years, it's nice to see it getting more attention.

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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