13 Most Valuable 1991 Fleer Ultra Baseball Cards

Most Valuable 1991 Fleer Ultra Baseball Cards

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After Upper Deck made its debut in the hobby in 1989, upping the game in card design, Fleer decided to join the premium side of the market with its 1991 Ultra baseball card set.

Yet, many in the hobby felt it was a swing and a miss at being premium...

Compared to Upper Deck and the 1991 Topps Stadium Club set, the 1991 Ultra cards just didn't seem to have the same amount of flashiness to them.

The photography was excellent and featured plenty of action shots.

But, the grey top and bottom borders created a flat and dull aura.

Despite how collectors felt about these cards back then or even today, there are still some in the 400-card checklist that can have value in high grade.

And in this guide, we'll take a look at the 13 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 1991 Donruss, Fleer, Score, Topps and Upper Deck 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:

1991 Fleer Ultra #336 Ken Griffey Jr.

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $200

During his third year in the league, Ken Griffey Jr. continued his climb to become one of the most productive and well-rounded players in baseball.

In addition to a career-high .327 batting average, The Kid belted 22 home runs and drove in 100 runs, making it the first of eight seasons he reached the 100 RBI mark over his career.

He may have only been 21 years old, but Griffey was flashing skills that were on par with the best veterans in the league.

As a testament to how incredible he was on both sides of the ball, Griffey captured his second Gold Glove and first Silver Slugger.

The Seattle Mariners' fifth-place finish in the AL West with an 83-79 may not have seemed significant on paper, but it was the first winning season in franchise history.

Mariners fans finally knew what it was like to win.

With Griffey Jr. leading the way, things were starting to fall into place slowly but surely and better days were on the horizon.

1991 Fleer Ultra #336 Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball Card

1991 Fleer Ultra #149 Bo Jackson

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $50

On January 13, 1991, the Los Angeles Raiders faced off against the Cincinnati Bengals in an AFC Divisional Playoff game at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Though the Raiders would defeat the Bengals 20-10, it came with a considerable cost.

After breaking off a 34-yard run, Jackson injured his hip when linebacker Kevin Walker finally brought him down from behind.

Bo would never play professional football again.

Before the 1991 MLB season, the Kansas City Royals decided to release him rather than pay his $2.375 million salary while rehabilitating his injury.

Fortunately for Jackson, the Chicago White Sox signed him to a three-year deal just over two weeks later.

After missing the team's first 131 games, Jackson made his 1991 MLB debut on September 2 against his former team, the Kansas City Royals, going 0-3 with a sacrifice fly in the 5-1 victory.

In 23 games in 1991, Jackson hit .225 with three home runs, 14 RBIs, eight runs scored, and four doubles in 71 at-bats.

He would miss the entire 1992 MLB season and play parts of the 1993 and 1994 seasons before retiring from professional sports.

1991 Fleer Ultra #149 Bo Jackson Baseball Card

1991 Fleer Ultra #239 Don Mattingly

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $50

After setting the Majors ablaze as one of the best hitters during the 1980s, Don Mattingly suffered a back injury during the 1990 season that zapped his power.

A career that once seemed like it would surely end with a trip to Cooperstown had fallen off the tracks.

However, the New York Yankees first baseman was still a stud on defense and won his sixth Gold Glove during the 1991 season.

But his bat had become average.

In 152 games, Mattingly slashed .288/.339/.394 with just nine home runs and 68 RBIs.

As if Mattingly's drop-off at the plate wasn't enough to disappoint Yankees fans, the rest of the team wasn't that great either.

The pitching staff's 4.8 runs allowed per game was the fourth-worst in the Majors, while Yankee batters' 4.16 runs scored per game was below the MLB average of 4.31.

Yet again, Mattingly would miss out on the playoffs as the Yankees finished fifth in the AL East at 71-91.

1991 Fleer Ultra #239 Don Mattingly Baseball Card

1991 Fleer Ultra #355 Nolan Ryan

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $50

When you consider that only ten players in MLB history have played 25 or more seasons, the successes of Nolan Ryan's 25th season in the Big Leagues are even more difficult to believe.

Early in the season, on May 1, 1991, during a homestand against the Toronto Blue Jays, Ryan did the unthinkable and pitched his seventh career no-hitter.

And at 44 years old, somehow, the Ryan Express just kept chugging from there all season long.

The Texas fireballer led the Majors with 5.3 hits allowed per nine innings, 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings and a 1.006 WHIP.

His WHIP and hits per nine were career bests, while his strikeouts per nine ratio was the third-best of his career.

He also surpassed the 200 strikeout mark for the fifteenth time in his career with 203.

Ryan's 2.91 ERA was the first time he'd turned in a sub-3.00 ERA since his incredible 1987 with the Houston Astros.

While many pitchers could only dream of pitching 25 years in the Big Leagues, Ryan was still doing it at a high level.

1991 Fleer Ultra #355 Nolan Ryan Baseball Card

1991 Fleer Ultra #24 Cal Ripken Jr.

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $45

The Baltimore Orioles were terrible in 1991, finishing at 67-95 and in sixth place in the AL East, twenty-four games behind the division-winning Toronto Blue Jays.

Still, Orioles fans at least had some reason to cheer as the face of the franchise, legendary shortstop Cal Ripken Jr., went on to have a career year.

Though he didn't lead the league in any major statistical categories, Ripken slashed an impressive .323/.374/.566 while setting career highs in home runs (34) and RBIs (114).

His career-best 368 total bases were the most in the Majors that year though he finished just shy of 100 runs scored (99) as the rest of the team struggled to capitalize with him on base.

Eight years after winning his first MVP in 1983, baseball's Ironman earned his second career MVP to go along with his sixth Silver Slugger and first Gold Glove.

Because the Orioles were so bad, plenty of fans didn't think Ripken should be MVP.

Yet, advanced statistics showed that his 11.5 WAR easily outpaced the rest of the league, signifying that Ripken was more than doing his part for Baltimore.

1991 Fleer Ultra #24 Cal Ripken Jr. Baseball Card

1991 Fleer Ultra #85 Frank Thomas

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $45

The Chicago White Sox drafted Frank Thomas out of Auburn University with the seventh pick of the 1989 MLB Amateur Draft.

And on August 2, 1990, they called him up for his Big League debut to play first base and bat fifth in the order between Carlton Fisk and Sammy Sosa for a night game against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Thomas went 0-4 with an RBI that evening but finished the 1990 season batting .330 with seven home runs, 31 RBIs and 39 runs scored in 60 games and 191 at-bats.

The Big Hurt had more than proven worthy of playing at the highest level, and the White Sox knew he was something special.

And on Opening Day on April 8, 1991, he would be their starting first baseman, batting fourth in the order between Robin Ventura and Carlton Fisk.

From that day forward, Thomas was electric during his sophomore campaign, batting .318 with 32 home runs, 109 RBIs and 104 runs scored.

His on-base percentage (.453), OPS (1.006), OPS+ (180), and walks (138) were the best in the Majors, and as a result, Thomas would finish third in the AL MVP vote.

1991 Fleer Ultra #85 Frank Thomas Baseball Card

1991 Fleer Ultra #248 Rickey Henderson

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $45

Heading into the last game of the 1990 season against the California Angels, Rickey Henderson needed two stolen bases to tie Lou Brock's career record of 938.

In three at-bats through five innings, Henderson failed to steal any bases and manager Tony LaRussa replaced him in left field with Doug Jennings.

The Athletics had already wrapped up first place in the AL West, so LaRussa made the wise move to start resting his starters for the postseason.

Henderson would have to sit with the anxiety of being only two stolen bases shy of Brock's record for the entire offseason.

On April 9, during the first game of the 1991 season against the Minnesota Twins, Henderson pulled within one stolen base of the record when he stole second in the bottom of the first.

A calf injury forced him to miss time in the middle of April, but during his second game off the disabled list against the California Angels, Henderson tied Brock with his 938th stolen base.

Then on May 1, against the New York Yankees, Henderson stole third base and made history as the new all-time stolen base leader.

With Nolan Ryan throwing his seventh no-hitter a few hours later, May 1, 1991 turned out to be one of the most eventful days in MLB history.

1991 Fleer Ultra #248 Rickey Henderson Baseball Card

1991 Fleer Ultra #195 Kirby Puckett

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $40

Nolan Ryan and Rickey Henderson may have given MLB fans some incredible moments to cherish during the 1991 regular season.

However, Kirby Puckett delivered some storybook highlights of his own in the postseason.

After slashing .319/.352/.460 and being a rock in centerfield for the Twins all season long, Puckett came up huge on both sides of the ball in a pivotal World Series Game 6 against the Atlanta Braves.

In the third inning, Puckett made a leaping catch at the fence to rob Ron Gant of an extra-base hit to keep the game scoreless.

And later in the bottom of the 11th, Puckett tied the series with a walk-off home run off Atlanta lefty Charlie Leibrandt to force a Game 7.

Puckett's historical performance that night in front of 55,155 in attendance at the Metrodome made him a Twins icon overnight.

The Braves didn't want anything to do with Puckett in Game 7, intentionally walking him twice in the bottom of the 8th and 10th innings before losing to the Twins 1-0 in ten.

1991 Ultra #195 Kirby Puckett Baseball Card

1991 Fleer Ultra #303 Tony Gwynn

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $40

In thirteen out of the twenty seasons he played, Tony Gwynn hit .320 or better.

In three of the seasons he didn't reach .320, he still hit .317, the 1991 season being one of those years.

So, when a .317 batting average turns out to be one of the lowest of your career, you know you must've been a good hitter.

But, Tony Gwynn wasn't just a good hitter.

He was a hitting machine and one of the best contact hitters in MLB history who could put the ball wherever he wanted nearly on command.

With four batting titles already to his name, expectations for Gwynn were high heading into the 1991 season.

Despite the "down" year in the box, he still nearly pulled off a fifth batting title as Cincinnati's Hal Morris (.318) and Atlanta's Terry Pendleton (.319) just barely bested Gwynn.

Overall, Gwynn was solid in 1991, making his seventh All-Star Game and picking up his fifth Gold Glove.

Gwynn hit exactly .317 again in 1992, but that was as low as it would get for the Hall of Famer until he retired after the 2001 season.

1991 Fleer Ultra #303 Tony Gwynn Football Card

1991 Fleer Ultra #66 Ryne Sandberg

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $35

During his fifteen years with the Chicago Cubs, Ryne Sandberg built a reputation as one of the best power-hitting second basemen in MLB history.

And coming off a 1990 campaign that saw him establish career highs in home runs (40), slugging (.559), OPS (.913), total bases (344), RBIs (100) and runs scored (116), Sandberg was determined to keep delivering.

Sandberg started the 1991 season batting second in the order for Chicago, much like he had the year before.

However, in late June, Cubs manager Jim Essian decided to move him to third in the order.

That change, combined with other factors, caused Sandberg's at-bats to drop to 585, making it the first time since his injury-shortened 1987 campaign he failed to reach 600 or more at-bats.

Still, Sandberg made the most of those opportunities, slashing .291/.379/.485 with 170 hits.

Despite the drop-off in power, Sandberg hit 26 home runs, tied for the third-most of his career, while tying his career-high 100 RBIs from the year before.

All in all, it was a solid year for the Cubs icon, as he made his eighth-straight All-Star team while winning his ninth and final Gold Glove and sixth Silver Slugger.

1991 Fleer Ultra #66 Ryne Sandberg Baseball Card

1991 Fleer Ultra #275 Barry Bonds

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $35

In the late 1980s, Barry Bonds routinely showed flashes of greatness with both the bat and glove, but he finally put it all together in the 1990s.

During the 1990 season, Bonds broke out into MVP form and picked up his first of seven career MVP Awards.

Bonds had no intention of letting his foot off the gas in 1991, and by season's end, he had led the National League in on-base percentage (.410), OPS (.924), and OPS+ (160).

In addition, the young phenom hit .292 with 25 home runs, 116 RBI, 95 runs scored, and 43 stolen bases.

For his efforts on both offense and defense, Bonds earned his second-straight Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards.

With a season like that, you'd think Bonds would've earned his second-straight MVP as well.

Unfortunately, Atlanta's Terry Pendleton beat him in a close NL MVP race in what many believe was one of the biggest MVP snubs in history.

To make matters even more disappointing for Bonds, he struggled in the NLCS against Pendleton and the Braves, slashing a lousy .148/.207/.185 in 27 at-bats as the Pirates lost in seven games.

1991 Fleer Ultra #275 Barry Bonds Baseball Card

1991 Fleer Ultra #296 Ozzie Smith

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $35

Ozzie Smith will always be known for his greatness with the glove.

But, in 1991, Smith was much better than he usually was with the bat, slashing .285/.380/.367 with 96 runs scored and 30 doubles.

His 112 OPS+ was the highest of his career and at 36 years old, Smith proved he still had plenty of speed left in his game as he stole 35 bases.

Of course, Smith was still the best shortstop in baseball as his incredible range and field vision made him a critical asset on defense.

His fielding percentage (.987) and double plays turned (79) paced the National League while he finished third in putouts (244) and fourth in assists (387).

To no one's surprise, Smith picked up his twelfth-straight Gold Glove for his spectacular defense.

Behind Ozzie's terrific leadership and solid play, the St. Louis Cardinals finished with an 84-78 record, good enough for second in the NL East but still fourteen games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates.

1991 Fleer Ultra #296 Ozzie Smith Baseball Card

1991 Fleer Ultra #251 Mark McGwire

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $30

After four-straight seasons of tearing the cover off the ball as one of the game's best power hitters, Mark McGwire struggled during the 1991 season.

McGwire later mentioned that much of the decline in his numbers was due to distractions off the field that affected his focus.

Whatever the reason, McGwire just wasn't blasting the ball like his usual self.

During the 1990 season, his slugging percentage and OPS sat at .489 and .859, respectively.

In 1991, his slugging percentage fell to .383 and his OPS dropped to .714.

And not only was his power in decline, but his average also plummeted to .201.

To avoid seeing McGwire's average potentially dropping below .200, Oakland A's manager Tony La Russa benched him for their final game.

By season's end, Big Mac's slash line stood at .201/.330/.383 while he had smacked just 22 home runs and driven in 75 runs.

After a brilliant 1990 season, McGwire and the rest of the Oakland A's simply struggled in 1991, finishing fourth in the AL West with an 84-78 record.

During the offseason, McGwire dedicated more time to physical conditioning and hitting discipline to bounce back in 1992.

1991 Fleer Ultra #251 Mark McGwire Baseball Card

1991 Fleer Ultra Baseball Cards In Review

The 1991 Ultra baseball card set contained 400 cards distributed all in one series.

It was a much smaller checklist than other sets of the day, but that was Fleer's intention as they were trying to create a premium set with a better sense of exclusivity to it.

Though it was meant to be a premium set, many in the hobby expressed disappointment in what was perceived as a lackluster design and the sentiment carries forward today.

A lack of major rookie cards has also hurt this set's staying power.

Unopened Box of 1991 Fleer Update Baseball Cards

Still, you can find some of the biggest names of the day like Ken Griffey Jr., Nolan Ryan, Cal Ripken Jr., Don Mattingly, and Rickey Henderson to maintain your interest.

There were also some subsets, including:

  • Major League Prospects (#373 - 390)
  • Great Performances (#391 - 396)
  • Checklists (#397 - 400)

Overall, you can see that some of the cards can be worth decent money in PSA 10 condition, but to me, the set's value is more in its historical and nostalgic significance.

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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