Tuesday, March 22, 2016

1987 Fleer Baseball's Hottest Stars Set

Anyone who collects baseball cards from the 1980s to early '90s is familiar with the fabled "boxed set." In a nutshell, these are small baseball sets that were produced by Topps or Fleer to be sold by specific retail chains. A colorful point-of-purchase display case would typically house 24 sets, with each set being cello-wrapped in an equally colorful cardboard box. Topps boxed sets typically contained 33 cards and a stick of gum, while Fleer boxed sets typically contained 44 cards and several stickers. 

Sets of this nature were always named with a theme; "Memorable Moments", "Stars of the Decades", "All-Time Home Run Kings" and "Baseball Rookies" were some of the topics chosen for boxed sets. Thanks to the internet, it seems that no sets from this genre are difficult to find today. Though none of these boxed beauties are scarce, some are sought more by collectors than others... In particular, sets featuring rookie players that went on to have superstar careers are the ones with the most demand.

The most popular (and valuable) retail-chain boxed set today is the 1987 Fleer Baseball's Hottest Stars set. This 44-card issue was created exclusively for Revco Drug Stores, which was a large chain found mostly east of the Mississippi River. In typical fashion, this Fleer set features 44 cards, six baseball logo stickers, and comes sealed in a colorful retail box. A checklist of the players in the set appears right on the back of the box, which undoubtedly enticed Jose Canseco and Don Mattingly collectors of the day to grab a set or two.

Many of Baseball's hottest stars were indeed included in the set, including Hall of Fame standouts Mike Schmidt, Andre Dawson (NL MVP in 1987), George Brett and Rickey Henderson. Pete Rose even makes an appearance as first baseman/manager of the Reds. On the other hand, the inclusion of several players is questionable; Orioles outfielder Larry Sheets and Padres pitcher Eric Show are examples that were solid but average players. Numerous others were hometown favorites at best. But good, bad and ugly aside, there's one player in particular that makes this set the crown jewel of the entire boxed set genre... 

Pirates rookie Barry Bonds.

Fleer actually cheated a bit on their title of "Baseball's Hottest Stars," and added several promising rookies to the set. As always, several of these youngsters went on to have mediocre careers at best, while others achieved all-star status. Players featured in the set during their rookie-card year included Blue Jays pitcher Mark Eichhorn, Rangers outfielder Pete Incaviglia, Phillies pitcher Bruce Ruffin, Indians outfielder Cory Snyder, Dodgers outfielder Reggie Williams and Cardinals Pitcher Todd Worrell. Also featured during his rookie card year is Angels first baseman Wally Joyner, though Fleer got a jump on him the year before in their 1986 Baseball's Best boxed set.

Without a doubt, the aforementioned Barry Bonds would go on to become the most popular and collected player in the set. During the 2000-2005 MLB seasons, years after collectors had lost interest in most other boxed sets, the '87 Baseball's Hottest Stars set was selling in the $40 to $50 range. Today, the price has cooled considerably and the set sells in the $10 to $15 range on Ebay. Even so, this wonderful oddball issue remains the most celebrated set to emerge from a long bygone era of small, colorful, retailer-exclusive baseball card releases.

Random Fact: Revco, the drug store chain that originally sold these sets, was purchased by CVS in 1997. All Revco stores had either closed or were re-branded to CVS by the summer of 1998.

Click here to hunt for 1987 Fleer Hottest Stars Sets

1. Joaquin Andujar, A's
2. Harold Baines, White Sox
3. Kevin Bass, Astros
4. Don Baylor, Red Sox
5. Barry Bonds, Pirates
6. George Brett, Royals
7. Tom Brunansky, Twins
8. Brett Butler, Indians
9. Jose Canseco, A's
10. Roger Clemens, Red Sox
11. Ron Darling, Mets
12. Eric Davis, Reds
13. Andre Dawson, Expos
14. Doug DeCinces, Angels
15. Leon Durham, Cubs
16. Mark Eichhorn, Blue Jays
17. Scott Garrelts, Giants
18. Dwight Gooden, Mets
19. Dave Henderson, Red Sox
20. Rickey Henderson, Yankees
21. Keith Hernandez, Mets
22. Ted Higuera, Brewers
23. Bob Horner, Braves
24. Pete Incaviglia, Rangers
25. Wally Joyner, Angels
26. Mark Langston, Mariners
27. Don Mattingly, Yankees
28. Dale Murphy, Braves
29. Kirk McCaskill, Angels
30. Willie McGee, Cardinals
31. Dave Righetti, Yankees
32. Pete Rose, Reds
33. Bruce Ruffin, Phillies
34. Steve Sax, Dodgers
35. Mike Schmidt, Phillies
36. Larry Sheets, Orioles
37. Eric Show, Padres
38. Dave Smith, Astros
39. Cory Snyder, Indians
40. Frank Tanana, Tigers
41. Alan Trammell, Tigers
42. Reggie Williams, Dodgers
43. Mookie Wilson, Mets
44. Todd Worrell, Cardinals


  1. I really wish Fleer had included some biographical information on any of these sets. Lots of these players are only in the set due to their performance in the 1986 post season, but there is nothing on the cards or the box to indicate that. There was absolutely nothing hot about Dave Henderson's 1986 season other than a few post-season home runs and his 1987 was terrible.

    1. Great point regarding the post-season. The exception is poor Angels pitcher Kirk McCaskill, who was shelled by the Red Sox in the ALCS. In the two games he pitched, Boston scored thirteen runs (eight of them earned). Needless to say, McCaskill was awarded two losses for his efforts.

  2. I have considered putting together a collection of all of Fleer's 44 card boxed sets from the 80's. Figured it would be cool to display them year by year in binders.

    By the way... received the Padres team sets. Thanks a lot. I'll write up a post in the next few days... and will get some cards in the mail sooner or later. Hopefully sooner.

    1. I'm sure you've seen the lots available on eBay where you can buy five to twenty different boxed sets, with mere the push of a button! Granted, it may not be the old-fashioned way of collecting these sets, but it sure is cheap to buy them by the lot. There may be one or two that eludes my collection at this point, but cost and availability certainly aren't the issues.

      Glad you got the cards! No rush on sending back... Hate to admit it, but Odell Beckham rookie cards have distracted me now for several months! :/