Trek to the Past, 1989 and Billy Ripken

If anyone was around back in 1989 they would remember the big controversy over Billy Ripken. Less than two weeks after Fleer issued its 1989 boxes, people were screaming about card #616 either in outrage or in laughter. Either way the card caught fire and was on everyone’s list of “cards to get.” Fleer stopped issuing boxes and corrected the card, not once, not twice but three times (black marker, white out, and airbrush, if i remember correctly).

Speculation surrounded how this card was actually printed, first on Billy Ripken’s part as to why he had that bat for the photo, and second on Fleer’s part that the slip got passed numerous people to make it into production and distribution. Most, including myself, believed that it was done on purpose to increase sales of Fleer boxes (the next hot product) but for myself it had the opposite effect. Boxes quadrupled in price, wax packs were selling for $4.00 each in a card shop that I frequented at the time, and I saw copies of the card selling for $250.00. Beckett had the card priced in the 25.00 to 50.00 range but try to convince my local dealer of that and you would get an animated shrug and explanation that the card was worth much more. It was one of the first indications that the hobby in my area was changing from an actual hobby to a profit-orientated, greed-over-customer-service, business.

1989 Fleer #616 Billy Ripken Profanity Card

1989 Fleer #616 Billy Ripken Profanity Card

Ripken later admitted that he was the one who put the “Fuck Face” on the bottom of his bat, which really surprised me when I read about as I always thought it was a teammate who had a grudge against the sometimes unlikable Ripken.

Where as back in ’89 you had to pay a premium to get the card, these days you can pick it up for under five bucks. Much more interesting for me is Randy Johnson’s Marlboro Ad card which also started some controversy back during this period as well. It is of a Hall of Famer and a rookie card too-boot. Now that card is worth having much more so than the Ripken card.

1989 Fleer Randy Johnson RC Marlboro Ad Comparison

1989 Fleer Randy Johnson RC Marlboro Ad Comparison

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