Sets are in numerical order by year. Cue the music....
This was the second Fleer set issued in the 1980s behind the error filled 1981 set. The design was really simple with the white border, colored band, and player information in that oval thing at the bottom center of the card. If you flip through the base set there are lots of good early eighties players in here: Nolan Ryan, Ozzie Smith, Reggie Jackson, etc. The Brad Mills card is actually my favorite card out of the base set. The set is really made by the most important rookie card in the product.
Not the best of the Cal Ripken rookie cards, but there are not really any bad ones. Easily the best card in this set and the only reason that this set makes this list. Hate to play you that way Brad Mills, but it's true. If you do not own this set it worth it for the Ripken card alone. If you own the Ripken card, but not the rest of the rest...Well, there's Brad Mills.
This was the first year that I collected cards and my first pack of baseball cards. My first card was a Jim Smith. The base set is pretty similar to the 1982 set in terms of photography, but the design of the card was changed up a bit. The grey bordered cards were a little something different at the time and I still cannot recall many sets with just a grey border outside of this and the 1970 Topps. Seriously, nothing too cool about most of the base set, but there were three pretty important rookie cards in this product......
All Hall of Famers. My favorite of the group is the Sandberg card. Love that blue pinstriped Cubs uniform. This set is really affordable considering that it has three Hall of Fame rookie cards. The cost of buying the whole set is not going to be too much more than buying three nice copies of the important rookie cards in the set.
1984 Fleer Update
The only Update set on my list and one of the absolute best sets of the 1980s. The cards are actually somewhat difficult to find and the set has two monster rookie in it. My favorite card in the base set is the Pete Rose Expos card. The all-time hits leader was briefly on the Expos during the 1984 season in between his stint with the Phillies and second go around with the Reds. The two best cards belong to Roger Clemens and Kirby Puckett.
Both players are in the Hall of Fame and these are their only 1984 issued cards. Both have several rookie cards in 1985 products that are also considered rookie issues, but these are the top of the food pyramid as far as 1980s rookie cards in Fleer products. Yes, I would put these two above the Ripken rookie card. Finding this set is much more of a challenge than the other sets on my list and will cost considerably more money.
The 1987 Fleer set should only be bought if you want some rookie cards of some pretty good baseball players. There is Will Clark, Barry Larkin, Barry Bonds, and Rafael Palmeiro. The rest of the 1987 Fleer set is rather boring. The blue card design is pretty cool, but again it all comes down to the big rookie cards in this set.
I am not going to get in too deep on the whole steroids thing right now, but there is a lot of Hall of Fame caliber talent in this set given how cheap it is on sites like Ebay. If you can track down a copy the Tiffany version of this set looks really nice and rarely costs more than $30 and comes in a nice tin. The high gloss finish is well worth the extra money.
If I had to pick out just one base set from the 1980s Fleer products this would be it. The design leaves a little bit to be desired, but in my opinion it offers one of the best base cards of the decade and an underrated rookie card too. The Ripken card is one of the more iconic modern baseball cards for all the wrong reasons. This is the unedited version of the card, but some of the edits are rare and extremely pricey. The two rookie cards worth owning.......
The Griffey rookie card is nice and is underrated in someways, but the real prize here is the Randy Johnson rookie card which is underrated in almost everyday imaginable. Similar to the Ripken card there are different variations of the Johnson card because of a Marlboro cigarette sign over his right shoulder. Some cards the sign is visible, others it is blocked out by different colored boxes. Like most things 1980s Fleer the Johnson card is not too expensive and is not too difficult to track down either.