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The First Cut is the Deepest

Diversity Found in Cut Signature Edition Rounds Out Massive Fleer Set

by Scott McKenzie

Let's unpack the “second series” of the 2004 Fleer Greats of the Game product; better known as the Cut Signature Edition. This issue was released in December 2004. Please remember that Fleer ceased operations in May of 2005.

 Introduced in 2004, Fleer's Cut Signature Edition offers a varied and challenging hunt.

Introduced in 2004, Fleer's Cut Signature Edition offers a varied and challenging hunt.

Observing and respecting the namesake of the series, I’ll discuss the Etched in Time cut signature subset first. This group of 40 cut signature cards includes the full spectrum of print production numbers; from the 1/1 cut signature cards from the likes of Jim Thorpe, Earle Combs, Max Carey, Nap Lajoie, Pie Traynor, Tony Conigliaro and Ted Williams to the more plentiful cut signature cards from Edd Roush (of 93), Ethan Allan (of 76), Earl Averill (of 50) and Rick Ferrell (of 50). Mixed in are wonderful cuts from Chico Ruiz (of 5), Freddie Lindstrom (of 5), Zach Wheat (of 4) and Lefty O’Doul (of 3). Of this group, 25 have been produced in a quantity of less than 10, so they are taken off of my wantlist. That still leaves 15 cards for the “regular guy” to collect.

Now, the base cards for this set:

Cards numbered 81-145 continue the base cards from the Greats of the Game edition into the Cut Signature Edition of this set. This begins our count with 65 base cards. Consistent with the first series, each base card has a blue parallel card. This is where the first “twist” hits this set. The blue parallel cards from the Greats of the Game base cards (number 1-80) had a production run of (and are numbered to) 500. The blue parallel cards from the Cut Signature Edition base set (81-145) are not as generously produced and have a production run (and are numbered to a quantity) that is unique to that player. For example, card number 90 is Mark Fidrych. The “blue parallel” for this card is short printed and numbered to 76 (his rookie year).

That pattern continues with each of the “blue parallels” from the Cut Signature Edition. Another example: the Joe Charboneau #89 card is short printed and numbered to 80 (his rookie year and ROY award year). There is some fun to be had in figuring out why the production run number was selected.

Fun, yes, but it also makes it a little more difficult to complete the set. Adding the blue parallel cards brings the total of the base set to 130 cards while adding the Etched in Time subset brings the total to 170 cards.

Of the 65 base cards in the Cut Signature Edition, 48 appear as a Gold Border Autograph (GBA) variation. Nice, crisp autographs signed on stickers and then affixed to the card. The 48 GBA cards bring us to 218 on the checklist.

In addition to the Etched in Time subset, there are four additional subsets included in the Cut Signature Edition of the 2004 Fleer Greats of The Game product. These are the Announcing Greats subset, the Yankee Clippings subset, the Forever subset and the Personality Cuts subset. 

Let’s start with the Announcing Greats subset. The idea here was to pair a broadcasting legend and a baseball legend from the same market. There are 10 combinations such as Mel Allen and Yogi Berra from the Yankees and Vin Scully and Steve Garvey from the Dodgers. Others include Harry Kalas and Mike Schmidt of Phillies fame and Harry Caray and Ryne Sandberg from the Chicago Cubs. Eight of the 10 include a cut autograph (missing are the combinations of Scully and Garvey as well as Ned Martin and Carlton Fisk of the Red Sox). These 18 additions push the number of this series to 236 cards.

Next: the Yankee Clippings subset. Here we enjoy a game-used memorabilia card of eight great Yankees: Yogi Berra, Wade Boggs, Reggie Jackson, Paul O’Neill, Roger Maris, Don Mattingly, Phil Rizzuto and Moose Skowron. All eight come with a variation, which is a combination of a smaller memorabilia swatch and an autograph. The Roger Maris autograph is limited to a production quantity of three and the Maris and Rizzuto memorabilia cards are limited to a quantity of 150. The remaining memorabilia/autographs are also short-printed with quantities as high as 26 (Boggs, O’Neill and Skowron) and as low as 15 (Berra, Jackson, Mattingly and Rizzuto). These 16 Yankee Clippings push our magic number to 252.

Forever Subset

The Forever subset is memorabilia-rich, filled with game-worn uniform swatches as well as patch cards, as Dwight Gooden's Forever Mets card illustrates.

The Forever subset is a memorabilia-rich subset filled with game-worn uniform swatches as well as patch cards. The Forever subset begins with 29 base cards with no memorabilia added. From this base, there are single patch cards and dual patch cards. There are cards with a cut team logo opening for the swatch or patch as well as a cut uniform number opening for a swatch or patch. There are also just plain square openings for game-worn jersey pieces (but no patches are included here). 

From my best research, here is how the Forever subset shakes out with regard to variations and production quantities. There are 29 base cards; 23 of them carry a game-worn jersey swatch (excluding Zach Wheat, Duke Snider, Gabby Hartnet, Hack Wilson, Pepper Martin and Frankie Frisch). These same 23 remaining base cards also come with a game-worn jersey logo cut and game-worn number cut jersey swatch as well as a game-worn logo cut and game-worn number cut jersey patch variation. Production runs on this group run from 149 (game-worn logo cut) to 99 (game-worn number cut) to 49 (game-worn logo patch) and 25 for the game-worn number patch. 

As I mentioned during the introduction of the Forever subset, there are also dual-patch logo cut and dual-patch number cut cards where there are two stars (one-front and one-back) each with a game-worn patch. Two players – two patches – one card; how wonderful. There are 11 cards featuring the dual-patch logo cuts and 10 that feature the dual-patch number cut. The dual-patch logo cards have a production run of 19 and the dual-patch number cards were produced in a quantity of five. 

Clear as mud, right? The Forever subset with all of its variations adds 165 cards to our total, fattening our set to 417 cards.

Finally, the big boy cards. The Personality Cuts subset is a rich (pun intended) subset of cut signatures from such baseball icons as Abner Doubleday, Bing Crosby, Charles O. Finley, August Busch, Jr., Ray Kroc, Ronald Reagan and Tom Yawkey. All are 1/1 with the exception of the Finley card, where two cut signature cards were offered. Any one of these would be the highlight of my collection and I can’t imagine that I’ll ever enjoy that day. But you never know. These seven Personality Cuts finish off the Cut Signature Edition and complete the set at 424 cards. 

Now, for my success (and/or lack thereof) with this set.

Starting with the base set, the blue parallel cards are significantly more difficult to find due to their limited production numbers. Of the 65 base cards, I am still searching for 21 of the blue parallel prints and nine of the Gold Border Autograph cards. So from the 178 cards that make up the “base + parallel/auto” cards, I’m still looking for 30 hard to find gems.

I’ve assembled all 10 of the Announcing Greats base cards but haven’t added any of the autographed cards from this subset. I have two of the cards autographed through private signings (Brennaman and Rizzuto) but no additions from the packs. 

Fleer included cards from different subsets in their hobby boxes and their retail boxes. That is to say that one subset may have been included in the hobby boxes and not included in the retail boxes and vise versa. That may make sense from a “maximize your sales” perspective but is a little annoying from a collector’s view. I don’t think this is/was an uncommon practice. 

I’ve been able to locate six of the eight base (memorabilia) cards from the Yankee Clippings and have two of the autograph/memorabilia variants. I’m still looking for the remaining two base cards (Maris and Rizzuto) and six remaining autograph cards. I have the Skowron and O’Neill auto/memorabilia cards. 

The Forever subset is where I am spending much of my time now, looking to put a dent in this grouping. Of the 165 Forever cards (base + variants), I have 92. There is much more work to be done here. That task is made more difficult (again) by the limited production numbers.

The Etched in Time subset is filled with cut signatures, many of which carry a production number that places them outside of my target (but not desire). Of the 40 cut signature cards in this subset, only 15 have a production quantity of 10 or more. Of those 15, I am lucky enough to have 12 of them. I’m still looking for the Willie Stargell (of 16), Chris Short (of 30) and the Harvey Kuenn (of 32).

I have none of the Personality Cuts cards as they are all in the “big boy” bucket. 

So, of the 424 Cut Signature Edition, I am chasing 389 (eliminating all less than x/10) and have 283 in my collection (66% of the total and 73% of the regular guy’s set). Significantly below my 91% total/97% regular guy completion percentage for the Greats of the Game (Series 1) set. But, hey, that’s why we work hard at our wonderful hobby.

So, wrapping up the whole enchilada (as my father used to say), the Greats of the Game and the Cut Signature Edition give us a massive 804-card set to chase. For us regular guys, we can reasonably chase 744 of them. We will leave the other 60 cards for the high rollers (and/or lucky ones) among us. 

Good luck as you follow your favorite sets. I’m already looking at the 2004 Fleer Greats of the Game – Football product with an interested eye.

Scott McKenzie is a baseball card collector. He can be contacted at mckenzies4@verizon.net.