Back in the mid-1990s, Fleer upped the ante by releasing a new high end sports card line called Flair. The name was fitting, as the cards were full of just that.
Right from the jump, Flair became the hobby’s fanciest product. Before a collector even got to the cards they knew they were holding a special product. The boxes were better than anything on the market. The packs weren’t your traditional tear away paper. They were a little black and gold boxes onto themselves, wrapped in their own personal cellophane. As far as the cards themselves, with the high gloss finish, thick card stock, the beautiful foil cursive writing and studio quality pictures, Flair was definitely upper crust.
Introduced to the marketplace as a baseball product in 1993, Fleer created its first Flair basketball line in 1994 honoring the men’s and women’s United States Olympic Basketball teams. The first full standard NBA set arrived during the 1994-95 season.
Flair came back for a sophomore season in basketball and offered one of the more popular inserts sets of the era– a complete upgrade from the same insert set from the year prior.
Found one in every 36 packs of Series 1 cards, the 1995-96 Flair Hot Numbers insert set stood out from the rest of the elegant card crowd.
The 15 card set showcased the league’s top performers. The cards stood out from the crowd in part due to the fact they appeared to be in three dimensions, as the company used a plastic, ribbed lenticular coating on the card fronts. What that technology took away from in the sharpness of the picture, it’s what set the product apart. It’s difficult to capture it in a photo, which is why the images you’ll see in this story won’t be clear. To be truly appreciated, you have to hold one in your hands.
There is a full color, almost literal action shot, of the player in the foreground. The background has a whirlwind of numbers in different colors and fonts and styles throughout. If you look close enough the words Hot Numbers are also found in the tornado of numbers. The 1995-96 Flair logo was found in an upper corner of the card. “Hot Numbers” is showcased in cursive in the center of the bottom of the card and below that is the player’s name in standard text.
The card backs do not feature the same 3-D technology as the card fronts.
The reverse features an in action shot of the player, a paragraph of biographical information and the same wild, scattered number design found on the front.
Card number one in the set is Charles Barkley. Chuck is seen taking a jumper, which comes right into your living room with the technology of the card.
Detroit Pistons star Grant Hill is the second card in the set. Hill is seen releasing a fancy underhand scoop shot at the rim.
Los Angeles Lakers swingman Eddie Jones is card number three in the set. He is seen in his classic Lakers yellow jersey while dribbling the ball in this right hand. Eddie was a bad man for a brief time in the late 90s.
The fourth card in the set features the greatest of all time, Chicago Bulls icon Michael Jordan. MJ is seen in his road red Bulls uniform, dribbling up the court with the ball in his left hand.
Seattle Supersonics own 6′ 10 highlight reel Shawn Kemp is the fifth card up in the set. Kemp is featured posting up, ball in both hands, ready to make a move towards the rim and finish with a Sportscenter worthy dunk..
Jason Kidd is the sixth card in the set. Kidd is featured with his intent facial expressions dribbling the ball passed a helpless defender or two.
Utah Jazz power forward Karl Malone is next up in the set. He’s seen in his Utah Jazz white uniform, ball in hand ready to make a play.
Charlotte Hornets center Alonzo Mourning is the eighth card in the offering. Zo is seen ferociously attacking the goal, ball in both hands ready to ready to violently finish at the hoop. This cards moves so quick tat it looks like a blur.
Denver Nuggets center Dikembe Mutombo is card number 9.
The tenth card in the set features Houston Rockets Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon. Olajuwon is seen raising up, getting ready to release a shot in three dimensions.
Keeping with the center theme, Orlando Magic big man Shaquille O’Neal is the 11th card in the set. Shaq is seen in the low post getting ready to receive a pass and finish at the rim with immense authority.
The Big Dog is the 12th card in the set. The Milwaukee Bucks number one overall draft pick and scoring machine Glenn Robinson is seen looking for a teammate to pass the rock to on his card front.
We all know what numbers Dennis Rodman puts up on the offensive and defensive glass. He’s seen in a somewhat rare moment as he’s pictured dribbling the ball up the court looking to create mayhem on the offense side of the floor.
Golden State Warriors explosive guard Latrell Sprewell is the next to last card in Hot Numbers. Spree’s inclusion in so many big insert sets of the day goes to show how big of a star he was during his window of excellence. He is seen dribbling the ball up court, full speed ahead looking for two points on the other end of the floor.
The final card in the set features a former Golden State Warrior who made his way to Washington. Chris Webber rounds out the set in solid form as he looks to be finishing at the hoop and his new bullets uni, one that many never got used to seeing him in.
Although it may come as a surprise to some collectors who are not overly familiar with the set, these cards demand big bucks in raw and graded forms and not that many have been graded. PSA has examined only 1,338 of them over the years with Jordan accounting for more than one-third of the total. A PSA 10 Jordan sold recently for over $2,400 with PSA 9s a little less than half of that. The most recent SGC 9 sale of the Jordan card on eBay was over $700.
Shaq’s card is popular with collectors. A BGS 9.5 copy sold for $435 at the end of June. Raw cards commonly sell for over a $100 a piece. Expect to pay between $20- $50 for the raw cards of the mid- level players in the set. You can see what’s currently listed on eBay here.
With those somewhat eyebrow raising valuations, this set stands tall as one of the more unique and popular 90s insert sets.
About Tony Reid
From the time he was a little kid, Tony has been a huge sports fan. If he could play sports, watch sports and talk about sports it was a great day. From as early as he was drawn to sports, Tony was drawn to collecting sports cards. Not much has changed over the years. He collects RCs of star players in baseball, basketball and football. He also has a soft spot for first autographs of MMA stars. If you want to talk to Tony about the greatness of Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson or Ken Griffey, Jr. you can reach him at [email protected] and @OffCenterTR on social media.