The Curious Case Of The 1990 Fleer Jose Uribe Error Card
The 1990 Fleer Jose Uribe card has an intriguing history. As all collectors know, a card’s value is determined by the demand.
In most situations, it’s straightforward to see just why a card has high demand. It might be a rookie card, a unique error card, or a card with a small print run. However, we sometimes cannot figure out why a card sells for high figures, especially from one of the worst sets of all time.
In today’s look at older interesting cards, we review one such card, the 1990 Fleer Jose Uribe error card.
Who was Jose Uribe?
Dominican-born Jose Uribe signed his first professional baseball contract at 18 with the New York Yankees organization. Uribe got a late-season call-up to the Cardinals in 1984 and was traded to the San Francisco Giants in 1985.
Uribe spent most of his ten seasons with the Giants, where he was a fan favorite as the Giants’ starting shortstop for eight seasons. During his run with the Giants, fans would fondly chant “OOH-ree-bay” when he made an excellent play.
In 1992, the Giants released Uribe when young shortstop Royce Clayton took his place. He returned to the game in 1993 as a Houston Astro, where he played 45 games before his final appearance in October 1993. Uribe retired at 34 with a lifetime batting average of .241, 307 runs scored, and 74 stolen bases.
With those stats, Uribe wasn’t the type of player who would garner attention outside of fans of the San Francisco Giants, which also carries over to most of his baseball cards.
This includes the unassuming 1990 Fleer Jose Uribe (#74) card. Uribe didn’t have a spectacular season that year, and like all sets in the junk wax era (1990 Donruss, 1991 Fleer, 1991 Topps etc), the cards were massively overprinted.
Even by the junk wax standards, 1990 Fleer baseball cards were especially plentiful. Hence, his 1990 Fleer Baseball card wasn’t worth anything from a monetary standpoint. Until that suddenly changed in February 2018.
Jose Uribe 1990 Fleer Error Card Value mania – $0.03 to $758,000
For several years collectors rightly sold the 1990 Fleer Jose Uribe card for a few pennies. While it was technically an error card, error cards from the junk wax era are commonplace. It wasn’t a significant error, as it merely had a discrepancy in his reported date of birth.
Most importantly for collectors, this was an uncorrected error card, so there are millions of them. These facts ensured his card wouldn’t be worth much.
That would soon change, and we can trace it back to a single tweet from February 2018.
Someone had listed the 1990 Fleer Jose Uribe card for $758,000. People listing their items for astronomical figures isn’t new to anyone familiar with eBay. However, this listing was immediately followed by several other high figures listing, which attracted the hobby’s attention.
While no one was in a hurry to splurge half a million dollars on the Uribe card, it warranted conversation. Articles were written, YouTube videos made, and the topic discussed in various forums as collectors pondered this supposed valuation.
Eventually, the first few thousand-dollar sales happened, followed by several hundred dollars sales. This plethora of ridiculous prices spurned a period where gullible collectors came across these listings and ignorantly made a purchase.
While the first few sales might have come from naïve collectors, it eventually convinced other collectors that this card was somewhat valuable and could be flipped for a profit. Once the mania hit, the 1990 Fleer Jose Uribe card began selling for thousands of dollars as collectors rushed to get their hands on it.
However, even at this height, collectors were still trying to figure out why a common junk wax-era baseball card of a seventh-year MLB player who was never an All-Star was being sold for several hundred dollars.
Since the card exploded in notoriety, collectors have pondered the card and come up with various theories to explain the sudden rise in the Jose Uribe 1990 Fleer card price.
The 1990 Fleer Jose Uribe is not your typical valuable error card
Once the first few sales began rolling in, most collectors chalked this up to the fact that the 1990 Uribe Fleer card is an error card. However, experts quickly proved this to be false with a bit of research.
While the 1990 Fleer Jose Uribe is indeed an error card, it is bottom-barrel at best and barely qualifies for the name. Uribe’s date of birth is wrong on the back of the card. While Uribe was born on January 21, 1959, the card says he was born in 1960.
Most likely, Uribe lied about his age. While error cards almost always attract more value, there are two general categories of error cards.
- Uncorrected error cards
- Corrected error cards
Corrected error cards are error cards that were discovered early, recalled, and subsequently corrected. Corrected error cards are usually worth a lot, depending on the type of error and the player.
Uncorrected error cards are error cards that were never corrected. Either the error was discovered late, or the card producers didn’t care enough to fix it. The majority of junk wax error cards fall into this category. Typically, uncorrected error cards aren’t worth much.
Uribe’s card is common and massively overprinted, and Fleer never bothered to correct the error. Clearly, its value wasn’t because of its “error card” status.
A prank/joke taken too far
Another theory is that the listing was a prank by a group of collectors. This theory goes that this supposed group was responsible for the first hundred thousand dollars listing of the card and its first big money purchase.
This begs the question of why they did it. Some assume they had a bunch of the 1990 Fleer Jose Uribe card and hoped to profit from their worthless haul.
This isn’t new, as there have been numerous outrageous eBay listings. While several factors determine a card’s value, ultimately, a card is worth what somebody is willing to pay for it.
You just had to convince them the card is worth that much. If a card is sold for $30,000 enough times, eventually, one could say the card is worth $30,000. Usually, these outrageous listings are laughed at and ignored. However, for some reason, collectors were convinced the 1990 Fleer Jose Uribe card was valuable.
Several collectors suspect that the original big-money sale of the 1990 Fleer Jose Uribe card was a money laundering situation. The sudden astronomical listings of the 1990 Fleer Jose Uribe card and the several big-money sales that initially followed lend credence to this theory. According to Brian Murphy of McCovey Chronicles,
…. the mob is using the cards as a way to move money around without suspicion. This seems like the most plausible explanation. The “Auctioneer” is a drug lord’s lieutenant, and the “winning bidder” is someone deep in debt to the drug lord who, in order to “make things right,” must carry all the risk of getting caught with the funds and being responsible for transferring them at the appropriate time. Then, voila. Clean money.”
This is the most convincing explanation because a review of completed sales on eBay shows a particular card (GMA 9 encased) being “moved” several times. People sold a specific card multiple times to buyers without previous eBay history. Why this card was targeted for use to launder money remains a mystery.
This is my favorite theory and the most ludicrous of the lot. It’s believed that the auction price was intended to be a signal of some kind, and there’s a code in the first eBay search. I’ll quote Brian again
“There is a code in that undoctored eBay search, though. If you add the non-zero digits that precede the triple zeroes ($758,000 and $525,000) and use the $29,999.00 as a code switch where the “999” indicates the numbers stay the same, then you can see it:
$758,000 = 20
$758,000 = 20
$525,000 = 12
$29,999 = break
$24,000 = 24
$20,000 = 20
Which gives us a phone number: (202) 012-2420. That’s a Washington, D.C. number, so this thing goes straight to the top!”
Ludicrous!! However, so is the idea of people paying thousands of dollars for a card should be worth pennies at best. Unless the group of people who first listed the card speak up, we’ll most likely never find the reason for the oddity. However, we know that the value is in no way tied to Uribe himself or his exploit (or lack of exploit) as a player.
The 1990 Fleer Jose Uribe error card today
While we have yet to determine the reason behind those first few overpriced listings, we do know how things played out after then. When the first few big-money sales rolled in, naïve collectors were convinced the card was worth much, and we noticed several thousand-dollar sales.
People began listing their 1990 Fleer Jose Uribe cards for hundreds of dollars. Eventually, the 1990 Fleer Jose Uribe card went from being worth a few cents to several thousand dollars. Ultimately, the hype died as the word spread that there was nothing special about the 1990 FLEER JOSE URIBE card.
Today, no one is paying thousands of dollars for the Jose Uribe card. However, the recent eBay sales for the card show several sales ranging from $0.99 to $500. This is despite trusted card collecting companies such as PSA and Beckett listing this card for as little as 50 cents.
Although $500 is significantly lower than what people paid for this card at the height of the Uribe mania, it is still considerably overpriced for a card that logically should be worth only a few cents.
However, many collectors argue that the value of a card is whatever someone is willing to pay for it. That’s one of the beauties of the hobby! If a collector is winning to pay $500 for a card, we can argue that that’s the worth of that card. Usually, collectors pay a premium for a card because the card ticks several boxes and can be sold for even more later.
Our verdict on the 1990 Fleer Jose Uribe card
The 1990 Fleer Jose Uribe card is, by all means, a common baseball card, and we wouldn’t pay $5 for a PSA 10 GEM MINT. While those strange listings have persisted, and people still spend as much as $500 for the Jose Uribe 1990 card even today, we wouldn’t recommend it.
It’s an easy-to-find card, massively overprinted, and depicts an average player. Nothing about this card makes it worth more than a couple bucks (and even then its suspect). The only reason this card is special is because of the mystery behind it and the novelty.
Sure, some are paying premiums to buy the the 1990 Fleer Jose Uribe card but don’t buy into the hype. If you absolutely must own one, see if you can find one for $0.50 on Beckett or a local card shop and stay clear of eBay’s expensive listings. Occasionally you can find some decently-priced version on eBay, but wait until you see something for less than $2 with shipping.
Don’t be fooled, They’re often labeled as “extra rare,” but there’s nothing special about them.
Final word of the Jose Uribe 1990 Fleer card
Ultimately, a card is worth whatever a collector is willing to pay for it. There have been instances of collectors buying supposedly common cards for huge figures mainly due to sentimental reasons. Whether the Uribe 1990 Fleer card is worth $0.50 or $790,000, no one can deny its unique history in the hobby.
If you’d love to read about a truly valuable error card, this article on the Frank Thomas No Name On Front card is a great read.
Other notable error cards
- Frank Thomas No Name on Front
- C3PO Golden Rod
- Billy Ripkin F**k Face Card
- Dale Murphy reverse-negative card
- 1989 Fleer Randy Johnson “Marlboro” error card
- Joe Montana error cards