2009 marks the 20-year anniversary of the infamous 1989 Fleer Billy Ripken baseball card, which features a young Ripken (son of Cal Sr. and younger brother of Hall of Famer Cal Jr.) holding a baseball bat with the expletive “F*ck Face” written in plain view on the knob of the bat.
Many sports enthusiasts in their mid-to-late 20s and up might recall this infamous error card which, shortly after its January ’89 debut, made national headlines and took the sports card collecting world by storm.
“Everyone had to have one,” said 31-year-old Ismael Benhamida, a Philadelphia-based business entrepreneur who was an avid sports card collector throughout the mid-to-late 80s and early 90s. “It was the first and only time a modern day baseball card ever made national headlines.”
Originally listed as a five-cent common in the ’89 Fleer set, at its peak, the card demanded as much as $500. Both kids and adults were ripping open packs like mad in search of card number 616, which quickly became the sports card equivalent to Willie Wonka’s Golden Ticket.
Benhamida recalls, “Growing up, I had a neighbor who somehow found out about the error card before it went public. And he knew a kid that had just opened up an early wax box case of 1989 Fleer, so he went over to the kid’s house and swooped up all his Ripken cards -- like over 20 of them, for only $10 or $15. The deal also included 200 or so random common cards, so it wasn’t too obvious of a hustle.” Benhamida adds, “Needless to say, the kid who sold my neighbor the cards for pennies on the dollar was pissed once word about the card’s error went public.”