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1987-88 Fleer Basketball set sells for $45,000 on eBay

A 1987-88 Fleer Basketball set surprisingly sold for $45,000 on eBay. Some of the surprise disappears when one realizes each card was graded PSA 10.

By Larry Canale

A collector paid $45,000 on eBay for a complete set of Fleer basketball cards in June. It wasn’t, however, Fleer’s vaunted 1986-87 set, which is buoyed by Michael Jordan’s first major card release, not to mention rookie cards of Charles Barkley, Clyde Drexler, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, Dominique Wilkins and James Worthy. No, the set that fetched $45,000 was Fleer’s follow-up issue—its more humble 1987-88 set.

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Specifically, the rookie crop in Fleer’s 1987-88 set pales in comparison to that of the previous year. The big names are Brad Daugherty, A.C. Green and Ron Harper. None of them are Hall of Famers, though all were fine players. Daugherty averaged 19 points and 9.5 rebounds in his all-too-short eight-year career. Green was a defensive whiz on the Lakers’ championship teams of the 1980s. He averaged 9.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game in his career. And Harper was a key cog on five NBA championship teams (three with Chicago, two with the Lakers). He averaged 13.8 points and 3.9 assists in his 15 seasons.

If it wasn’t a world-class group of rookies that prompted the $45,000 sale of a Fleer 1987-88 set, what was it? The big selling point, as you’ve guessed by now, was impeccable condition. All 132 cards were graded PSA 10. And even though there are no hot rookies driving the set, the player condition is still pretty good. After all, consider the second-year cards of all those Hall of Famers noted above. Jordan, as always, leads the pack. Collectors who won’t spend $30,000 on his Fleer rook can get this second-year card for $2,000 to $4,000 if in Mint condition, and for far less if graded 9 or 8.

TOBACCO CLASSIC

Speaking of tobacco cards, another recent eBay listing saw a Walter Johnson T206 card graded PSA 8 sell for $18,908 on 36 bids. Issued between 1909 and 1911, the card features what’s known as the “hands-at-chest” pose. A variation of the same card depicts a portrait of Johnson.

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The portrait pose is regarded in the hobby as the more popular issue and thus brings higher prices. If graded in the 6 to 7 range, it goes for $10,000 to $15,000. A crazy-high-grade specimen gets out of sight in terms of value, as we reported in this space last month, when a PSA 9 sold for $135,000. Yet a T206 of Johnson in the hands-at-chest pose is tougher to find. 

WELCOME, SLUGGER

Yordan Alvarez tortured Triple-A pitchers through early June, hitting 23 homers in 213 at-bats for the Round Rock Express of the Pacific Coast League. The lefty-swinging 21-year-old, who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 225 pounds, advanced quickly as the Houston Astros’ top prospect.

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On June 9, the Astros beckoned him, and Alvarez picked up where he left off in the minors, homering in each of his first two games.

And how’s his impact in the hobby? So far, it’s been impressive, with his autographed 2018 Bowman Chrome ranking as the card to chase.

In the weeks leading up to Alvarez’s promotion, we saw a Red Shimmer version of his 2018 Chrome card (ungraded but marked #1/5) sell for $5,000. Ungraded Orange Refractors of the same card sold for $4,000 and $3,550, also in the weeks ahead of his call-up. We also saw high-grade Orange Refractors sell for $7,999 (BGS 9.5) and $7,953 (PSA 10).

After Alvarez joined the Astros, values took off some more. For example, one bidder spent $8,999 for a BGS 9.5-graded card. So, long story short, expect to pay between $7,000 and $9,000 for Alvarez’s 2018 Bowman Chrome, depending on the grade and color of Refractor… unless he continues hitting homers, in which case you’ll see five-figure Alvarez cards soon enough. In fact, at press time, we spotted four Alvarez Chrome cards in that stratosphere, including a BGS 10 of his Orange Refractor at a $17,500 Buy It Now price (or Best Offer).

TEDDY BALLGAME

While we have (mostly) baseball on the mind, let’s give you a look at the man who wanted only to be known as “the greatest hitter who ever lived”: Ted Williams. (And who can argue that point?) The Red Sox legend put up a gaudy .344 career average and piled up 521 homers and 1,839 RBI—despite missing three prime seasons during his military service, from 1943 to 1945.

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A beautiful memento of The Splendid Splinter came from Wilson Franks in 1954: a baseball card featuring a majestic photo of Williams in a follow-through batting pose. In June, an eBay seller listed a PSA 6 specimen of that card and watched it draw 50 bids in soaring to $14,989.

Because Wilson baseball cards were packaged with hot dogs, they were prone to flaws and defects, and aren’t often found in good shape today. A grade of 6, then, is impressive, in this case reflecting a clean print job and no wrinkles or creases. At press time, various sellers were listing 1954 Ted Williams cards; we noted a PSA 5 for $14,000, a PSA 4 for $5,000 and a PSA 2.5 for $4,000.