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Michael Jordan’s Fleer rookie card is hot

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THAT JORDAN CARD— Where were you in the fall of 1986? Wherever it was, you’ll likely have one regret after reading this item: “Why, oh why wasn’t I buying up hordes of Fleer basketball cards?”

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In advance of the NBA’s 1986-87 season, Fleer entered the hot hoop market by acquiring a license and putting together a no-frills set of cards. They were the standard size—2.5 x 3.5-inches, and the design was colorful, with those eye-catching red, white and blue borders. The photography was middling, at best; too many of the images appear muddy. The checklist, too, was modest. There were 23 NBA teams at the time, so with 12-player rosters, the universe was at least 276. Yet Fleer put together only 132 cards and one tiny insert set (11 stickers, with one included per pack).

But—and it’s a big but—among the set’s 132 cards was Michael Jordan, making his first major-manufacturer appearance. Yes, he was in Star’s NBA 1984-85 set, but those cards were bagged and not distributed to the retail market in unopened packs. As such, Jordan’s 1986-87 Fleer card is a more universally accepted holy grail. And don’t look now, but its price on eBay is edging ever closer to six figures.

In mid-May, we saw a PSA 10-graded Jordan Fleer rookie sell for $85,100 on 61 bids. The eBay seller known as Probstein123 verified it to us that he received payment, completing the deal. Just a few days later, another regular eBay sell, PWCC, sold a PSA 10 Fleer Jordan for an even higher price: $87,725 on 52 bids.

To put that in perspective, our Top 10 lists in 2017 included 16 Jordan 1986-87 Fleer cards, all in 10 condition, that sold for prices between $17,000 and $20,000. That same year, we started seeing the card’s price kick well north of $20K.

In 2018, the range continued to escalate. By 2019, we saw the card regularly land between $30,000 and $40,000, with only a couple of outliers sneaking through for lower prices.

Here in the first half of 2020, the card has been on fire. It seemed to start in February, just after Kobe Bryant’s tragic death put a spike into the hoop card market. That month, we saw a Jordan Fleer card sell for just under $40,000. In March, we reported on two others that sold for prices between $45,000 and $49,000.

And now, a scant two months later, the range for Jordan’s iconic Fleer debut has nearly doubled. Perhaps during these days of coronavirus sheltering, the card is looking like a more worthy investment piece than ever. And it just may stay that way and push right up into six figures, if in Gem-Mint condition. It’s hard to imagine such an iconic sports collectible stumbling backward.

Meanwhile, we can think about all the unopened packs of Fleer cards we passed over in convenience stores and hobby shops in 1986. There might have been a nice payoff included in those packs…if we had just taken a handful of quarters out of the ol’ pocket.

THE OTHER JORDAN CARD —Stuck on the idea of picking up Michael Jordan’s 1984-85 Star card? You’re still looking at an investment of tens of thousands of dollars.

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Last month, we reported on a PSA 9 version of the 1984-85 Star Jordan that sold for $25,000. Since then, we saw two BGS 9-graded examples sell in the space of three May days for prices of $34,600 (on 37 bids) and $31,401 (19 bids). Plus, a BGS 8.5-graded Jordan Star rookie brought $26,100.

We haven’t seen a Gem-Mint 10-grade example of Jordan’s Star card listed recently, but when that time comes, expect a price that’ll challenge Jordan’s Fleer card.

(Note: The Star Jordan on our Top 10 chart includes an authenticated autograph, which accounts for the $76,000 price. A player’s autograph on a card doesn’t always push up the value, but in this case, it more than doubled it. The supply of authenticated MJ sigs on this Star card is limited.)

TOP 10 CHART

5/24/20

1. $161,716 on 78 bids: 2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection LeBron James Limited Logos, #21/75, auto patch (BGS 9)

2. $97,700 on 59 bids: 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle (PSA 7)

3. $92,733 on 37 bids: 2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection Michael Jordan Limited Logos, #37/75, auto patch (BGS 9.5)

4. $87,725 on 52 bids: 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan (PSA 10)

5. $85,100 on 61 bids: 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan (PSA 10)

6. $76,100 on 64 bids: 1984-85 Star autographed Michael Jordan (BGS 9; auto 10; UDA authentication)

7. $75,100 on 69 bids: 1996-97 Topps Chrome Refractor Kobe Bryant (PSA 10)

8. $70,600 on 45 bids: 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan (PSA 10)

9. $60,100 on 42 bids: 2018-19 Panini National Treasures Luka Doncic, #14/20, auto patch (BGS 9)

10. $60,000 on 66 bids: 1997-98 Upper Deck Game Jerseys Michael Jordan, auto patch (HOF patch) (BGS 9.5)

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ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN —Here’s how the next 10 items beyond our chart line up:

• $51,824 on 84 bids: 2003-04 Upper Deck SP Limited Rookie Authentics LeBron James Level 1 Gold, #32/50, auto (SGC 9.5)

• $51,100 on 46 bids: 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan (SGC 10)

• $50,100 on 53 bids: 2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection Michael Jordan Scripted Swatches, #6/25, auto patch (BGS 9.5)

$40,247 on 84 bids: 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan (BGS 9.5)

$38,700 on 36 bids: 1998-99 Upper Deck SP Authentic Michael Jordan Sign of the Times (die-cut), auto (BGS 9.5)

$38,099 on 51 bids: 2009 Bowman Chrome Mike Trout Refractor, #406/500, auto (BGS 10)

$34,858 on 61 bids: 2000 Upper Deck Tom Brady, #1111/1250 (PSA 10)

$34,600 on 37 bids: 1984-85 Star Michael Jordan (BGS 9)

$33,900 on 88 bids:1986-87 Fleer Sticker Michael Jordan (PSA 10)

$32,177 on 77 bids: 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan (BGS 9.5)

To complement our lead item, we’ll note the rising value of Michael Jordan’s sticker from Fleer’s 1986-87 set. We can expect to see that insert ride on the coattails of Jordan’s base card. Besides the one on this list, we also saw one soar to $25,544 on 79 bids.

Meanwhile, remember that Jordan was one of only 11 players featured in Fleer’s 1986-87 sticker subset. The others included Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Julius Erving, Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon and Dominique Wilkins. We’ve seen examples of cards of these players sell for upwards of $1,000, if in 10 condition, with Bird, Magic, and Kareem around $1,500. Stickers of the other three players in the set—Alex English, Adrian Dantley and Isiah Thomas—tend to go for around $300 to $700 if in Mint condition.

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RICE ON THE RISE — It’s hard to argue the point that Jerry Rice is the NFL’s all-time greatest receiver. Legends like Don Hutson, Lance Alworth and Ray Berry will always be in the conversation, as will more recent stars like Calvin Johnson, Terrell Owens and Randy Moss, not to mention the still-active Larry Fitzgerald. But Rice has plenty of numbers to back up his case: most career yards from scrimmage (23,540), most receiving yards (22,895), most touchdowns scored (208), most receiving touchdowns (197), most receptions (1,549) and on and on.

Rice certainly tops the list of most collectible wide receivers. We were reminded of that much in May, when a PSA 10-graded specimen of his rookie card, a 1986 Topps, sold for $31,655 on 47 bids.

Just last month, a PSA 10 example of the same card sold for $24,700 on 43 bids. Drop down to a grade of 9 and prices usually land in the $1,500 to $2,000 range.

A BIT OF BASEBALL —For a little taste of baseball, we’ll give some space to one of the game’s unique and most effective hitters: Tyrus Raymond Cobb. His stats are otherworldly: Using that odd batting grip—hands held a couple inches apart on the bat—he had a career average of .366 average (best in baseball history) and scored 2,245 runs while stealing 897 bases in 24 years.

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His name comes up because of a May listing on eBay: a T206 Ty Cobb tobacco card in impressive condition. Graded 7 by PSA, the card (originally issued between 1909 and 1911) drew 47 bids and rose to $30,100. The front of the card features a Cobb portrait against a red background. It’s backed by a Sweet Caporal ad.