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Nike poster cards are a Michael Jordan treasure trove

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In 1982/83, Nike flooded sporting goods stores with low-cost posters of all the sports stars of the day. Many of these posters with their catchy titles and unique poses have become iconic symbols of their time. Since there were many different posters and they were difficult to display for customers, Nike made mini 5x7” “poster cards” for the stores to display. We think all Nike posters had an equivalent poster card which were produced in much smaller quantities, i.e. one per store. The poster cards were made of cardboard and had a hole punched in them so they could be attached to the plastic “counter top display” that Nike supplied. My own collection started when my high school age son was working at the local sporting goods store and would ask the Nike salesman for extras for his card collection.

Michael Jordan is certainly the athlete with the most Nike sports posters but other sports stars that got more than their share of posters included basketball players David Robinson and Charles Barkley, baseball player Nolan Ryan, two-sport star Bo Jackson, and tennis players Andre Agassi and John McEnroe. Posters also included “guest appearances” by the likes of Spike Lee, Little Richard, Super Dave Osborne and Billy Crystal.

None of the standard BB Card catalogs have check-listed this massive set. My numerous attempts to contact Nike for an official checklist of all the posters have been to no avail. We have determined the Nike numbers from their presence on the Nike poster cards and from the labeling on the outside of the unopened plastic bags containing the rolled-up posters. Many of us collectors, including Ron “Daytrader1122” Sevane, Bruce “ImaPacRat“ Fisher, Jeff Barrett and “Ortreasures_4,” have contributed to the checklist that we have developed over the past 20-plus years.

Numbering Scheme & Style Variations

These poster cards were strangely numbered 290201-290249 and 290801-291010

Three styles appear during the decade they were being issued, 1982-1992:

· Type 1 (B/B/H) - lack background, number and title on the ack, with punch ole

· Type 2 (B/B) - lack background, number and title on the ack, NO punch hole

· Type 3 (W/F) - hite background, number and title on the ront, NO punch hole

The initial poster cards issued in 1983/83 were all printed on cardboard, had a black background and were named and numbered on the back. The first poster card was for the poster “Supreme Court” showing 17 of the star basketball players of the day dressed up like judges (Photo 2). Printed on the back was Nike number 290201 and the title “Supreme Court.” Collectors have come to identify these poster cards by their last three digits, i.e. Supreme Court is known as 201 and this is how PSA labels them for grading.

Photo 2

Photo 2

290249, the last of the 290200 series is the Ryne Sandberg poster “Cornerstone.” (Photo 3) There are currently eight missing numbers in this sequence (203, 205, 207, 209, 210, 215, 216, 236) that no one has yet identified.

Photo 3

Photo 3

After 290249 the numbering mysteriously picks up with 290800s. The early 290800s are printed on thinner stock and have no punch hole.

We have concluded that the punch holes were eliminated because of the new type of display being provided by Nike (Photo 4). The floor model display is shown in the figure, with slots for the poster cards and the actual poster tubes inserted behind them. During the period of ~1988 to 1991, Nike converted stores to their floor model display and converted over the poster cards from black background with punch holes to black backgrounds without punch holes to white backgrounds with info on the front.

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The latter two styles (Type 2 B/B; Type 3 W/F) are exemplified by the two variations of the 290983 Nolan Ryan poster “Texas Ranger.” (Photos 5, 6)

Photo 5 

Photo 5 

Photo 6 

Photo 6 

Michael Jordan – Nike Poster Star

In April 1985, Nike released the first Air Jordans. Nike quickly started using Jordan posters as part of its “Air Jordan” advertising campaign. The first two posters that came out were Type 1, “Air Jordan” 290850 (Photo 7) and “Freeze Frame” 290851. (Photo 8) The iconic 290250 “Air Jordan” is considered by many to be Jordan’s true rookie card since it clearly was available before his 1986 Fleer card. These were followed by “Blue and Black” 290858 which shows Jordan on an airport runway, “Imagination” 290267 another slow-motion dunk poster, and “Shirts and Skins” 290868 showing Jordan in a pick-up game in a playground

Photo 7

Photo 7

Photo 8 

Photo 8 

For a 1988-1989 promotion, Jordan joined fictional character “Mars Blackmon” (Spike Lee from the 1986 movie “She’s Gotta Have it”) for the iconic poster “Is it the Shoes?” which came in both black and a white variation (290837 and 290838). This was followed by further Jordan/Lee team-ups in 290848 “Orbit,” 290874 “Earth/Mars” (Photo 9), and 290888 “High Flyin’ 360.”

Photo 9

Photo 9

In 1988, Jordan “MVP” was issued as a blank back but we know its Nike number is 290883 (Photo 10) from Nike catalogs issued at the time. Next came Type 2 “Playground” 290991 and Type 3 “Reverse Dunk” 290909, and “Slam & Jam” 290922 around 1991.

Photo 10

Photo 10

In 290946, Jordan appears as cartoon figure “Super Jordan.” In 290248, Jordan, Spike Lee and 1950s rock-n-roller Little Richard teamed up for the iconic poster Genie. 290994 depicted Jordan in the poster “Evolution,” and 1992 Jordan posters included “Sky Jordan” 291002 (Photo 11), “Jordan Cloud” 291003, and “Art of the Dunk” 291005. There is also the Jordan and Buggs bunny poster 291001. (Photo 12)

Photo 11

Photo 11

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Lastly, we should mention the iconic Jordan poster “Wings.” It is listed in the Nike 1991 catalog as 292335. (Photo 13) These are the 22 Jordan Nike posters that we are aware of during this period.

Photo 13

Photo 13

Our complete checklist can be found below.

If you have comments or contributions to this check list please contact me at philgarrou@att.net.

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