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Which is more valuable? A Michael Jordan rookie card, or a 1986-87 Fleer wax pack featuring Jordan?

Michael Jordan rookie cards are still highly sought after and attracting big dollars. But what about wax packs with a Jordan rookie?

The rise in value of Michael Jordan’s rookie card the past two years has made sealed wax packs and boxes of the 1986-87 Fleer Basketball set particularly attractive and raises an intriguing question.

Do you open the wax in pursuit of a Jordan rookie, or keep it sealed?

Online Auctioneer Larry Canale recently examined the issue in the Aug. 1 edition of Sports Collectors Digest. His monthly Top 10 Chart and “next 10” list included both Jordan rookies and a 1986-87 Fleer complete set.

The complete set sold recently on eBay for $33,100, while four individual Jordan rookies from the same set all sold for thousands more.

“On the surface, of course, it doesn’t make sense,” Canale wrote. “The grades are slightly different, and that may have an impact — even with a difference of just a half-point.”

According to Canale, each of the Jordan individual Fleer rookies was graded BGS 9.5; the Jordan rook included in the 1986-87 complete set was a PSA 9. (On the other hand, he wrote, keep in mind that PSA cards often draw a slightly higher premium than same-grade cards assessed by another grading company.)

According to Canale, the Fleer complete set graded PSA 9 is a “much more sensible buy” at $33,100. The four PSA 9.5 rookie cards sold for: $40,112, $38,044, $37,150 and $35,101.

1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan rookie card graded BGS 9.5.

1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan rookie card graded BGS 9.5.

“So, for anywhere from $2,000 to $7,000 less, the buyer of the complete set got not only a PSA 9 Jordan but PSA 9-grade cards of 131 other players,” Canale wrote.

Also See: How the Topps 1952 Mantle became the hobby's most iconic card 

The 1986-87 Fleer set is filled with Hall of Famers, including Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Adrian Dantley, Joe Dumars, Patrick Ewing, Julius Erving, Dennis Johnson, Magic Johnson, Karl Malone, Moses Malone, Kevin McHale, Akeem Olajuwon and Robert Parrish.

What if you were considering a 1986-87 Fleer complete set that you knew included a Jordan rookie?

PWCC Marketplace has such a case with a 1986 Fleer Basketball Wax Pack graded PSA 7 in its latest Premier Auction. Jordan's famed #57 rookie card is visible at the top of the encased wax pack. The condition of the card is unknown but the pack is graded overall NRMT. The pack has a current bid of $11,000 with three days remaining in the auction.

1986-87 Fleer Basketball wax pack with a Michael Jordan rookie card on top.

1986-87 Fleer Basketball wax pack with a Michael Jordan rookie card on top.

Only a handful of 1986 Fleer wax packs which hold a Jordan rookie on the top exist. PSA’s population report lists a total of 18 packs graded with the “Michael Jordan-Top” designation.

According to PWCC, of the 21,456 specimens graded by PSA, 53.6 percent received a grade of 8 or better. PSA has graded 319 to a Gem Mint 10. The Beckett report is similar with 57 percent of graded items receiving an 8 or better. Of those, 531 received a Gem Mint 9.5 and 6 received a Pristine 10.

Back of a 1986 Fleer Basketball wax pack that features a Michael Jordan rookie card.

The back of a 1986-87 Fleer Basketball wax pack with a Michael Jordan rookie card on top.

Also See: Condition matters — unless it's a 1952 Mantle 

Of course, many of those grades came from cards that were unlikely to have been pulled from fresh packs, especially one graded Near Mint.

The PWCC pack also features a Hakeem Olajuwon rookie sticker on the reverse side. 

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