Magic Johnson and Larry Bird got the ball rolling at the start of the NBA's "golden age", but it wasn't until 1984 when a rookie out of the University of North Carolina picked that ball up and tomahawked it down on the league, that the era truly began. Michael Jordan entered the league as a top prospect with a bright future. By the end of his rookie year, that outlook was revised to include him being a potential offensive juggernaut. By the turn of the century, he would own six rings, and no one could argue that he was the greatest player to ever walk the earth.
Such leaps and bounds took more than other-worldly athletic ability. They took sacrifice, drive, and a marketing campaign like no other in the history of professional sports. Jordan made it look easy though, and with the help of Nike, he turned basketball into a global game, made a simple pair of sneakers into a status symbol, and made an entire generation want to "be like Mike". It's no wonder that people vie for a piece of his greatness whether it be in the form of an autograph, a photo, a game used jersey, or a basketball card. Each of those prizes comes in a variety of forms, but it's the complexities of the card offerings that we'll be discussing.
Featuring Jordan in a classic, poster-worthy dunk shot, the 1986 Fleer card is the most sought after of all Michael Jordan rookie cards. Reason being, it is his only NBA licensed, base set issued rookie card. By that standard, the powers that be, have ordained it his "true" rookie, despite the fact that MJ had appeared on other cards prior. It's value has more than tripled since 2007, and high grade specimens have consistently returned six figure sales prices at auction. Incredibly, this trend has little to do with scarcity either. There have been hundreds of these cards submitted for grading, yet despite that fact Jordan's popularity is such that even in those relatively great numbers, the public demand just cannot be satisfied.
The 1986-87 Fleer Sticker Michael Jordan #8 was part of an eleven piece subset that was included in packs as an bonus of sorts to the regular 12-card mix. It shows Jordan in an entirely different pose than the one he is seen in on his standard card and as such, it has become an economical way to add another unique Michael Jordan rookie card to your collection. Being part of the licensed Fleer set, these too have experienced a remarkable run up in recent years. Especially those specimens that display outstanding centering and shape, as mis-cuts were a common problem during manufacturing. Scarcity, as with all sticker products, is the another issue that's forcing the prices north. Unlike the cards, stickers could be pulled from their backings and used to decorate everything from albums to automobile bumpers, so of course they were. That's just what kids do, and the result was a large number of the total production run was thoughtlessly destroyed in this way years ago.
The 1984-85 Star Company Michael Jordan XRC #101 Jordan rookie marks the earliest known appearance by "His Airness", and has been the subject of endless debate for the past thirty years. Hard core enthusiasts on each side have an unshakable stance on whether this card should be considered his "true" rookie and not his 1986 Fleer card. The unofficial governing body of card collecting has technically defined it as an extended rookie card due to its limited distribution and the fact that the card was distributed in a team pack thereby eliminating any question as to what players would be included within. It's still a fine looking card, and we appreciate both the design and the image of the fresher faced MJ. Truth be told though, we do side with the those who favor the '86 Fleer version as the Real McCoy. If for no other reason than the frightening number of counterfeit Star cards floating around out there. Reports of reprints by the company itself in the early 1990's along with other shady repros is enough to scare conservative collectors away and prevent the card from truly achieving it's potential value. That aside, a genuine high-grade '84 Star Jordan is a solid investment and who knows....popular opinion might change one day and this could become the standard, his "true" rookie.
For those card hunters that are after bigger game, the 1985 Bulls Interlake single featuring Michael Jordan is quite literally just that. Measuring in at an extraordinary 5" x 7", this elusive MJ rookie was distributed via the Boy Scouts of America, in collaboration with the Interlake Youth Incentive Program, in the Chicago area the year of Jordan made his debut. This regional premium, showcasing one of the earliest flashes of Michael's signature tongue, had an extremely limited release and is by far the rarest of the Jordan rookie bunch. Again though, since it wasn't an officially licensed NBA product, it's scarcity is not properly reflected by it's price. It still has benefited from the same surge that has carried other Jordan related material to new heights and it's a "must-have" for any serious collector of Jordan cards.
There's money to be made in the modern cards as well. One of the biggest stories in the hobby in recent years has been that of the 1997-98 Metal Universe Precious Metal Gems, an eye-catching set of 123 cards, individually numbered to 1-100, the first ten cards of which own green backgrounds with the remaining 90 being red. For years it was overlooked and dismissed as a novelty item that appealed more to the comic book crowd than to card collecting purists. Eventually it would be given the respect it deserved for helping establish the market for colored parallels and serial numbered cards, but it wasn't until the last five years that the respect started to effect their prices realized. The card's reputation as an innovator, it's stunning design, and it's ultra-limited distribution suddenly struck a chord with collectors and prices took off...fast! Jordan's card #23 of course led the pack and in 2012 a high-grade specimen sold at auction for $41,000!
Further evidence that there is value beyond the vintage is the 1997-98 E-X2001 Jambalaya Michael Jordan. A perfect combination of style and substance, pop appeal and potential. Oval shaped, with a flashy foil background, several have sold on eBay for more than $3,000. Finally there's the 1997-98 Skybox Premium Star Rubies #235, which nearly topped the $10K mark the last time it came up for auction. It too was was released in an extremely limited quantity of 50 and it's look and scarcity has put it on the top of every collector's "wish list".
Those lists do get harder to fill though as demand continues to increase and the supply of quality material dwindles year by year. That's why we're currently paying top dollar for early and rare Jordan cards. Our team of experts is here to answer all of your questions and we welcome appointments at all of our offices nationwide. Think you have what collector's are looking for? Interested in learning more about what your Jordan cards are worth? Contact us today!
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