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1984 Star Basketball Set

Outside of the "Big Three", the 1984 Star Basketball set is by far one of the most intriguing and iconic sets within the hard-court segment of the hobby. It's small print run, limited distribution, non-traditional packing, and inclusion of the three earliest, NBA-licensed, Michael Jordan cards have made it not only one of the most highly sought after sets, but also one of the most controversial. So before embarking on the hunt for any of these vintage (or should I say possibly vintage) treasures, be warned, your journey will be rife with danger and villains, out to separate you from your hard earned dollars, around every turn. The task is not without its rewards though. Those blessed with a keen eye and a healthy dose of luck may just find themselves in possession of some of the most desirable cardboard ever cut.

With Topps on the bench for the early part of the 1980's, and Fleer still several years from getting in the game, Star Co. debuted their inaugural set in 1983-84. It wasn't until the following year though, with an assist from a high-flying rookie from North Carolina, and a very unique way of marketing and selling their product, did the upstart manufacturer start to turn heads. They eschewed the release of traditional complete sets and bucked the time tested practice of filling their packs with random cards, and instead challenged collectors young and old to complete the entire 288-card grouping of base cards one 10-14 card polybag sealed team set at a time. Efficient as that might sound, it certainly removed the excitement from opening a pack of cards, especially when those team sets were packaged in identical order. So those looking, for say, the Houston Rockets team set could rest assured knowing that when they found it, Akeem (pre-Hakeem) Olajuwon would be waiting to greet them as the first/top card each and every time.

Come to think of it, the true difficulty in constructing a complete set came from trying to locate the cards themselves, because as odd as their packaging was, the actual printing and distribution of the Star cards seemed to lack any rhyme or reason all together. To start, there just weren't that many put into circulation. Estimations of the total number of sets created during their production period have been speculated to be only as high as 8,000 - but could possibly be as low as a mere 3,000! The blame for such a conservative output doesn't lie solely on the small company's shoulders. There were budgetary constrictions, but the cold fact of it was that basketball just wasn't that popular at the time. If it were, Topps would have still been competing.

Still though, it wasn't just a needle in a haystack scenario, sometimes there wasn't even a needle at all, as entire regions of the country seem to have been ignored by the higher-ups at Star Co. and their master distributors. Cards were only made available through mail-order, promotional events, and a very, very select number of retailers.

Those who were fortunate enough to track down a team set or two were treated to an attractive and simply designed slice of cardboard featuring full color action images, framed by single color borders, in sync with the player's team color combo, a circular team logo, and the players name and team in white text. The crown jewel of this lot of course is the #101 Michael Jordan base rookie card that topped off the Chicago Bulls team set, followed closely by his 1984 Gold Medalist #195, and MJ's 1985 Rookie Of The Year #288. Other highlights include the earliest appearances of Hall of Famers Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Charles Barkley. As well as notable rookies Otis Thorpe, Sam Perkins, Craig Ehlo, Antoine Carr, and Alvin Robertson, along with established stars Kevin McHale and Dominique Wilkins.

While such a level of talent can't be disputed, some collectors have taken issue with the set itself. While most agree that these cards meet the industry's "true rookie" standards (1) being the player's first appearance on a card, (2) the card being officially licensed by the league that player is a part of, (3) that the card is part of a that company's regular set release, and (4) that the card must be made available to the general public, there is a very vocal contingent of hobbyists that argue that since the cards weren't distributed randomly in packs they should be considered part of a special set, and as we all know, such cards can't be considered "true rookies". Adding to their defense is the fact that long ago, Beckett branded these cards with the "XRC" label, a fact which supporters of the 1986-87 Fleer Jordan rookie just won't let go of. Cooler heads realize that this was a designation made by Beckett alone, years before the definition of "XRC" was truly understood, and should be given the same respect as the opinion of any individual collector. No more and no less. Opinions aside though, all agree that the real concern over 1984-85 Star set is the existence of numerous counterfeits and reprints that can be traced back to the very top of the company.

Despite the inherent risk, prices and demand for authentic parts of the 1984-85 set are at an all-time high. Just recently, the only #101 Michael Jordan ever to be graded 9.5 by BGS, the only grading service of note still evaluating Star cards, sold privately for $51,000. So with the possibility of unearthing a payday like that, no one can be blamed for trying to get their hands on a high quality specimen. Just be sure to keep an eye out for a few of the tell tale signs of a fake. First, look for is a noticeably thicker border on the card's face, that border may also be the wrong color. Other giveaways would be a glossy finish that only a reprint would have, while some poorly done counterfeits sport blurred images that make them relatively easy to identify, and finally, some cards were deliberately marked as reprints on back.

Curious to find out if you're holding the real deal? In the market to buy or sell authentic Star material? Give us a call today and have one of our experts evaluate your 1984-85 Star Co. cards whether it's just a single card or several hundred pieces. Just Collect offers industry respected advice and a full range of consignment and selling options. Appointments are available at any of our offices, and personal visits can be arranged depending on the size and value of the collection.

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