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1984-85 Star Company Basketball Introduced NBA Icons

Two years after Topps got out of the basketball card business for an extended nap, Star became the official supplier for the NBA.  They also brought a new concept of sealed team bags, and other sets, instead of packs of random cards.  Star cards may have been hard to find at the time, but today all but the rarest cards are easy to track down.  The 1984-85 Star set has plenty of fans due to the rookie class that included the Chicago Bulls’ Michael Jordan.

While most consider Jordan’s 1986-87 Fleer to be his rookie card, there’s no doubt the first licensed card showing him as an NBA player is the 1984-85 #101 card in the Star set. True Jordan collectors usually have it on their want list.  They should also take the safe option and only purchase a graded Jordan card as fakes have been exposed in the marketplace.

1984-85 Star JordanThe 1984-85 Star Jordan card shows him grabbing a rebound, and as it is the top card in the sealed sets, meaning collectors can have a look at its centering even when in the team bag.  A sealed set sold on eBay recently for nearly $6,000.  Some of the prices for graded Jordan singles have included a BGS 9 for $5,355, several BGS 8.5s for around $2,750 and BGS 7.5 for $1,330.

Charles Barkley was very popular with card collectors when he led the Suns to the finals, and his television career has kept him in the spotlight.  There are still collectors searching for his early cards.  Barkley’s ’84-85 Star card came in the Philadelphia 76ers team bag which had other stars like Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Maurice Cheeks and Bobby Jones.  Collectors after Barkley’s first basketball card had a choice on eBay recently:  a graded BGS 9 Barkley sold for $250 while a sealed 76ers team bag went for a similar price.

J1984-85 Star John Stocktonohn Stockton’s Star card makes a big case for these cards to be called rookie cards.  Stockton had cards in 1984-85 and 1985-86 Star but it wouldn’t be until 1988 when he showed up on the more widely distributed Fleer issues.  The 1988-89 Fleer card is often called his rookie card but the truth is he’d been a veteran for four years when it hit the market.  The NBA’s leader in assists and steals still has fans and $1,100 was paid recently for a Stockton Star rookie card graded BGS 9.5.  Several ungraded Stocktons sold for around $80 each.

Akeem Olajuwon, who appears before he changed the spelling of his name to Hakeem Olajuwon, also has his first NBA card in 1984-85 Star.  Unlike the team bags with Barkley and Stockton, Olajuwon is the first card in the Houston sealed bag so when $229.97 and $177.50 was paid for the sets on eBay the buyers had an idea of the Olajuwon’s condition and centering.  Three BGS 8.5 Olajuwon cards sold for around $350 each.

The first NBA cards of Otis Thorpe, Sam Perkins, Craig Ehlo, Michael Cage, Sam Bowie, Antoine Carr and Alvin Robertson are also in this Star set.  Just as Bowie had a strange career, his card is also a bit odd as he is standing to the side and the crowd takes up a lot of the picture.  The card is available for around $5.  Of course there are important cards of veterans too, like Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Clyde Drexler, Kevin McHale and Dominique Wilkins.

All of the Star cards produced during their three years as the official NBA cards share a similar design.  The front has a large picture of the player with the team, or other, logo on the bottom left corner, the name of the player along the bottom and the Star logo and year up the top right.  The back of the cards has statistics, or biographical data for some of the cards in the smaller sets, as well as player information and logos of the NBA and the Players Association.

Slam Dunk Michael JordanThe flagship Star set was joined by other issues released throughout 1984-85.  Among the many smaller sets that Star made that year, the All-Stars and Slam Dunk sets are the ones that collectors want due to the players included inside the sealed bags.  There is a Michael Jordan card in each set.  The 1985 Star Gatorade Slam Dunk set has Jordan, Wilkins, Nance, Erving and other high-fliers.  The 1985 Star Lite All-Stars and 1985 Star Crunch ‘N’ Munch All-Stars sets are very similar, the former does include cards of two coaches while the latter set can sell for slightly higher prices.

There was also a Jordan card in the 1985 Star Last 11 ROY’s set.  The Jordan and Larry Bird cards provide the value in the set, as the other Rookie of the Year recipients during those times didn’t have a lot of popularity among card collectors.  Adrian Dantley, Buck Williams, Ralph Sampson and Alvan Adams are some of the other players in the set.

The three biggest NBA teams in the first half of the 1980s were the Celtics, Lakers and 76ers.  Star made five sealed team sets for distribution on trading card nights at arenas including the Milwaukee Bucks and Dallas Mavericks.  Don Nelson’s Bucks were close to being an elite team, beating the Celtics in the 1983 NBA Playoffs and the Hawks and Nets in the 1984 post-season, but the Star Bucks set was not full of stars that collectors wanted.  The Dallas Mavericks did get deep into the playoffs with young stars Derek Harper, Rolando Blackman and Mark Aguirre but that hasn’t made their card set an expensive one.

Star also made two sealed player sets, one for a veteran who received passes from a magician, and one for a physician who was still operating but not quite at his highest level.  The master of the skyhook was honored with the 1985 Star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar set of 18 cards.  The Doctor operated on the other side of the country, Star Company Magic Johnsonfor the 76ers, and his career was celebrated with the 1984-85 Star Julius Erving set.

Star also released two sealed sets that featured themes that were not common then and still aren’t now among card collectors.  The 1985 Star Coaches set was a small set of 10 cards, with the card of Pat Riley being the most important.  There were 25 cards in the 1985 Star Schick Legends set, which featured retired players who would take to the floor during All-Star festivities.   The card of Pete Maravich is the most expensive.  Sealed Legends sets have sold for $50 and $35 recently.

Star Company also went big in 1985 with oversized, 5 X 7 cards.  There is a Jordan card in the 1985 Star Slam Dunk Supers, 1984-85 Star Court Kings and the Bulls set in 1984-85 Star Team Supers.  Other teams with large cards are the 76ers, Celtics, Bucks, Lakers, Pistons and Rockets.  A Court Kings Michael Jordan with the high grade of BGS 9.5 sold on eBay for $1,733.

They went all out that season 29 years ago and the 1984-85 Star Company basketball issues deserve whatever respect they get, whether or not you consider the Jordan issues his first real NBA cards.

Click here to see eBay listings for singles and sets.

About Rich Mueller

Rich is the editor and founder of Sports Collectors Daily. A broadcaster and writer for more than 30 years and a collector for even longer than that, he's usually typing something somewhere. Type him back at [email protected].

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