Basketball Memorabilia Market Still Dominated By You Know Who

It pays to be King.  While ‘King James’ may be dominating the current NBA landscape, there’s really no comparison to the man who paved the way for LeBron and today’s generation of players.

Forever there will be on-the-court comparisons to Michael Jordan, and arguments may ensue over the best NBA player of all-time  —  forever.  With players like Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell so dominant in years gone by, and others would even argue Oscar Robertson was the best all-around player to ever touch a ball.  There will always be discussions.

But when it comes to talking about the face of the NBA, there’s no discussion necessary.  There’s no question that Michael Jordan continues to be that face of the Jordan Star Co. 1985league even long after his days on the court passed us all by.  And while the rest of the sporting world was abuzz with Jordan talk after his 50th birthday celebration over the weekend, the collecting market feels his presence everyday.  He is always a top seller.

Jordan’s influence is so prevalent in the minds of true diehard fans, that there is even a Facebook page (240+ likes) calling for the NBA to change the league logo from Jerry West’s silhouette to Michael Jordan.

michael-jordan-320And while a change to the National Basketball Association BRAND might seem outrageous to some, Michael Jordan did help build the NBA brand that we know today.  In fact, HIS OWN brand, is larger than life.  But I’ll leave ESPN and Sports Illustrated to wax poetic about his impact on society and the game.

SI is celebrating Jordan’s 50th birthday with his record 50th appearance on the cover.

ESPN is spending a couple weeks celebrating His Airness with countless hours of coverage, with a recap listed here (a major omission in ESPN’s coverage of his influence is glaring:  no mention of the collectible scene).

But with every writer in America jotting down a few thoughts about Jordan’s impact on basketball, marketing, pop culture, and the sporting world, after his 50th birthday passes he will again slide into the background.

Meanwhile, collectors never waver in their fervor for the arguably the most clutch athlete in American history.  A simple social test shows just how popular Jordan still is today.

In the sports memorabilia category on eBay, which includes trading cards, a quick search of sold listings for LeBron James results in around 18,000 SOLD listings from mid-October 2012 to mid-February 2013.  In fact, here’s a list of players that we’d all guess would be at the top of this list (approximate numbers):

Mid-October 2012 – Mid-February 2013

5,500    Magic Johnson
6,000    Larry Bird
7,000    Kevin Durant
8,500    Shaquille O’Neal
18,000  LeBron James
23,000  Kobe Bryant
50,641  Michael Jordan

Peyton Manning was one of the leaders for the NFL with around 24,000 listings.  Jordan has MORE THAN DOUBLE the amount of sold listings than even the most popular current athletes.  It doesn’t take a statistical genius to realize that more product is available with Jordan’s name than any kind of athlete in history.

Jordan It’s no surprise that a BGS 10 version of his 1986-87 Fleer rookie card reportedly sold for $100,000.00 in 2011.   A PSA or BGS 8 generally goes in the $800-$1,200 range and anything graded above that is subject to heavy scrutiny and wide price ranges depending on the quality and collector.  Many counterfeit versions are floating around out there, so buyers must beware.

Personally, I’ve always preferred his unofficial 1984-85 STAR RC, and many consider it more of a true RC, even though the 86-87 Fleer is widely accepted as such since no mainstream sets hit the market during Jordan’s first couple years in the league.  If we only knew then…

Of course, his tour in minor league baseball flooded the market with ‘other’ rookie cards of his, that were certainly popular and overprinted at the time.  He is definitely still MJbaseballhallowed as the best ‘worst’ minor league baseball player to step on a diamond.

MJ keeps a pretty low profile nowadays for one of the most recognizable athletes, or people for that matter, on the planet.  Of course, for his 50th birthday celebration, there was a massive gala in Houston where the All-star game was played.

Now, timing has a lot to do with everything in life, and Jordan happened to come along during a time when commercialism and marketing were reaching levels never seen before.  Magic and Bird left a great foundation for him, and the stage was set for him to be the most coveted, and most collected athlete of all-time.

So as collectors we’ll let all the ‘mainstream’ media and people enjoy their trip down memory lane with Michael as he celebrates the big Five-O.  The beauty of living in the memorabilia business, is that everyone is nostalgic, and you get to re-live those moments as frequent as you’d like.