Sports Collectors Daily

1987-88 Fleer Basketball Set Rising in Value

The 1987-88 Fleer Basketball set was the company’s second issue after it obtained an NBA trading card license in 1986.  While not filled with impact rookie cards, the set has been growing in value as collectors seek out Michael Jordan’s second year card.

When a price gets too high for something, collectors and investors will instinctively go to the next logical item.  For basketball card collectors priced out of the market for MJ rookies or for those who have one and want to continue building their player collection, the next thing is his 1987-88 Fleer card.

There may not be an amazing rookie class in this Fleer set but along with Jordan you’ll find all of the other superstars of the NBA of the 1980s including cards that are considered ‘second year’ examples of players who made their trading card debuts in 1986 like Charles Barkley, Clyde Drexler, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, Dominique Wilkins and James Worthy.

Fleer put 36 packs in a box with 12 cards and one sticker per pack.

The backs of the cards are very similar to the previous year, while the front design of the 1987-88 cards uses team colors to highlight the team name at the top of the card.  The Bulls are red, the Lakers are purple and gold, and the Jazz get three colors with purple, yellow and green.

Once again, the 132-card set is in alphabetical order with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar leading off and Fleer again added an 11-player sticker insert set.  Instead of having larger borders on the top and bottom like the cards, the stickers have a longer look with only a larger border along the left side.  Red, white and blue colors highlight the front of the card.

One reason people are spending $4,000-$5,000 for an unopened box is to land gradeable Jordan cards.  Interestingly, there are only 128 1987-88 Fleer Jordan cards graded ‘10’ by PSA compared to 225 from the year before.

High grade stickers are even more scarce. There have only been 17 Jordan stickers graded at PSA 10.  A recent eBay sale of a PSA 10 Dominique Wilkins sticker reached the price of $1,700.

While it will never be as important to NBA card collectors as the 1986-87 Fleer set, ’87-88 Fleer does have most of the same players and at a lower cost.

Here’s a look at 10 of the best 1987-88 Fleer Basketball cards.

  1. 1986-87 Fleer #49 Ron Harper rookie
    When he arrived in the NBA he was high-flying and high-scoring.  Harper was a star from the get-go and averaged 18 points per game for all but one of his first nine seasons.  Later, he would be an excellent role player for the Bulls and Lakers and earn five championship rings.  There wasn’t a lot of action on the rookie card of the “Ohio Flyer”, who is pictured shooting a free throw.
  1. 1987-88 Fleer #35 Julius Erving
    Sort of like the 1969 Topps Mickey Mantle, this card is something for Dr. J collectors to put a bow on his career.  Something you may have missed:  In what was his last year, 1986-87, Erving played shooting guard a lot as the 76ers started Barkley and another forward up front, Roy Hinson or the original Cliff Robinson, so Erving’s position on his card is listed as guard instead of the usual forward.
  1. 1987-88 Fleer #42 A.C. Green rookie 
    A great picture, this one features an overhead shot of the basket at the Boston Garden.  Green is battling inside against Bird and Greg Kite.  Green didn’t just win NBA titles; he set the record for consecutive games played with 1,192.
  1. 1987-88 Fleer #118 Dominique Wilkins
    The Human Highlight Film has gone through and over the defense and is about to score in another great photo from this set.  It’s Wilkins’ second appearance on a trading card.
  1. 1987-88 Fleer #106 Isiah Thomas
    The Bad Boys were just about to become the best team in the NBA when this set was produced, and Thomas was the leader on the floor for the Pistons.  You can own a mint copy for under $15.
  1. 1987-88 Fleer #25 Brad Daugherty rookie 
    Daugherty went first in the 1986 NBA Draft, and his career scoring average is far above any others picked that year, a list that includes Detlef Schrempf and Chuck Person.  Daugherty averaged 19 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists in a career that is often overlooked, but the Cavs just had the unfortunate luck of running into Jordan and the Bulls in the playoffs which kept Daugherty, Mark Price and the Cavaliers from achieving more.
  1. 1987-88 Fleer #56 Magic Johnson
    He was the MVP of the league back then, and on his card he is directing “Showtime” as he looks to make the right pass.  Another Hall of Famer whose Fleer cards are generally inexpensive. 
  1. 1987-88 Fleer #11 Larry Bird 
    Bird’s 1987-88 Fleer card is pricey at the higher-end with mint, graded examples a little hard to find. This card came just after the peak of his career, as he was the MVP three consecutive years in the mid 1980s.  It also shows the big rivalry of the time, as Bird is playing against the Lakers and Kurt Rambis.  The photo on his sticker shows him battling Kareem.
  1. 1987-88 Fleer Stickers #2 Michael Jordan
    Who knows how many Jordan stickers were peeled and stuck on something.  Today, the ’87-88 Fleer Jordan sticker is $200 and up for a 9 with an 8 available for under $50.
  1. 1987-88 Fleer #59 Michael Jordan
    On his sticker he is listed as a guard, and on his card he is a guard-forward.  He could do it all back then and on the picture on the front he is running the Chicago offense.  The back of the card shows his statistics from his first three NBA seasons:  3,041 points in 1986-87, for an average of 37.1 a game, were numbers that had not been seen since Wilt Chamberlain.  This one has him in the current-look Bulls uniform compared to the older one that Jordan wears on his rookie card.  Prices for 1987-88 Fleer Jordan cards have been volatile.  Expect to pay over $200—and possibly much more—for a 9 with 8s at $100-$150.  In the past three years, Jordan’s PSA 10 1987-88 Fleer card has tripled in price, with recent sales at over $3,000. Its relatively small scope has made grading the entire set–or at least the Jordan cards– realistic, but not everyone wants to invest the time or funds.  Complete, ungraded sets with a nice Jordan card and sticker can still be found for $300-$400.  If price trends continue, that could be a long-term bargain.