At the outset of the 1993-94 basketball season, Fleer Ultra stood as one of the more higher end products in the basketball card market. The base cards, subset cards and insert cards were generally well received. One of the most notable insert sets in the product that year was called Power in the Key. A flashy, foil tinged offering, the cards were typically found one per hobby box.
Just as the name indicates, Power in the Key features some of the most prominent powers in the NBA paint.
The colorful, deep, textured foil background and backdrop of the card front features an eye catching and artistic basketball court key.
The foreground of the card offers a sharp, etched photo of the player featured. A foil 1993-94 Fleer Ultra logo is found in an upper corner of the card as is the Power in the Key logo. The player’s name is found in foil in a lower corner of the card.
As you can imagine, these cards are very condition sensitive with all of the foil, textures and potential surface challenges.
The card acks are non-foil and horizontal. They offer a similar style backdrop minus the textured foil matching. There is an up close in-action shot of the player and, on the opposite side of the card back, a text box with the Power in the Key logo, the player’s name and a brief paragraph explaining why that player was such a terror in the paint.
The first card in the set features powerful forward Larry Johnson, certainly a guy who deserves to be to be towards the top of a set with this kind of theme. The card shows Grandmama dribbling the ball up the court in his signature Cons kicks and in a classic Charlotte Hornets pinstriped uniform.
The second card is Michael Jordan, who was a force all over the court, including the key. Jordan is seen posting up, ball in both hands and in his home Chicago Bulls gear. The star of the set, this card is among the many desirable Jordan inserts today.
Utah Jazz all time great Karl Malone is the third card in the set. The Mailman is as worthy as anyone and should be towards the top of any conversation in regard to not only current powers in the paint but all time great powerful players near the rim.
Phoenix Suns big man Oliver Miller is the fourth card in the product. Although younger fans may not remember Miller very fondly, he was a versatile big man and a physical presence, tipping the scale nearly 300 pounds. While he battled weight problems in his well traveled career, he had feathery touch, a high IQ and a well rounded game, no pun intended. He was even a part of a brief Nike campaign and became known as ‘All Over Miller’
A second Charlotte Hornet makes an appearance early in the Power in the Key set. Second year center Alonzo Mourning also fits the bill and is a great choice as one of the players who is a monster near the rim. Zo is seen with his back to the basket as he looks to make a final move.
Houston Rockets Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon is card #6. Again, another no brainer to be included in a set focused on near the rim monsters. The Dream is seen with the ball in his right hand and in what appears to be mid Dream Shake.
The man that this set could be named after is found as the seventh card: Shaquille O’Neal certainly stands among the NBA’s most powerful paint performers– force like we hadn’t seen before or since.
One of the more underrated and unsung heroes of the era shows up as the eighth card in the set. Houston Rockets forward Otis Thorpe was a key component to the Houston Rockets championships during the Michael Jordan-less NBA of the mid-90s. Ever reliable on the boards, Thorpe is a worthy selection in this set.
The final card in the set features Chris Webber–a big man with speed, touch and point guard attributes. Webber was a revelation in the Golden State. The Hall of Famer is a more than worthy addition to round out this set.
Power in the Key isn’t among the most expensive insert sets of the time, but it’s not dirt cheap either. Some of the lesser known players and semi stars can be found raw for 10 bucks or less. The Michael Jordan card sold in raw form in respectable condition will bring about $80 or a touch more. The Shaq in decent shape, will pull about $30.
High grade copies of any of these cards will obviously run more. PSA 9 Jordan slabs have been selling between $500 and $800. A PSA 9 copis of the Jordan card have generally been selling in the $800-$1,000 range.
You can check current inventory and pricing on eBay here.
Fleer would produce another Power in the Key set in 1994-95 but Jordan wasn’t included.
With the relative scarcity, the condition sensitivity and the appetite for basketball inserts of the era, the 1993-94 Ultra Power in the Key set has a secure place in the basketball card market.