If you knew what was about to transpire, you would have paid closer attention. You would have gathered up tickets and stubs, secured programs and anything else you could grab from the game between the Chicago Bulls and Washington Bullets on October 26, 1984. There were expectations that came with being third pick of the 1984 NBA draft but no one could have predicted he would become one of the best known athletes in the world. His highest graded rookie and autograph cards sell for a mint but 30 years after his NBA debut, it’s still possible to not spend a fortune and still find some memorable and cheap Michael Jordan cards.
On the 30th anniversary of his pro debut is our list of 30 relatively inexpensive Jordan basketball cards to consider, most of which tell part of his story. Some are under $1, some are solid bargains for no more than $20 and also a few rarer inserts and autographs may cost a bit more. We tried to create a mix of solid value with cards that best represent various parts of MJ’s career. Click the title of each to see them on eBay.
Before there was the Fleer Michael Jordan rookie card, there were several years of Star NBA cards. Jordan’s first NBA card, #101 from 1984-85 won’t be found on a list of affordable Jordan cards but those from the 1986 Star Company set that focused on MJ are obtainable. Getting a graded version of these could still be the safe thing to do as there are fakes in the market. The #7 card in the set shows Jordan dunking. There are ten cards in the set, which was sold originally in a sealed bag.
Jordan’s card from the previous set is considered to be his rookie card and is one of the most famous basketball cards of all time. So if that is too expensive for a collector then this card from the 1987-88 Fleer set is something to consider.
One of Jordan’s cheapest basketball cards also explains why the 1990-91 season may have been his best. On the front is Jordan and the NBA championship trophy. On the back it says he had led the league in scoring for five years and had been an All-Star for seven years in a row but an even bigger achievement was winning his first NBA championship. Weird as it sounds, prior to the 1990s, there were whispers Jordan didn’t have what it took to lead Chicago to a title.
He had to become a stronger player to defeat the Pistons and their Bad Boys and he also improved his efficiency. This card represents the beginning of Jordan’s championship legacy. You can own this one for no more than a buck or two.
Jordan didn’t just win one Gold Medal with Team USA, he won a couple. Before the first, and really the only, Dream Team in 1992, he was a big part of the 1984 Olympic team’s win at home in L.A. Jordan collectors will find one small Michael Jordan card and two very large ones from the Golden Book and Skybox set. This card shows Jordan and the other players who were among the first ten selected for the Dream Team, with a background of a couple of large stars and red stripes and also USA Basketball and NBA logos. These fun little card packages cost next to nothing.
Basketball cards had been increasing in popularity, and rookie cards up to that time, like the Hoops rookie card of David Robinson, had been one big reason but the basketball card craze was about to be pushed along more due to lots of insert cards. This Jordan insert card was hard to find in 1992-93, having been part of a set only distributed in rack packs.
For those who wondered what a Topps rookie card of Michael Jordan would have looked like, the Archives set answered that question. Using designs baseball collectors will recognize, the set caught collectors up on the ‘missing years’ since Topps gave up basketball in 1981-82. The Gold version is a parallel card to the set. Even the gold version is less than $5 when not graded.
One of the famous insert sets of the 1990s was the Stadiuim Club Beam Team. Shaq’s card was even more popular than the Jordan at the time but this shot of a high flying MJ wasn’t far behind and these days it’s tops on the list. Those who couldn’t find one when the Stadium Club packs were being opened in 1992-93 can get a mint, graded example for under $75 these days.
An insert that was one of the best cards to find in a Fleer pack that year. A great design with two Jordan pictures on the front of a foil background, it was one of six in the insert set. Jordan retired, for the first time, after the 1992-93 season and in 1993-94 collectors thought they were buying some of the last ever Jordan cards. They were wrong about that. This one shouldn’t cost you more than $25.
If this was a list of expensive cards the Refractor parallel version of this card would be on it. The common Jordan card from the set is still one that collectors will want, representing the prime of his career and the dawn of what was quickly becoming an iconic Topps issue.
When Upper Deck entered basketball card manufacturing they made a statement with their hologram cards. The Jordan cards in the Upper Deck Award Winners hologram insert set from an earlier Upper Deck release were very popular at the time. The Holojam set came in a small box and had 36 cards. The Jordan card might be worth more than all the other cards combined.
There are thousands of basketball cards featuring Jordan, and a few baseball cards too. For a short amount of time in the mid 1990s, the Birmingham Barons were more famous than many Major League Baseball teams. Baseball fans will recognize Magglio Ordonez, Johnny Damon, Dmitri Young and other future stars in the set while basketball fans will just want the Jordan card. Jordan hit .202 for the Barons, he had 30 stolen bases in 48 attempts and hit three homers in his 127 games. Even if you don’t have fond recollections of MJ’s baseball dalliance, you have to admit it was interesting. Singles and sets are dirt cheap.
The companies that made basketball cards and the stores that sold the boxes and packs were very happy to see Jordan back in the NBA after his retirement and his baseball experiment. Something different that fans saw when he returned to the NBA was number 45 on his uniform. This insert card is one of the few cards with Jordan not wearing his usual 23. This card is a little hard to find, but isn’t expensive.
Jordan fans looking for something even more different can get the 1990-91 NBA Hoops #223 Sam Vincent card with Jordan pictured on it wearing number 12 on his uniform.
A parallel version to his #13 card in the oversized card set. No other Jordan card looks like this one, with the bottom of the card cut in a unique diagonal manner.
The striking parallel version to the Ultra cards that year. On the common card the background behind Jordan was the floor of the Bulls’ arena and a basket, but for the parallel card all of that was replaced by, not surprisingly, a gold medallion design. Great shot of a driving MJ.
Topps Stars was a set filled with the superstars of the past and the present of the NBA. It also had authorized reprints of rookie cards, like the Topps cards of Cousy, Chamberlain and Pettit. Topps also made new versions of old Star rookie cards and along with Stockton, Ewing, Drexler and others there was an official reprint of Jordan’s first NBA card.
1996-97 Space Jam Jordan’s Silver Screen #JS4
One of 15 cards in the insert set, but not all cards feature Jordan. This one shows Jordan dunking. Space Jam was a movie that Jordan starred in, alongside veterans of television and film Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and the voice of Danny DeVito. Larry Bird and Bill Murray also appeared in it.
Fleer wanted to also get into the business of reprinting Jordan’s early cards, and this card is an official reprint of his Fleer 1986-87 rookie card. Prices vary quite a bit, but unless it’s slabbed in a high grade, they’ll be less than $50.
Upper Deck went to holograms as a big part of their card design with this set. The Gold version is a parallel to the base card. It’s also more expensive but one of MJ’s more popular late career issues.
1996-97 UDA Chicago Bulls Commemorative Cards #NNO 1996 70 Wins
Upper Deck released a variety of cards with numbered print runs that celebrated the Bulls remarkable 72-10 season. On the front of one of them are Rodman, Jordan and Pippen while the back of the card has Steve Kerr, Luc Longley, Ron Harper and Toni Kukoc. The Bulls did assemble a quality team around Jordan for a low cost, via trades and free agency. Pippen was acquired for Olden Polynice, Rodman only cost backup center Will Perdue and Longley arrived in exchange for Stacey King. Harper and Kerr were free agents while Kukoc was a second round draft choice. This one is a tribute to one of the NBA’s all-time great teams.
This insert set sounds like it was named after Jordan. It is also one of the oddest shapes you’ll see. Not a rectangle, not a circle, the shape of the card is closer to a putting green when seen from above. This one will likely cost you more than $100, but the open-mouth image of a dunking Jordan and the crazy shape makes it worth having.
One of the parallel versions that Fleer had that year, not that they differed a lot from the common card. What makes this Jordan card one to find is the picture on it. He is flying high above the Knicks, something that happened a lot in the 1990s, with the picture being taken by a camera behind the backboard. If you’re looking for the quintessential image of 1990s NBA hoops, this might be it…and it’s under $10.
The Tiffany Collection parallel is a rarer version of the card to also look for.
One of those late 1990s insert sets that is rare but not as rare as things like Precious Metal Gems and Rubies. The Jordan High Voltage card has a mesmerizing design. For those with a larger amount of cash to spend there is also a numbered version serial numbered to 500.
A Jordan card that actually shows him moving and attacking the basket. By holding the card and tilting it, the 3-D style picture changed and showed Jordan driving to the rim. The insert version is usually under $35.
The Jordan Rave numbered cards in Z-Force might be too high in price for some collectors but the Quick Strike insert also has a distinctive look.
With Jordan retired, other card companies couldn’t make his cards but Upper Deck released a lot of Jordan card sets. They also put him into the 1999-00 Upper Deck HoloGrFX set as an insert. This is a sharp-looking card that reflects what was the growing technology in the card industry. Less than $10.
A Michael Jordan card collector will have all of the red, and black and white, of the Bulls and then a patch of blue cards. When Jordan returned to the NBA with the Washington Wizards it meant hundreds of new NBA cards, from all the basketball card manufacturers. This card has a picture of a driving Jordan on the right side of the card and a piece of a basketball court on the left side. Jordan was a Wizard in 2001-02 and 2002-03.
A Wizards card where the former Bull is wearing a Bullets jersey, the former name of the Washington franchise. What makes the card a useful piece of a Jordan collection is the back which contains the complete statistics for Jordan’sNBA career. He scored 32,292 points in his career, he shot 50.5% from the field as a Bull, he led the league in steals three times and Jordan had two seasons with more than 100 blocks. The common card and the Silver parallel are inexpensive and easy to find, but there are Gold and Black numbered versions too. A cardboard chronicle of MJ’s mind-boggling career.
Jordan jersey cards are usually far more expensive when compared to game-used cards of most other players. There are some Fleer and Upper Deck cards with small pieces of red, or white, uniform that are good value and won’t break the budget and this is one. You can get this one for $30-50. Just cross your fingers that’s actually a game-worn jersey piece.
There have been many Jordan cards produced recently with him pictured in his University of North Carolina uniform. Upper Deck has maintained their exclusive autograph deal with Jordan, despite no longer having an NBA trading card license. They’ve managed to get Jordan to sign quite a few cards lately and most feature him in his North Carolina uniform. It’s one way to get a Michael Jordan autograph at a reasonable price.
The Home Court Signatures card is exactly what its name says, as the card has a horizontal design of the UNC basketball court and Jordan’s signature is signed on it. Remarkably, these have enabled collectors to own a Michael Jordan autograph for sometimes less than $250, which hasn’t been possible for a very long time.