One collector’s 34-year obsession with basketball cards—and 1980s Fleer in particular—is on display inside a unique run of the hobby’s hottest card now up for auction.
Wheatland Auctions is offering a run of Michael Jordan rookie cards—10 in all—including a run of cards in every grade, from PSA 1-8, all consigned by one avid 1986-87 Fleer basketball collector. The auction also includes multiple Jordan rookie stickers, a complete set with all cards graded PSA NM/MT 8 and a sticker set with each graded 8.5 by Beckett. Additional lots include other cards, a near set and an unopened pack graded PSA 9 from that landmark issue.
The Pennsylvania collector who consigned much of the material asked that only his first name be used. He told us his passion for basketball cards started in the winter of 1987, a couple of months after Fleer’s inaugural basketball set was released with limited fanfare and lukewarm acceptance by most of the hobby.
“I walked into my favorite card shop, Groft’s Sportscards in Hanover, PA, to buy a wax box of 1986 Topps Baseball,” ‘Jason’ recalled. “Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something that I didn’t recognize. Wrapped in cellophane, a red bordered set of basketball cards sat securely on the top of his ‘value’ table. On the top was the coolest basketball card I had ever seen, a young Michael Jordan flying through the air. I had to have it.”
The shop owner encouraged him to buy 1986 baseball cards instead, indicating they had a better future, but Jason was undeterred. He bought the 132-card Fleer hoops set for $15. A complete sticker insert set was included with the deal.
“Since that day and beyond, I’ve probably owned hundreds of Jordan rookies and thousands of all the others,” Jason recalled. “Shortly after getting married in 2002, I decided to focus my collecting almost exclusively on 1986-87 Fleer basketball. I have sold countless Jordan rookies to the masses, but still have held onto the very best ones until now.”
Jordan rookie card values have skyrocketed in recent months with even NM/MT graded copies fetching over $25,000, but Jason says he has no regrets about selling many of those he bought before prices went wild.
“I have always made a profit every time I’ve sold a Jordan so I don’t have regrets. It is that profit that has allowed me to buy more and create an incredible personal collection. It’s just that now prices are insane which makes the profit exponentially higher.”
He says he always focused on acquiring well-centered Jordan rookie cards, which made them easier to sell, regardless of the technical grade. All cards from his “Jordan rainbow” run have received bids, even the PSA 1 (Poor) which is expected to fetch $2,500 or more.
“The one thing that stuck out about my first Jordan rookie was that it wasn’t centered, and that always drove me crazy. Perfectly centered Jordan rookies, whenever I came in contact with them, went into my PC. All the others became fair game to sell off to buy more.”
While he’s selling off a strong chunk of his best cards, Jason says he’s still dabbling in ’86-87 Fleer “if the price is right.”
“There are still bargains to be had but there are fewer of those bargains every day in this market. I’ve added a new passion of collecting game used NFL jerseys of Hall of Fame caliber players, the dirtier the better. I try to get ahead of the fads. I think that’s the next market to explode.”