Purchased more than 30 years ago at a toy store at a total cost of about $100, seven full boxes of 1986-87 Fleer basketball cards are about to enter the hobby—at an estimated value of at least 300 times that amount.
The discovery of pristine boxes was made by Baseball Card Exchange, the hobby’s top vintage unopened dealer, but it was actually a case of 1984 Topps football wax boxes that led to the discovery.
BBCE head buyer Reed Kasaoka was in the company’s Schererville, IL office, sorting through acquisitions from his last buying trip, when he received a call from a man in Jefferson City, Missouri. The caller was looking to sell his friend’s “x-out” case from a year that held rookie cards of John Elway and Dan Marino, among others. “Of course, right away I was interested,” Kasaoka recalled. “As the conversation progressed, I started to learn about the other items his friend had, but then talk turned to what kind of product the caller had. It became clear I needed get down there immediately.”
After buying his friend’s football case, Kasaoka made his way over to the caller’s house. Laid out on the dining room table were the seven 1986/87 Fleer basketball wax boxes – which contain Michael Jordan’s rookie card – all looking as new as the day they were purchased more than 31 years ago. That day was still vivid in the collector’s mind—the location of his purchase verified on the front of each pack in the form of a TG& Y price sticker—40 cents.
It’s been well-documented that TG&Y carried Fleer’s debut basketball issue, eventually marking unsold product down for closeout at year’s end, with prices ranging from 10 cents a pack to $6 per box. However, the seller had purchased the seven boxes and others (the others were opened at the time) as soon as they hit the shelves. Kasaoka says it’s possible the Fleer hoard may be the only one of its kind that can be traced back to a specific time and place.
After inspecting the boxes and packs, a deal was consummated and Kasaoka returned to the office where it became clear one of the boxes wasn’t like the others. Appropriately labeled “Box #1”, in addition to perfect sticker collation, this box had not one, but two packs with a Michael Jordan rookie card showing face up through the wrapper.
“Occasionally we’ll find a Jordan rookie showing through the top of a pack, and consider it to be good fortune and a sign that a box is likely clean and unsearched,” said BBCE owner Steve Hart. “The odds of a pack with a Jordan showing on top is 1 in 132 and this box has two of them.”
“Box number one, the one with two packs showing Jordan rookies face up, will be offered as a box break at the BBCE booth at the National Convention this summer,” Hart promised. “Two lucky collectors will end up with these killer Jordan showing packs, which they may or may not open, plus let’s not forget a clean box yields three to four Jordan rookies.”
While the seller enjoyed a handsome profit, he still owns his original set of cards from the boxes he opened back in 1986.
For dealers, the find is proof that there are still valuable items waiting to be found. And for BBCE, it’s the second major discovery of Fleer basketball in the last ten months. Last year, they uncovered a stash of seven other 1986-87 Fleer basketball boxes—and the only surviving unopened case of 1987-88 Fleer—from a man in Endicott, NY.
You can check out 1986-87 Fleer on eBay here.