If only they’d known.
Sure, there was a good feeling in Chicago about the Bulls’ top draft pick in the fall of 1984. The 21-year-old out of North Carolina was silky smooth. Had a nice jumper. Could jump out of the gym.
No one, though, predicted what was to come in the next dozen-plus seasons of basketball in Chicago. If the 13,000 fans who watched him make his NBA regular season debut on October 26, 1984 had any inkling of what the Michael Jordan Experience would actually entail, they surely would have saved their ticket stub. The few that didn’t make it to the game would have stuck their unused ticket away for safe keeping.
No, most of the stubs from that night were left in the arena or were soon discarded. Ticket stubs weren’t really a big deal then, anyway, except to the odd few who liked to collect them. The only “market” for them centered around special events like the World Series, All-Star Games or the Super Bowl. Still, you’d think that at least a couple of thousand fans would have wanted to save the ticket to Jordan’s debut.
Only 20 have been authenticated and graded and while ungraded ones surely reside in collections in Chicago and elsewhere, they’re rare. Mind you, we’re talking stubs here. No unused tickets had been known to exist until very recently. Now, that one-of-a-kind full ticket to history is up for auction.
It comes on the heels of a record-setting $264,000 sale of the highest graded stub from Jordan’s debut back in December. That sale set a record for any sports ticket and helped fuel an already growing market for vintage tickets.
“I’ve been wholly aware of what’s going on with Michael Jordan’s debut stubs for several years, and always saw that particular item as one of the coolest pieces of MJ memorabilia you could purchase,” says Heritage Sports Consignment Director Chris Nerat. “And I always thought I would get a phone call from someone with that elusive complete ticket, because surely one existed. Well, that call came about three weeks ago, and the first thing I said was, ‘I have been waiting on this call. I always knew it would happen at some point. I just didn’t think it was going to be today.’”
That caller was Michael Cole, who, in 1984, was a Washington, D.C., native starting classes at Northwestern University in Evanston, some 14 miles and a long train ride from Chicago. As Cole writes in the letter of provenance accompanying the ticket, he was a deeply passionate basketball fan, especially when it came to his hometown Bullets. As it happened, his family was friends with Bullets executive vice president Jerry Sachs, “and my father was hoping to surprise me with tickets to the Bulls’ season opener considering the Bullets were their visiting opponent.”
Sachs had two tickets waiting for Cole at Chicago Stadium will-call. Problem was, given the lengthy trek from Evanston to Chicago, the teenager could find no one willing to accompany him. So he merely pocketed the extra ticket, and kept it with “my collection of tickets from other memorable sporting events I had attended.”
As Cole notes in his letter, “It’s funny to me in retrospect that my primary enthusiasm for attending the game was to support my hometown team more so than witnessing the start of Michael Jordan’s legendary career.”
Besides, Cole notes, he’d seen Jordan play plenty – as one of the North Carolina Tar Heels who constantly bedeviled his beloved Maryland Terrapins.
The ticket has been graded Authentic by PSA and has some wear on the left side, but is otherwise in pretty good shape. He says he doesn’t know what happened to his original ticket stub—the one that got him into Chicago Stadium that night. It, too, would be worth a strong price in any condition, but if only one could survive, this is the one that will put a nice check in his bank account.
The current high bid as of Thursday was $250,000 with the auction set to run through February 26.