He’s no longer playing, but is that any reason for the 1986-87 Fleer card to trade at its current level?
He hadn’t won anything when the card first appeared. Owning a Michael Jordan rookie card was nice, but in the mid-1980s, Jordan was simply a guy who made some spectacular dunks and scored a lot of points.
In fact, it took six years before Jordan would lead the Chicago Bulls to an NBA championship. It seemed the only time the Bulls didn’t win a title was when Jordan was in one of his two retirement modes.
Jordan’s 1986-87 Fleer issue is considered his rookie card but remember there were no widely distributed basketball cards produced by major manufacturers during his first two years in the league.
When Fleer jumped in and bought the NBA’s trading card rights in time for the ’86-87 season, there were whispers—even within the company—that it was a mistake. Baseball was still king. Football was a clear number two. Even with Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, there just wasn’t a lot of interest in basketball cards. Or so it was thought. The first two Fleer basketball sets were available for as little as $10 each until the Bulls finally broke through in 1991. They won the title again in ’92. And once more in ’93. Jordan was the sport’s first true international superstar and the his rookie card began to take off. By 1993, basketball cards had been re-discovered on a number of levels. New stars like Shaquille O’Neal led to more sets and the first Michael card was king of the market.
Collectors had also discovered that ’86-87 Fleer wax boxes and sets weren’t available in large quantities and those who owned them weren’t selling. The sky was the limit for the Jordan card and everyone knew it. In 1997, after Jordan’s much-heralded return to active duty, the card eclipsed $1,000 in value. Three years later, high grade examples were selling for $1500.
The MJ rookie card stayed fairly steady until his Bulls career ended with another retirement in 1999. A rebirth with the Washington Wizards didn’t ignite the same interest and the card would never again reach its once-lofty heights.
Still, it’s hard not to recommend the Jordan rookie card for virtually any collector’s portfolio. Its place is secure in card collecting history. Simple though it may be by today’s standards, the photo on the card of a high-flying MJ ready to dunk is classic Jordan. His Hall of Fame election brought a renewed focus to his landmark career: 32, 292 career points. A 33.4 points per game scoring average in the postseason—the best of all time. 6 NBA Finals MVP awards. 5 regular season MVPs. The list is endless.
According to Beckett, over 16,000 Jordan rookie cards have been graded by PSA and BGS. It’s not “rare” by vintage standards, but the demand far outpaces the supply at this point, especially for ultra high-grade copies. Any basketball fan who grew up in the 1980s and 90s has the Jordan rookie card on a list of must haves.
The vast majority of Jordan rookies have been graded near mint or near mint to mint. PSA has graded fewer than 2300 9’s and Beckett only 570 9.0 or 9.5 examples. PSA has graded about 130 10s and Beckett just two. From an investment perspective, it’s still reasonable to think the card is not overpopulated in high grade.
With the Jordan rookie card having dropped in value by roughly half this decade, it’s hard to call it anything but a fairly safe and smart buy at its current level, even if Jordan’s incredible career is just a memory.