At the time of issue, you could have bought as many packs as you could stand for around 40 cents apiece. Thursday night, someone bought 432 of them at a price of $4,413 each when the only 1986-87 Fleer basketball case to come to market in at least 20 years sold for nearly $1.8 million through Collect Auctions.
The case, containing 12 boxes and still sealed with the original factory tape, had been consigned by Jeremy Fritsch, the Wisconsin-based grandson of the late Larry Fritsch, a pioneering dealer and founder of Fritsch Cards.
The case likely contains at least 36 Michael Jordan rookie cards as well as a similar haul of Jordan rookie insert stickers. Boxes commonly contain at least three #57 Jordan cards.
It was recently authenticated and sealed in cellophane by Steve Hart of unopened specialist Baseball Card Exchange. The winning bidder will have to make arrangements to pick it up from Collect Auctions, which is based in Waupaca, WI.
Considering the price of $149,143 per box, it’s unlikely any new owner would open the case, however. Even with high grade Jordan rookies selling for five-figure prices, it wouldn’t likely be a profitable endeavor. As with most unopened material, the value lies primarily in the “coolness factor” as a rarity.
The auction opened on July 13. In all, 13 bids were placed for the case, which had a final bid of $1,491,431. The standard 20 percent buyer’s premium pushed the realized price to $1,789,717.
The buyer was Thomas Fish, owner of Blowout Cards, who purchased it on behalf of a client. The new owner’s name wasn’t immediately revealed but Blowout indicated the case will remain unopened.
1986-87 Fleer basketball marked the return of NBA trading cards to traditional wax packs but the product wasn’t all that popular in the 80s. Interest in basketball cards didn’t strengthen much at all until the next decade. Jordan’s rookie card eventually became the most popular basketball card ever made, even though it’s not exceptionally rare. Thousands of individual cards, sets and lots of 1986-87 Fleer basketball are readily available on eBay.
Jordan’s career started when the NBA partnered with Star Company to produced trading cards and his first cards are actually in that company’s product, which was sold in complete set form by dealers who ordered them directly from the company.
The Fleer case was one of numerous vintage unopened material consigned by Fritsch. A rarely seen 1987-88 Fleer basketball case was the second highest priced item in the auction, selling for $156,839. A 1988-89 Fleer case netted $58,121 while a 1980-81 Topps basketball wax box of 36 packs, possibly containing at least one Larry Bird/Magic Johnson rookie card, sold for $22,909.
Baseball material was topped by an exceptionally rare 1973 Topps cello box of 24 packs that rocketed to $31,861.
Check out the most watched basketball card auctions on eBay.