Michael Jordan is considered to be the greatest of all-time by many basketball fans and sports collectors. That is of course up for debate, and your age may play a role in who you think is the GOAT for basketball mega-stars. The 1986-87 Fleer card of Michael Jordan is referred to by collectors as his rookie card. Small problem. It’s actually not his real rookie. And Jordan card prices are always in a state of flux. Now the other consideration is that the decision by PSA to start accepting the 1984 Star #101 Michael Jordan may have some implications on Michael Jordan rookie prices.
A serious dilemma also comes up here — There just as easy of a case to be made that these new PSA slabs could help the 1986-87 Fleer prices as it could hurt the price. If high-end collectibles are really an alternative asset class then basic supply and demand issues must have at least some role in current and future prices. Or does it?
Michael Jordan rookie card prices, along with many modern era sports cards, are way down from the early 2021 craze. So what happens to these prices as more and more “real Michael Jordan rookie cards” get slabbed by PSA. Alternative asset prices, just like stocks and bonds, come with zero assurances that their prices will rise. The price could even fall. Interest in these cards could also rise or fall. Image below by Heritage Auctions.
As of the summer of 2022, PSA began accepting the #101 Michael Jordan card of the 1984 Star set again. The grading company had stopped accepting submissions of this “Star MJ rookie” long ago as some of Star’s basketball cards were reprinted in the 1990s and the cards were sold on television. The details of this entire process and dilemma vary wildly from source to source, but there has been a “known issue” for years. The sports collecting community also needs to accept that we may never truly know what the real population of the “real Michael Jordan rookie card” happens to be.
Another aspect of this whole process is that the packs of cards in the clear plastic pouch have been selling for some time. Some dealers have even spoken about a a new “find” of these packs, but as of now that should be taken as hearsay and gossip until more details emerge. Some of those cards have of course been broken into and the cards have been separated. Other packs remain unopen. And there are of course many theories about why PSA ultimately decided to start grading these cards again after a two-decade-plus hiatus.
Beckett (BGS) has been the top grader of card #101 for years. There may for some time be a large discrepancy over the population of the 1984-85 Star rookie of Michael Jordan. Some Beckett cards have been or will be broken out of their cases to be submitted for PSA grading. How many of the new submissions that is remains unknown, and we may never get a real tally on crossover grades if the serial numbers are not given back to Beckett to be removed from the populations. This also means that there could be a substantial double-counting if you combine BGS and PSA graded populations.
And for a last wild card, there is of course also the 1985 Nike set which features Michael Jordan as one of Nike’s few prominent brand ambassadors of the mid-1980s. While this larger format card is considered the lesser of these three Michael Jordan rookie cards it is still in the ongoing mix of rookies for big Michael Jordan collectors. As of the latest PSA data, there were 3,516 base grades of the Nike Jordan rookie card, followed by 110 “+” grades and 27 “Q” grades. And the largest portion of the base grades were list as PSA 8 (1,481 examples) and PSA 9 (1,068 examples). The last 3 PSA 8 examples sold on eBay were between $861 to $885 and the last 3 PSA 9 examples sold for $1,755 to $2,795.
According to the latest PSA population reports, there are still just 64 base graded examples and 12 “+” graded examples of card #101 from the 1984 Star set. Beckett’s population report shows that it has graded 1,122 of this card #101. This is the breakdown of Beckett’s graded populations by grade:
- BGS 7 at 129 examples
- BGS 7.5 at 247 examples
- BGS 8 at 287 examples
- BGS 8.5 at 252 examples
- BGS 9 at 73 examples
- BGS 9.5 at 3 examples
Beckett also has graded 963 examples of the #195 Jordan card and 647 examples of his #288 card. Both of the second tier cards have to go down to grades of 7.5 and 7 before each has 100 graded examples at the higher grades.
PSA’s sales data for the 1984 Star #101 card is currently only back to mid-August to reflect the post-National timeline. These are the sales tracked by PSA of its own PSA-grade cards:
- 9/29/2022 $23,100.00 PSA 7
- 9/28/2022 $14,700.00 PSA 6
- 9/23/2022 $15,100.00 PSA 6
- 9/19/2022 $17,700.00 PSA 6
- 9/09/2022 $8,750.00 PSA 1.5
- 8/16/2022 $20,891.00 PSA 6.5
Compare those sales to the 1986 Fleer. We need to keep in mind what the PSA population reports show just for the base graded populations of card #57 from the 1986 Fleer set. It shows population of 21,881 base graded examples, as well as 1,272 “+” grades and 1,090 “Q” examples. That’s 24,243 PSA total graded cards alone (before BGS and SGC). Here is how that breakdown goes — 8,401 as the sweet spot (zone) in a PSA 8 grade, another 2,886 in PSA 9 grades, and 322 PSA 10 examples. The website VintageCardPrices.com tries to track all sales in all grades from all auction and BuyItNow prices and this is what it shows for just the PSA 8 sales of #57 from the 1986 Fleer set:
- 10/9/2022 $7,300.00
- 10/3/2022 $6,200.00
- 10/2/2022 $6,925.00
- 9/30/2022 $6,500.00
- 9/28/2022 $6,299.00
- 9/26/2022 $6,950.00
- 9/25/2022 $8,100.00
- 9/25/2022 $6,900.00
- 9/24/2022 $5,700.00
- 9/21/2022 $7,000.00
The reality is that it just may take some time before we fully know what the population of newer PSA slabs in the 1984-85 Star #101 happens to be. Again, will the populations be accurate? Will the number of sales at card shows, which are generally unregistered official sales for online price comparisons, skew what is really happening? What will the true population be? Will card collectors suddenly pay up the massive premium for these cards? Will it help or hurt non-rookie Michael Jordan card prices and demand? This is a lot to ask of course, but for now that is where we are.
LIVE SALES NOW!
As for a live sale, Heritage Auctions currently has a 1984 Star Michael Jordan Rookie #101 graded PSA NM 7 that is freshly graded (PSA cert. #66569328 proves how fresh the grade is). Heritage’s Guide Value or Estimate is listed as “$25,000 – up” and the current bid is $15,500.00 with about a week to go and without taking the 20% buyer’s premium into account.
Another example of the 1984 Star #101 Jordan rookie is for sale in the October (2022) PWCC Premier Auction. This ends on October 20, 2022 and the grade here is BGS 8 NM-MT with a current bid price of $17,000 before the buyer’s premium. PWCC’s same auction also has a slew of other Jordan cards (listed with current bids with 4 more days pending):
- 1986 Fleer Basketball Michael Jordan ROOKIE #57 PSA 9 MINT ($14,000)
- 1986 Fleer Basketball Michael Jordan ROOKIE #57 BGS 9.5 GEM MINT (PWCC-S) ($36,000)
- 1986 Fleer Basketball Michael Jordan ROOKIE #57 PSA 10 GEM MINT ($140,000)
And for one of the great non-rookie Jordan cards, PWCC’s October auction also has a 1997 Metal Universe Championship Precious Gems Michael Jordan (PMG /50 #23 BGS 9; BGS Population 1 of 7) listed as “Just One Graded Higher” at $220,000.00 with 4 days remaining.
PSA’s own announcement about accepting the 1984 Star #101 Michael Jordan card said:
PSA recently changed our policy on grading Star basketball in a way that is sure to please collectors of these important cards. When PSA debuted in 1991, we offered grading services for all Star basketball sets, which feature the first official trading cards of several NBA legends including Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and Hakeem Olajuwon. However, we ceased grading Star cards in the early 1990s due to issues surrounding the legitimacy of cards that surfaced after the card manufacturer lost its license and started liquidating assets.
According to the website StarBasketballCards.com and the PSA reasoning for no longer grading the cards:
They did for a while initially, but stopped once they realized they had graded some of the ‘Type II’ counterfeits that had circulated. They decided not to take the risk and stopped grading the cards. The only grading company that will authenticate Star basketball cards is Beckett (BGS).
The same StarBasketballCards.com site also identified what the Shop At Home scandal really was:
In 1997, Robert Levin, the founder of Star, was selling cards on the Shop At Home Network. Levin claimed that the cards being sold were unearthed Star cards produced during the initial Star run from 83-86. However, the cards were newly printed and back dated to seem like older cards.
As for what will happen with the crossover grading, PSA’s release also said:
PSA has reviewed the Star situation and is once again accepting submissions for the legendary issue. Initially, only cards from the 1984-85 base set will be accepted for authentication, grading and crossover service, but there are plans to eventually expand our services to cover all basketball sets released by Star.
PSA Senior Product Manager Brendan Bigelow also gave more background on why the Star set is controversial:
“Topps released annual NBA sets from the 1969-70 season through the 1981-82 season, but the popularity of basketball cards never reached the level of other sports. After Topps relinquished their license, no official mainstream NBA sets were released for the 1982-83 season. Starting with the 1983-84 season, Star Company stepped in to fill the void, acquiring the license and printing cards with a unique direct to consumer model. Rather than selling cards in retail packs and boxes, they produced team sets sealed in polybags that were offered for sale via catalogs and authorized card dealers.”
And according to Heritage’s description of the population and distribution for the current 1984 Star Jordan #101 card up for auction:
And this isn’t just the older sibling of the Jordan rookie family, but a far rarer one to boot. These cards were originally distributed in sealed team bags with the Jordan on top, in a production run believed to have numbered below 5,000.
PWCC’s description gives some additional notes on its BGS 8 up for auction:
The Star Company hoped to get rich off the production of basketball cards in the 1980s, helping bridge the gap in mainstream card production between Topps’ last set in 1981 and Fleer’s first set in 1986.
That’s all, for now…