Michael Jordan’s Most Valuable Cards Ever – Not Even Rookies

The 1986-87 Fleer card of Michael Jordan is deemed to be his rookie card. The Star set and the beautiful Jump Man Nike card might be more rookie materials in reality, but that beautiful red Fleer card has been the dream of many “grail” card collectors. Even most vintage collectors want a Michael Jordan card!

Would it surprise you that the Fleer card is nowhere close to being Michael Jordan’s most expensive card ever?

When prices went ballistic during the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, that Fleer rookie card (#57) of Michael Jordan is actually not even that rare — and it has been counterfeit more than any other card. PSA alone has a current population report of 22,126 base graded examples of this card. That’s just not very rare. Then PSA also counts another 1,288 “+” examples and another 1,095 “qualifier” examples.

Beckett’s population report counts 13,169 more total graded examples, and SGC counts 3,073 graded examples in its population reports. Without considering the cross-grading that has taken place (and it has been substantial) that is now 40,751 graded Michael Jordan “rookie” cards from the top 3 grading houses alone. That’s also without even considering Fleer’s sticker. After seeing that massive population, again, does it surprise you that Michael Jordan’s most prized card is not his rookie card? And would it also surprise you that Michael Jordan’s most expensive card ever doesn’t even have Jordan dressed in a Bulls uniform? Hint: It’s also not his baseball cards from the Junk Wax era.

PWCC’s January Premier Auction includes what will likely still be considered the most valuable Michael Jordan card ever. In some ways, this may be the king of “Patch” cards as Upper Deck went further in 1997.

Of the top 5 all-time sales for Jordan cards, 4 of the prior sales have been of the 1997 Upper Deck Game Jersey Patch Autograph card. This was also early on in the /# issues, with only 23 examples in the world. This particular card was constructed with a patch of Michael Jordan’s 1992 All-Star game-worn jersey. On last look, the auction price was $420,000 with more than a week to go.

The image below from PWCC is for the BGS 8 NM-MT example has a population of 7.

Only 1 example of the 23 is shown to have a higher BGS grade.  PWCC’s auction notes said:

Unlike the other 19 players in the 22-card basketball Game Jersey set, Jordan’s card features swatches cut from a specific jersey—the one he wore at the 1992 All-Star Game. Jordan led all players with 31 minutes, scored a team-high 18 points, and dished out five assists, but his efforts could not overshadow the fanfare surrounding Magic Johnson’s appearance with the West All-Stars, who won the 42nd annual All-Star Game in a 153-113 rout at Orlando Arena. In one of the game’s iconic moments, Johnson—who the fans selected to start despite announcing his retirement before the season—defended Jordan one-on-one in the final minute of the game, forcing Jordan’s shot to clank off the rim. “I respect him so much, and I am happy to get the opportunity to spend time with him again,” Jordan said before the game. “This is his opportunity to come back and shine. I want to be behind the scenes and let him stand in front of the camera.”

After the All-Star break, Jordan had plenty of chances to shine, averaging 30.5 points per game down the stretch to polish Chicago’s 67-15 record. In 22 playoff games, Jordan averaged 34.5 ppg. as the Bulls won a second straight championship. In this month’s Premier Auction, this BGS 8 example of Jordan’s autographed 1997 Upper Deck Game Jersey will shine like the Bulls’ record. Hand-numbered 18/23, only one example of this card has received a higher assessment from Beckett, and among the seven that have earned a BGS 8 distinction, this example remains only one of two given a pair of 9.5 subgrades. With the legacy that follows this card in tow, collectors will marvel at this fabric- and ink-infused piece of cardboard. You will not need to levitate to win it, but you might need to avoid the Death Saw of competition that will likely crowd extended bidding to own this epic sliver of NBA history.

The PSA Card Facts site showed that average of the last 5 PSA 10 sales from the 1986-87 Fleer cards has been running under $200,000. That won’t sit well with the person (or persons) who paid in excess of $700,000 in early 2021 when card prices were hitting their zenith during the pandemic. PWCC’s most expensive sale was shown to be $840,000 after the buyer’s premium on 7/71/2021.

With a $420,000 price tag and 9 days to go, let’s see some of the other highest Jordan card sales.

We would point out that Heritage sold a similar 1997 Upper Deck Game Jersey Michael Jordan (Autograph) #GJ13S PSA NM 7, Auto 8 – #’d 8/23 on February 4, 2021 for a whopping $1,440,000.00 after the buyer’s premium. And on December 10, 2020, Heritage also sold a 1997 Metal Universe Michael Jordan (Precious Metal Gems – Green) #23 PSA Authentic – #’d 9/100 for$915,000.00 after the buyer’s premium.

Here are several more eye-popping sales from PWCC:

  • 2003 Exquisite Collection Limited Logos Michael Jordan PATCH AUTO /75 PSA 9 MINT (1 of 1) PSA/DNA 10 AUTO, MBA Silver on 7/17/2021 for $780,000
  • Lot(6) 2003 Exquisite Collection Michael Jordan AUTO PATCH, MOST BGS 9.5 on 12/10/2019 via fixed-price for $600,050
  • 1997 Metal Universe Precious Metal Gems Michael Jordan PMG RED /100 #23 BGS 8.5 on 7/21/2022 for $564,000
  • 2003 Exquisite Collection Number Pieces Michael Jordan PATCH AUTO /23 BGS 9.5 (BGS Population 1 of 2, none higher) on 9/22/2022 for $456,000.

This is just one more point to prove that rookie cards don’t have to be a player’s most valuable card.