Michael Jordan is one of the greatest basketball players ever and one of the most collectible athletes in history. Explore the top five most coveted Michael Jordan rookie cards to invest in.
Updated Jun 7, 2023
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Michael Jordan is not only a basketball legend but also a cultural icon. His rookie cards are some of the most valuable and sought-after items in the sports memorabilia market. A mint condition PSA or BGS-graded Michael Jordan rookie card can fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction—a few have even crossed the million-dollar threshold. Owning an MJ rookie card is the ultimate status symbol for die-hard fans.
Michael Jordan's impact on the sports card-collecting hobby cannot be overstated. Along with Ken Griffey Jr. and Bo Jackson, Jordan helped take the hobby to another level in the late 1980s. By 2020, with the pandemic forcing the world to a cloister, Jordan's Last Dance documentary was an encore that launched the hobby into the stratosphere.
As a result, Jordan's card prices are at the top of the game, soaring as high as he did on the court. We’ll explain why Jordan cards from brands Fleer and Upper Deck are so valuable and how you can find examples of high-grade MJ cards to add to your collection.
Michael Jordan is considered the greatest basketball player of all time—composed of a phenomenal combination of skill, athleticism, competitiveness, and cultural impact. He redefined the NBA superstar, inspiring contemporaries like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird to acknowledge his unparalleled status in the league.
Jordan's path to superstardom began in high school and continued at the University of North Carolina, where he led his team to an NCAA championship. In the 1984 NBA Draft, he was chosen with the third overall pick by the Chicago Bulls after the Portland Trail Blazers passed on him.
No one could stand up to Michael Jordan's sheer dominance in his 15-year run with the NBA's Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards, solidifying his position as the all-time basketball great. His offense made him an unstoppable force on the court, putting defenders to shame.
Jordan's top accomplishments include Rookie of the Year, five-time NBA MVP, six-time NBA champion, ten-time All-NBA First Team, and 14-time NBA All-Star. He also holds several records, such as ten scoring titles, and retired with the highest scoring average of 30.1 points per game. However, his impact goes beyond awards and championships, as he spearheaded the globalization of the NBA with his dynamic on-court abilities and personal sense of style.
Jordan's legacy is unparalleled, not only in basketball but in sports and pop culture as well. He is a true champion and a cultural icon, inspiring generations of athletes and fans.
Due to Jordan’s stature, his sports cards have always risen in value. Some of these cards have sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars, making them the most valuable basketball cards sold to date.
Even serious collectors can find top-graded Jordan rookie cards out of their price range. Basketball cards in top condition can fetch anything from thousands of dollars to seven figures. However, owning one that was graded lower might still be worthwhile, with low-grade cards still valued in the thousands of dollars and making for sweet show-and-tell pieces.
The hunt for the most valuable Jordan rookie card is still on, even though the chances are about the same as winning the lottery. Let’s look at some of the best Michael Jordan rookie cards and why they could be a layup as an investment.
The 1986 Fleer Michael Jordan rookie card #57 is widely considered the most desirable Jordan rookie card. Although Fleer distributed these cards massively, demand is still strong enough to make them one of the most valuable Michael Jordan cards in the sports memorabilia market. These cards were once considered a flop when they were first released, but unopened original boxes have monster five-figure price tags nowadays.
The front design of the card perfectly captures the essence of who Jordan was as a player. The image shows him as an unstoppable scorer capable of high-flying acrobatics, making him a dominant force in the NBA. The card's signature red, white, and blue border makes it instantly recognizable and perfectly complements the imagery of Jordan.
On the reverse side of the card, the Chicago Bulls logo sits atop Jordan's personal information and statistics from his first two seasons in the NBA. Though the back of the card doesn't pack nearly the same excitement as the front, it has a straightforward feel. The verdict is out: The 1986 Fleer Michael Jordan rookie card is a super-valuable must-have for any serious sports memorabilia collector.
The extremely low supply of the 1985 Interlake Bulls MJ card causes prices for PSA 10s to reach $100,000.
The 1985 Interlake Bulls Michael Jordan card is a highly sought-after asset that some serious collectors may not have even heard of. Though the 1986 Fleer set is not widely considered to hold Jordan's official NBA rookie card, and the Interlake card's scarcity and regional distribution make it a critical Michael Jordan collector's item.
The Interlake Bulls set consists of just two 5-by-7-inch blank-backed cards, one of Michael Jordan and one of Orlando Woolridge, distributed in the fall of 1985 as part of a joint partnership between the Interlake Youth Incentive Program and the Boy Scouts of America.
The concentrated regional distribution of this card prevented it from garnering mainstream awareness, and it's not considered a true rookie card because it lacks an NBA license. Nevertheless, the Interlake Jordan card is a highly valued and scarce collectible, with only 237 PSA-graded examples.
Collectors looking to buy raw examples of the Interlake Jordan card must be incredibly careful, as the card has been heavily counterfeited. Counterfeit cards are glossy, have thinner stock, and are cut slightly smaller than the actual cards.
An authenticated card from a third-party grader is recommended, but even they have encapsulated some fakes. The Interlake Jordan card is one of the greatest of all time, and its scarcity makes it an important collectible for modern hobbyists.
A PSA 9 Michael Jordan Star XRC #101 sold for $444,000 in September 2022 at Goldin Auctions.
The Michael Jordan Star XRC #101 is an iconic trading card featuring Jordan's first-ever NBA appearance and has a price range of $5,570 to $444,000. Printed only in red, this rare card is often counterfeited, with white and black reprints commonly circulating on eBay. It's crucial to be wary of fakes to ensure the authenticity of any potential investment.
This card's value lies in its iconic status and rarity, as only 3,000 copies reportedly produced. It boasts sharp corners and a well-focused image of Jordan grabbing a rebound, making it a stunning addition to any collection. Fewer than one percent of the over 700 recorded examples are graded higher than a BGS 9.
While many collectors may appreciate Jordan's iconic 1986-87 Fleer collectibles, this Star Company Rookie card stands out as a unique and elusive NBA trading card. With its limited print run, authenticity concerns, and high price tag, this card can certainly elevate the collections of hardcore enthusiasts.
A PSA 10 MJ 1985 Nike Promo card sells for $12,000 on average.
The Michael Jordan Nike Rookie card is a highly valued collectible with an iconic image of Jordan dunking in front of the Chicago skyline. This image was everywhere during the 1980s as Nike promoted their Air Jordan sneakers, and the oversized cards were produced as promotional material for his famous shoes.
The front of the oversized card lacks any borders or information about Jordan, with the only items accompanying the image being the Nike logo in the lower left and the Air Jordan logo in the upper left.
The back of the card is just as enjoyable as the front, with Nike summarizing Jordan's personal information at the top and nine of his career highlights below. The back of the card showcases just how impressive of a resume Jordan had up to that point in time, and Nike was very smart for pairing up with him.
The coveted Michael Jordan Nike Rookie card is a great way to step up your sports memorabilia collection, especially if it fetched a high grade from PSA or another card grading authority.
The 1986 Fleer Sticker Michael Jordan #8 is a valuable collectible that features a young Jordan driving hard to the basket past New Jersey's Otis Birdsong with his signature tongue flash.
Fleer also included stickers of eleven of the game's biggest stars in their iconic 1986 set. Jordan is the key sticker to own among a list of names that includes Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing, and Kareem Abdul Jabbar.
The placement of the yellow nameplate along the left side of the sticker was an interesting move, but it worked out just fine in this case. The back of the sticker looks very similar to the back of Jordan's base card in this set, with no statistics for Jordan but a nice write-up about his early professional accomplishments and a nod to his time in the NCAA.
Legendary NBA player Michael Jordan continues to enthrall fans even decades after his retirement. His impact on the sports card world, particularly basketball cards, remains unparalleled. Collectors and investors frequently seek Jordan rookie cards and other high-grade memorabilia as valuable assets with a strong potential for secondary market appreciation.
The most coveted Michael Jordan cards include the 1986 Fleer Michael Jordan—which sold for $738,000 in January 2021—Interlake Bulls card, Upper Deck, and Star cards. These often sell for remarkable prices on auction platforms such as eBay and Goldin, with their value determined by factors like supply, grade, and demand among collectors.
Rookie cards present a challenging yet potentially rewarding investment. You could either search for players who possess the potential to become the next Michael Jordan or Shaquille O'Neal or invest in the cards of these legendary athletes. The NBA boasts a vast global fanbase, so of course, NBA cards are in high demand. NBA rookies who become prominent athletes create star cards with significant value.
Investors should consider several factors when evaluating trading cards. The card's grade, set, and year it was produced determine its value. Other contextual factors like the team promoted or the player's accomplishments during the season can impact the card's worth.
It's also worth noting that some cards, such as unopened boxes or those featuring rare stickers or inserts, can be especially valuable to collectors. You can make informed decisions by doing proper research and keeping an eye on trends in the market and broader popular culture—such as the Last Dance documentary becoming a hit.
You also shouldn’t ignore memorabilia outside of cars. Sales of stickers, jersey swatches, photos, and toys are also on the rise, sometimes fetching higher prices than coveted Topps trading cards. Looking at the big picture helps contextualize the market value of certain sports memorabilia.
While graded cards of retired legends grow scarce, the prices they’re selling for consistently increase. Conversely, rookie cards of newer players are more affordable and tend to perform on the market based on the player's on-court performance. If you possess the capital, copping vintage graded cards and new rookie cards can be a robust approach to diversifying your collection.
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