Michael Jordan Rookie Cards – Everything You Need To Know

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Unsurprisingly, Michael Jordan has some of the most sought-after sports cards in existence. Basketball card fans will generally agree that MJ is unparalleled by any other player in terms of collectability.

Most basketball collectors know the best and most valuable Jordan rookie is his 1986 Fleer (#57) card, but he has some great alternatives – I’ve covered them all in this guide.

Jordan’s rookie cards were released in a time when the card collecting hobby was a totally different landscape to what it is today. Back then, there weren’t all the different sets, and numbered cards with parallels etc that we’re used to seeing in the hobby today.

There isn’t a great deal of choice when it comes to Michael Jordan rookie cards, so that adds to the value and allure of owning one – The demand for Jordan’s cards will always be there, as some of the most popular pieces of basketball memorabilia.

Table of Contents

Michael Jordan Rookie Cards: Ranked

Before I go into more detail, here’s a quick look at the top 5 Jordan rookies, ranked by value:

  1. 1986-87 Fleer #57
  2. 1984-85 Star #101
  3. 1985 Interlake Chicago Bulls #1
  4. 1986-87 Fleer Sticker #8
  5. 1985-86 Prism-Jewel

I’ve given a deeper insight to the cards below:

1. 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan Rookie Card #57

1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan Rookie Card #57

The 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan rookie card is the holy grail for MJ cards, it’s his most popular, and arguably the pinnacle of basketball and sports cards in general.

Although it wasn’t released in his rookie year, and maybe not his ‘true’ rookie card, most basketball card hobbyists will refer to this card when discussing the Michael Jordan rookie.

The ‘86 Fleer card is the most valuable Jordan rookie card, largely because it’s the only standard-issue licensed rookie. It’s also the most expensive sports card of the 80s.

The card, which shows an iconic image of a young Michael Jordan mid-dunk, sells for huge money in high grades.

It’s hard to find in top condition, because of the borders, and the age of the cards, so versions in the highest grade are very scarce.

For those who want a harder chase, there are some autograph versions of the card – Jordan signed and hand-numbered 23 of the original Fleer rookie cards as part of a 20th anniversary promo by Upper Deck for the 06-07 Fleer set.

It’s a card that gets a lot of attention within the hobby, and commands big values, so naturally there are lots of counterfeit and fakes around – if you’re buying cards raw then it’s always worth researching and checking that it’s legit.

There are certain things to look out for to sport a counterfeit ‘86 Fleer, like the image clarity and the color shades (particularly the blue background of the name box – fakes tend to have a duller and less vibrant blue). If it’s graded, then you shouldn’t need to worry.

Average price in a PSA 10 grade: $160k-$180k

2. 1984-85 Star Company Michael Jordan #101

1984-85 Star Company Michael Jordan #101 Rookie Card

Jordan’s Fleer rookie card wins the popularity contest, but the 1984-85 Star Michael Jordan card can technically be considered his ‘true’ rookie card – It’s Michael Jordan’s first issued card.

In addition to this card, Jordan did also have 2 more cards in the 1984-85 Star set, one ‘Rookie of the year’ card and another for the 1984 Olympics gold medal.

The original print run for this card was a lot less than the 1986-87 Fleer card, so it’s harder to come by.

There’s quite a common misconception in the hobby that the set wasn’t a licensed release, but it was.

The reason this Michael Jordan rookie card isn’t as popular and as sought-after as it maybe should be is due to Star Company reprinting the card during the 90s, but backdating them to make it appear they were part of the original print run.

PSA also stopped grading 1984 Star cards in the early 1990s because of issues around the legitimacy of cards that had surfaced later; They only started grading them again in 2022.

It’s hard to tell the difference between the originals and the reprints from the 90s, so that’s had a negative effect on buyers’ confidence whether they’re buying an original. That was the reason some of the top grading services refused them for submission.

Another reason that this card is overlooked by many collectors is down to the distribution method of the set, it didn’t have mainstream status.

Beckett’s traditional definition of a rookie card, which is followed by many, states that it has to be readily available and obtainable by the general public, through outlets like mini-marts and corner stores.

The 1984 Star set doesn’t fit that definition, because it was limited to hobby channels and promotions, so it’s considered an XRC (extended rookie card), making the later-released 1986 Fleer Jordan card the first to fit the definition.

Average price in a PSA 10 grade: N/A (there’s currently no data for a PSA 10 public sale)

3. 1985 Interlake Chicago Bulls Michael Jordan #1

1985 Interlake Chicago Bulls Michael Jordan Rookie Card #1

The 1985 Interlake Jordan card was issued via the Interlake Youth Incentive Program, in partnership with the Boy Scouts of America, around Chicago, so it doesn’t fit the traditional definition of a rookie card, but the oversized promo card is still one of the best, and most expensive early Jordan cards.

The lack of NBA license also prevents it from being considered a true rookie, nevertheless its scarcity helps drive its high value.

The ‘85 Interlake Bulls set consisted of 5”x7” cards that documented Bulls players on the front, with a blank back-of-card – It’s another one of his cards that has been prone to counterfeiting, so graded copies are safer for collectors to buy, instead of ungraded versions on eBay.

Average price in a PSA 10 grade: $100k-$120k

4. 1986-87 Fleer Sticker Michael Jordan #8

1986-87 Fleer Sticker Michael Jordan Rookie Card #8

There is an alternative, cheaper, Fleer Jordan rookie option to the iconic #57 rookie card, and that’s this 1986-87 Fleer sticker Jordan rookie.

It might be a less expensive option to his card rookie, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s cheap to buy; The sticker will still cost multiple tens of thousands in a high grade.

Stickers are harder to find in good condition, but the retro looking design features a different image than the card, and is certainly a cool option for collectors who want to add one of the top Michael Jordan rookie cards to their collection.

While they do still hold a lot of value, they don’t sell for anywhere near as much as the card goes for.

Average price in a PSA 10 grade: $40k-$60k

5. 1985-86 Prism-Jewel Michael Jordan

1985-86 Prism-Jewel Michael Jordan Rookie Card

The Prism-Jewel Michael Jordan rookie offers something different. The retro artwork and the bold colors makes it really stand out – It’s the most eye-catching design on the list for sure.

Although the lack of exact print-run numbers make it hard to tell, this is probably the rarest Jordan rookie card on the list, and that’s because there just wasn’t that many produced – plus they weren’t sold in hobby shops.

This one is also a sticker, rather than a card. Soccer card collectors are more accustomed to seeing collectable stickers, but those in the basketball hobby probably not so much.

There are a few reasons why stickers are harder to come by, especially in good condition. Firstly, stickers aren’t as robust as a card, they’re usually almost paper thin and flimsy and that means they damage easily.

Another reason is because their primary purpose was to be stuck into some kind of collection album (or similar) rather than kept as a standalone product – So there’s a good chance a kid would have peeled and stuck the sticker somewhere, before its value and collectability became apparent in future years.

Average price in a PSA 10 grade: $20k-$40k

Michael Jordan: A Background

Michael Jordan doesn’t need much of an introduction – It’s fair to say he’s one of the most famous sports people of all time; Many basketball fans will argue he’s the greatest player the NBA has ever seen.

The former guard played 15 seasons in professional basketball – after winning the NBA rookie of the year award at the end of the 1984-85 season, he went on to win the NBA championship 6 times with the Chicago Bulls, with the first of those coming in 1991, and the last one coming in 1998.

MJ also won the NBA’s MVP award on 5 separate occasions, and was an NBA All-Star 14 times. I would be here all day if I listed all his individual accolades.

When Was Michael Jordan’s Rookie Year?

Michael Jordan’s rookie year was the 1984-85 season – The Chicago Bulls selected him as the 3rd overall pick in the 1984 NBA Draft. He won the NBA rookie of the year award at the end of that season.

What Are Michael Jordan Rookie Cards Worth?

Jordan’s rookie cards are very valuable, often selling for tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars (depending on which card and the condition/grade). In fact, a BGS 8.5 graded autographed version of the 1986 Fleer Michael Jordan sold for over $1 million at auction in the past, and there have been multiple sales of over $500k for the unsigned version in a PSA 10 grading.

According to PSA, the average price range, or estimated guide price, of the Michael Jordan PSA 10 Fleer cards is on average $150k – $250k.

They are some of the most valuable sports cards out there. For many, he’s Basketball’s GOAT – He’s hugely popular as a legend of the game, and his cards are hugely popular in the basketball card hobby, so that drives the high value of his trading cards.

What Is The Most Expensive Michael Jordan Rookie Card?

The 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan rookie card is by far the most sought-after and expensive of his early basketball cards.

The card, in a high grade, repeatedly sells for six-figure sums on the secondary market and is one of the most valuable basketball cards in existence.

Why Is The 1986 Fleer Card Considered Michael Jordan’s Official Rookie?

While Jordan’s rookie year was the 1984-85 season, the 1986-87 Fleer Jordan card is widely recognized as the official NBA Jordan rookie card because it was the first that was mass-produced and available on a wider scale – plus it’s the first Jordan NBA-licensed, standard-issue rookie card.

Some consider the 1984-85 Star Company card to be Jordan’s ‘true’ rookie.

Are The Top Michael Jordan Rookie Cards A Good Investment?

The legendary basketball player’s name unsurprisingly holds a huge amount of weight in the sports card hobby, and his best basketball cards are some of the most sought-after pieces of sports memorabilia on the market – The cards are an asset to hobbyists and investors, which have seen strong appreciation in value over time.

We’ve already seen some huge money spent on Jordan cards in previous auctions, and the barrier to entry on them in the highest grade is too high for the regular sports card investor; They do become more affordable as the condition, and therefore grade, lowers, but they also become less scarce.

There are several factors to consider for those considering Jordan cards as an investment – The card that’s chosen, and its grade, are the main two.

The overall demand for basketball cards is also important. Michael Jordan will always be one of the most collected names in the hobby, so if the overall market does well, then big and established names like Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, for example, are safe bets, compared to the speculative bets on unproven young players.

In a 15 year period, the official Jordan 1986 rookie card, in a PSA 10, went from an average price of around $6k in 2008, to around $180k in 2023, with a peak of around $600k in that time (source: PSA’s past auction data). The trend of value in that time shows a rise of about 2,900%, which is not a sustainable rate of increase going forward, but that’s not to say they couldn’t rise further, as the versions in the highest grade become more scarce.

How Many Michael Jordan Rookie Cards Are There?

There’s only 1 NBA licensed, and standard-issued official Michael Jordan rookie card, but there are multiple XRCs and unlicensed basketball cards, from earlier years.

Should You Grade Jordan Rookies?

If you have any Michael Jordan rookie cards, then my recommendation would be to grade them. Not only does grading increase the potential resale value of cards, if you decide to sell, but it also protects them in a plastic casing, as well as authenticates them.

For me, the pros make the cost and time of grading, with services like PSA, BGS or SGC, worth it for Jordan rookies. They’re a valuable asset that benefit from grading, just make sure you package it properly and safely when shipping to the grading company.

*Average price data based on PSA’s public previous sales data.

Picture of Jason Clarke

Jason Clarke

Jason is a lifelong sports fanatic and a huge fan of the NBA and NFL. He's long been a collector of sports cards - For over 20 years in fact. He collects various different sports, as well as some non-sport cards. He has a particular soft spot for 90s basketball inserts. Find Jason on X (Twitter): @jason_clarke91.
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