Michael Jordan Rookie Card guide: Most expensive and valuable cards

CHICAGO, IL – FEBRUARY 20: Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls (R) recovers the ball as Cleveland Cavaliers forward Chris Mills (L) tumbles after trying to steal the ball in the first quarter 20 February at the United Center in Chicago, IL. The Bulls entered the game at 46-5. (BRIAN BAHR/AFP via Getty Images)

Most valuable Michael Jordan rookie card and other expensive cards. 

On top of all of Air Jordan’s on-court accomplishments, he’s responsible for helping send the card-collecting hobby to another level in the late 1980s, along with Ken Griffey Jr. and two-sport star Bo Jackson.

Then, in 2020 with the pandemic forcing the world to cloister, Jordan’s “Last Dance” documentary provided an encore, boosting the hobby to another stratosphere. For this reason, it’s not surprising Jordan’s card prices are at the top of the game, soaring the way he did on the court.

Even serious collectors can find top-graded Jordan’s out of their price range. In top condition, the rookies highlighted here range from low six figures to more than a million. That said, owning one that’s not Gem Mint might still be worthwhile, with low-graded cards still being valued in the thousands and making a sweet show-and-tell piece for a collection. Plus, the hunt for the most valuable Jordan rookie card is still on, even though the chances are about the same as winning the lottery.

Michael Jordan career stats

  • PPG – 30.1
  • RPG – 6.2
  • APG – 5.3
  • Steals – 2.3
  • Hall of Famer
  • NBA Rookie of the Year
  • 6x NBA Champion
  • 5x NBA MVP
  • 6x NBA Finals MVP
  • 14x All-Star
  • 10x All-NBA First Team
  • 9x All-Defensive First Team
  • 10x Scoring Champion
  • NCAA Champion
  • 2x Olympic Gold Medalist

Most Valuable Michael Jordan Rookie Cards

  • 2006-2007 – 1986 Fleer Buyback Autograph
  • 1986 Fleer #57
  • 1986 Fleer Sticker #8
  • 1984 Star #101

Note: All listed money values from PSA Gem Mint 10 Average Auction Price

2006-2007 Fleer #57 Buyback Authentic Autograph /23

Credit: eBay
  • Value: $1,008,000 (June 2022 Auction)

The most recent sale of this card was $1,008,000 million at Christie’s auction house in June 2022. That’s because this iconic rookie card features something extra special.

After buying out the now-defunct Fleer in 2005, Upper Deck scoured the secondary market and bought 23 Fleer 1986 Jordan rookies. Then Jordan autographed each one, so the card showing his signature flight comes with his authenticated signature. Upper Deck randomly inserted redemption cards into packs of the 2006-2007 Fleer NBA set. Upon opening a pack with a redemption card, you send it to Upper Deck to receive this autographed card that notes the number signed by Jordan (out of 23, of course).

Here’s the ultimate chase – nine of these cards could still be out there in packs. So far, only 14 of the 23 cards are known to be graded and in the hands of collectors. Packs and boxes of them generally go for thousands.

For more history on the slightly more affordable (gulp, six figures) original Fleer #57, it’s coming up next.

1986-1987 Fleer #57

Credit: eBay
  • Value: $304,979 (PSA Grade 10)

This MJ is the centerpiece of the holy grail NBA set. This was the debut Fleer set after Topps stopped making basketball sets in 1981. So although Jordan’s career started in the 1984-1985 season, cards of him and other superstars like Akeem Olajuwon and Charles Barkley are considered “rookies.” The Fleer set was first considered a flop, but now an unopened pack goes for hundreds, unopened boxes with 36 packs go for six figures (like the one Drake and collector Ken Goldin opened), and a case of 12 boxes went for $1,789,717 in an August 2020 auction.

Despite these astronomical numbers, the card is still considered one of the best sports card investments. It features a legend whose reputation on the court will never waver, posing little risk and much chance for reward. The back of the card includes the Chicago Bulls logo and stats from Jordan’s first two years, in which he averaged 28.2 ppg and played every game in his Rookie of the Year campaign.

The card is far from scarce, yet finding one in top condition is very difficult. Although the red, blue, and white frame offers much of the card’s aesthetic appeal, the colored areas are susceptible to chipping, when tiny bits of the color chip to reveal white card stock. Any sign of chipping knocks the card’s grade, as does the other main challenge from 1980s cards–centering.

Like most cards, it skyrocketed after “The Last Dance” documentary (selling for $738,000 in January 2021) but has since come back somewhere near Earth. PSA has given a 10 grade to 321 cards and Beckett has awarded six cards a 10. And don’t forget, this card is valuable in every grade, with the lowest-graded cards still averaging just less than $2,000 in auctions.

1986-1987 Fleer Sticker #8

  • Value: $65,661 (PSA 10 Average Auction)

In the same debut set as the Jordan #57 rookie, Fleer began the tradition of including an 11-sticker subset of the top stars (Magic, Bird, Abdul-Jabaar). These cards are plentiful, with one inserted in every wax pack of 12 cards. However, you might know a kid who peeled them and stuck them to a Trapper Keeper notebook. Also, since they’re stickers rather than cards, they are slightly more flimsy than regular cardboard stock, making it more difficult to find them in top condition. Again, like the base set, centering is an issue.

In a nod to supply and demand, the top-graded Abdul-Jabaar is actually worth more because so many fewer have been graded high. Presumably, collectors were hunting down as many Jordans as possible while the big man was preparing to retire.

The picture of Jordan driving past a defender with his tongue wagging is another quintessential image. Plus, we get a shot of him in the original Air Jordans that would many years later make his feet bleed. The design and color scheme on the back is similar to the base set, but includes no statistics. Instead, there’s a short report of Jordan’s early career accomplishments in the NBA and as a North Carolina Tarheel.

Beckett hasn’t given a 10 to any of this issue’s Fleer stickers, and only 32 have scored a 9. PSA has given 121 cards a 10.

1984-1985 Star #101

Credit: eBay
  • Value: $52,500 (BGS 9.5 – 2015 Auction)

Considered another Jordan “rookie” by many in the hobby, this Star card illustrates how tricky collecting became as the NBA and other pro sports started to launch into another realm of popularity in the mid-1980s. Its last sale at auction in 2015 was one of three Star cards to receive the grade of 9.5. It went for $52,500. No cards have been graded a 10.

This image hardly depicts his “Airness” in spectacular form, and the back of the card features basic bio info and statistics from his UNC playing career. Yet the rarity in top condition makes it valuable, as does a backstory with a little controversy.

After Topps bowed out of NBA cards in 1981, basketball saw a cardless year in 1982-1983. Then came Star, an NBA-licensed product that began making team sets in the 1983-1984 season. The significant difference between Star and other card companies is that their sets weren’t mass-produced. It distributed cards through team promotions, mail order or through hobby shops and card dealers. Essentially, they were regional rather than nationwide.

In addition to this lack of mainstream status from the start, Star tried to dubiously capitalize on the explosion of the card market in the late 1980s. Using original printing plates, Star’s owner worked with a print shop to backdate a new run of 1980s cards.
It’s so difficult to distinguish between the original press run and the 1990s press run, that PSA and many authentication services don’t even grade the cards anymore. Beckett is the only third-party service grading these cards. Because it’s almost impossible to find a centered card, Beckett has given only three cards a 9.5 and 72 have received a 9.

Other valuable Michael Jordan cards

  • 1989 Bowman Tiffany #259 – Griffey Jr. and Dad on TV
  • 1997-1998 Upper Deck Game Patch
  • 1985 Interlake Bulls #1
  • 1985 Merchante Campeona
  • 1987 Fleer #59
  • 1987 Fleer Sticker #2

1997-1998 Upper Deck Game Patch Autograph /23

Credit: Sports Collectors
  • Value: $2.7 million (Goldin Auction, October 2021)

The most expensive Jordan card sold at auction. This card is the first to feature a patch of a Jordan game-worn jersey (from the 1992 All-Star Game) and an autograph. The October 2021 sale of this card for more than $2 million wasn’t a fluke, another one had sold for $2.1 million months earlier through the respected company Goldin Auctions.

1985 Interlake Bulls

Credit: eBay
  • Value: $87,330 (PSA Average Auction Value)

For a non-mainstream set, this one has quite a bit of value. It’s an oversized card (5” x 7”) that was distributed in the Chicago area by the Interlake Youth Incentive Program and the Boy Scouts of America. It wasn’t an NBA-licensed product. This time, we get an image of both original Air Jordans. A centered card is very difficult to find. And since protective sleeves weren’t made for cards of this size, these cards are almost always nicked up. The back of the card is blank.

56 of these have been graded as a 9 by Beckett and 36 as a 9.5.

PSA has graded 8 with a Gem Mint 10 score.

1985 Merchante Campeonato Baloncesto Liga

Credit: Heritage Collection
  • Value: $6,988 (PSA 9 Most Recent Auction)

Another sticker, these were distributed in the mid-1980s in Spain, which probably gives you an idea of the difficulty of finding one in the U.S. The photo from 1984 shows Jordan in his Olympic uniform, a member of the last amateur team to win gold for the U.S. in L.A.

Finding this one in top-grade condition is also rare because it’s less sturdy than cardboard stock. No sticker has ever been graded a 10. The back of the card has a yogurt advertisement. The back of one version of the card is in red and another version is in blue, which is the more scarce of the two. The highest grade PSA has given one with a red back is 9 and with the blue back is an 8.

Other valuable Rookie Card collections