Depicting Michael Jordan next to his 1986 Fleer #57 rookie card
Andy Hayt/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images
TRADING CARDS & COLLECTIBLES

Is Michael Jordan’s Most Famous Rookie Card Tanking?

MJ’s 1986 Fleer #57 is the best-known of all his rookies. And we need to talk about what’s happening to its market.

On January 21, two separate 1986 Fleer Michael Jordan #57 rookie cards in PSA 10 gem mint condition sold for $720,000 each at Goldin Auctions. At the time, that tied them for second on the all-time list of most expensive sales for solo MJ cards.

As recently as March 5, the card was going for over $600,000 a pop.

But this week at Heritage Auctions, a PSA 10 fetched “only” $300,000. As Darren Rovell notes, it’s the lowest price paid such a card since 2020.

Is this cause for alarm among trading card investors? Let’s investigate.

In the last 90 days, the market for the 1986 Fleer Michael Jordan #57 has been a busy one. With a PSA 10 population of 317, a full 80 have changed hands over this period according to Card Ladder data. Visualizing the way the market has behaved, day traders might be feeling a bit queasy.

Until mid-April, we had a solid stretch of months during which it was impossible to land one of these cards for less than $400,000. Since the start of May, however, two PSA 10s were sold, and neither reached that $400,000 treshold.

And that’s a far cry from the $720,000 mark set twice over at Goldin in January. Have a look:

Total daily value of card sales for 1986 Fleer Michael Jordan in PSA 10 (2/20/21-5/20/21, via Card Ladder)

PSA 10 population: 317

Number of sales (last 3 months): 20
Sale price range (last 3 months): $336,000 to $612,000
Average sale price (last 3 months): $462,500

Number of sales (past month): 5
Sale price range (past month): $336,000 to $430,500
Average sale price (past month): $389,760

Now, let’s examine the market for the same card in PSA 9 condition, which has seen 80 transactions in the last 90 days up against a total population of 2,787:

Total daily value of card sales for 1986 Fleer Michael Jordan in PSA 9 (2/19/21-5/20/21, via Card Ladder)

PSA 9 population: 2,787

Number of sales (last 3 months): 80
Sale price range (last 3 months): $26,700 to $60,700
Average sale price (last 3 months): $37,780

Number of sales (past month): 22
Sale price range (past month): $27,060 to $35,330
Average sale price (past month): $30,140

The PSA 9 tells a similar story. The card sold $60,000 in mid-February, $50,000 in mid-March and $40,000 by the end of that month. Over the last four weeks, a majority of sales now check in below $30,000.

So, what can we take away from this? Well, as Rovell noted, even the gem mint ’86 Fleer Jordan wasn’t going for much higher than $50,000 at this time one year ago. Any investor who scooped one up around that time is still looking at a return on investment of no less than 570%.

With that in mind, those itching to declare that the trading card boom is actually a bubble on the cusp of bursting don’t have a whole lot of ammo supporting the idea. But it may be that in this current era of the card market, this famous bit of MJ wax did hit its peak at the beginning of 2021.

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