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The name Michael Jordan is almost synonymous with basketball and has been for many years. Thanks to his appearances in the Space Jam films and his years of dominance in the sport, he became a household name.
To resellers such as myself, however, the name Michael Jordan has become synonymous with money. Not because he’s built a multi-billion dollar net worth but because pretty much anything Jordan-related that I find sellers like gangbusters.
Chiefly among these are Michael Jordan basketball cards. Most of them are worth money and some of them are worth life-changing amounts of money (not that I’ve found any of those).
Back when I sold most clothes I eBay I must have walked past dozens of Jordan cards at garage sales or out thrifting and I shudder to think about how much money I literally left on the table by not picking them up.
Thankfully, you can learn from my past mistakes with this guide to some of the most valuable Jordan cards and how to identify a card that isn’t on this list but may still be of some value.
So first, let’s look at sports cards in general and how to identify a card that might be of some value. Then, we’ll get into a few specific cards, both incredibly rare ones and ones that you might be able to find at yard sales or thrift stores.
Jordan’s Career and Cards
According to the Trading Card Database, there are 14,941 trading cards that feature Michael Jordan. However, not all of these are valuable for various reasons, so let’s take a quick look at his career and how it relates to which cards will have the highest chance of making you money.
Michael Jordan was drafted by the Chicago Bulls in June 1984 (at age 21), which means his rookie was the 1984-1985 season. Basketball seasons are always referred to as two consecutive years, as they start in the fall and end in the spring of the next year.
For “regular” cards, which are those without autographs, jersey swatches, or anything else special about them, this will be the most valuable year.
There are obviously a lot of other high-valued Jordans from the late 80s that sell for thousands of dollars or more as well, as they came right before The Years of Overproduction and have a higher level of rarity.
He then played with the Bulls until 1993 when he retired for the first time. He then went to play Minor League Baseball with the Birmingham Barons, an affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. Although he never played in Major League Baseball, he does appear on some baseball cards from this time. (his baseball cards are seen as a bit of novelty and usually sell for $5 or less by the way).
Jordan then returned to the Bulls ahead of the 1995-1996 season, where he played four seasons before retiring for the second time in 1999. Although he managed to win three championships in four years during his comeback tour, his trading cards from these years have limited value as they were produced en masse. There are a lot of special cards here, though, and some of them do have value, as you’ll see in the next section.
After his second retirement, he became part-owner of the Washington Wizards. In 2001, he returned for a second time to play for his new team. He played three seasons with the Wizards and these years were seen as a failure by the media and fans, mostly due to the supporting cast around Jordan. These cards are also novelties that don’t sell for a lot.
Although, I will say that the only time I got to see him play in real life was when we played for the Wizards so it wasn’t all bad.
Identifying Jordan Cards
If you’re new to cards, let’s take a whirlwind tour of figuring out which card you have, starting with what year your card is from and how to search for it. Thankfully, it’s a rather simple process.
The front of the card will have the name of the card manufacturer, which is very important because there are several. It’ll say something like “Topps”, “Bowman”, “Hoops, or something like that. This is usually found in the top left section.
In the top center, there might be the name of a series if it’s not a regular card. Maybe it’ll say something like “Legends of the Game”. On the back of the card, you should see a copyright date. Regular cards use the format of the season, like 1986-1987. Special cards, commonly called inserts, just use the copyright date.
I realize that might sound a bit confusing, so I’ll give you an example. Imagine you pick up a Jordan card at an estate sale and you see in the top right corner that it says “Fleer”. Once you turn over the card, you see that it says “Copyright 1987” on the bottom and, in the top right, you see “59 of 132”. This means you have a “1987-1988 Fleer #59 Michael Jordan” card. You look it up on the Trading Card Database and see the number produced and the average value (the card pictured above sold on eBay for $800).
Michael Jordan Cards Worth Money
Now let’s take a look at some of the most valuable Jordan cards that have been sold in the past few years through traditional auction houses. When looking at sales prices, you’ll want to look at ones post-March 2020 to get a good idea of what the current value is.
The entire trading card industry was doing rather poorly until the coronavirus lockdowns, which caused a resurgence and raised prices significantly. If you see a completed auction from 2019 or before, you can expect to get a lot more money selling now.
Most Valuable Jordan Cards Sold At Auction
1997 Upper Deck Autograph #GJ13S
The most expensive Jordan card ever sold, unsurprisingly, is an extremely rare insert from 1997 that features a swatch of the jersey he wore in the 1997 NBA All-Star Game. Only 23 were made and each card was autographed and numbered by Jordan himself.
The latest card that was auctioned by Heritage Auctions went for $1,440,000 even though it was only graded a 7. Pictures of the card are understandably hard to come by but you can see the closed auction here.
1986-1987 Fleer #57 Rookie Card
When people think of high-valued Jordan rookie cards, this is the one that comes to mind. It is a very popular card among collectors, with a grade ten sold through Goldin Auctions for $720,000 in January 2021 and a grade ten sold on eBay in May 2022 for $228,000 (which tell you that eBay probably isn’t the best spot to sell high-value items…).
1997 Precious Metal Gems #23 – Green Foil
Another extremely rare card, only ten of these cards were produced with a green background. One sold for auction in December 2020 for a whopping $915,000. Of those ten, only six have been presented for grading, which means there might still be four of them out there for you to find! But probably not…
1997 Precious Metal Gems #23 – Red Foil
The red variant is slightly less rare than its green counterpart listed above, with 90 cards being produced. It is still a very valuable card, however, as one sold at a Heritage auction in 2021 for $480,000.
1986 Fleer #8 (Sticker Variant)
This card is actually almost the exact same as the #57 listed above, the obvious difference being that this is a sticker version. It’s very rare to find a mint condition version of this card because Fleer used wax paper in its packaging. As the rarest cards were inserted at the bottom of the stack, the backs often have wax residue on them. In February 2021, a mint condition Fleer #8 sold on eBay for just over $200,000.
1984 Star #101
Card collectors might be shocked to see a Star card on the list, as it is not generally considered a prestige brand. However, this particular card has the distinction of being the very first Jordan rookie card licensed by the NBA. It was released shortly after Jordan had been drafted and only has his college stats on the back. A grade nine was sold in May 2022 for $135,000.
“Easy To Find” Michael Jordan Cards Worth Money
Now we get on to our real bread and butter. Michael Jordan cards worth money that are remotely possible to find.
Any card seller worth their salt will be looking up every interesting card they find until they are competent enough to spot value but I’ll give you a jumpstart.
While there are some “valuable” options that sell for a bit more or less, I’m going to focus on cards produced in easy-to-find sets that are ungraded and valued between $20 and $100 (on eBay as that’s the easiest place to sell).
1. 1996-97 Flair Showcase – Flair Showcase Row 1 (Grace) #23
“Special Edition” or less-known-brand cards are really hit-or-miss as, more often than not, they’re just money grabs from the card company as they want to produce a greater variety of cards.
Jordan cards are somewhat of an exception here as there are collectors specifically wanting every MJ card they can get their hands on, including weird versions like this one from Flair.
2. 1998 Upper Deck Living Legend Michael Jordan #147
If you recognize the name of the card company (Upper Deck in this case) and the card was produced during Jordan’s playing career, odds are you have a winner.
This one went for a bit more because it also features Kobe.
3. 1996-97 Fleer Metal Michael Jordan #11
Again with the weirdo versions. Cards like this were not particularly desirable at the time but were often produced in small enough numbers that they have become difficult to find (and are therefore worth more money).
4. 1985 Michael Jordan Portland Trailblazers ERROR CARD #9
In coin collecting and Beanie Babies, people go crazy when they find an error because it usually means that it’s incredibly valuable. This isn’t usually the case in the trading card world.
There was a slew of cards printed for Michael Jordan during his (nonexistent) Trail Blazer years and there is more a curiosity than anything but we still pick them up to sell!
5. 1990 Kenner Starting Lineup Michael Jordan
Any card that has the word “rookie” on it gets buyers excited, even if it was printed well after the fact and is a throwback card.
6. Upper Deck In Your Face Michael Jordan #453
Michael Jordan won the slam dunk contest twice (back-to-back titles in ’87 and ’88) and any card commemorating it is worth picking up.
7. 1988-89 Fleer Michael Jordan #17
This is one of the oldest cards in this lineup. This one sold on auction which meant it went a bit cheaper than it could have. Cards this old are almost always winners and you should grab them first and ask questions later!
Now, I’m not saying that you’re going to be able to go out and find these specific cards.
While it’s possible, my purpose was more to give you an idea of the type of Michael Jordan cards that are worth money so that you can spot one when you see it in the wild.
Something important to remember about selling Jordan cards (and every other type of card) is that condition is king. If any of the above cards were graded as “Mint” or better they could easily go for 3-4x the price they did!
About Jordan Cards and Sports Trading Cards in General
If buying and selling Michael Jordan cards is going to be your gateway into selling cards of every type, then there are a few things you’ll need to know. These tips apply to just about any type of card you want to flip whether it’s basketball cards or Pokemon cards.
First, the player on the card usually has to be someone who is well-known. If it’s Jordan, Larry Bird, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, or someone else you’ve heard of, there’s a good chance it’s worth something. If it’s a card of Wayne “Burner” Turner who played in three NBA games in his entire career, it’s probably not going to fetch a lot on eBay.
Second, as with almost all collectibles, it needs to be in good shape. You can get them professionally evaluated by Beckett, the industry gold standard for card grading. They also have price guides but they require a premium subscription, so you’re probably better off checking eBay or Mercari unless you end up finding a lot of cards that might be valuable.
Another great option is PSA Grading. They have a helpful guide that shows the same card at different grades, so you can compare your card to the pictures and see what kind of shape it might be in. The one grade they don’t list is “Authentic”, which means there’s a physical defect with the card that prevents them from giving it a numerical score.
Third, just like with comic books, earlier is usually better. The most expensive standard cards tend to be a player’s rookie card, although there are a few exceptions like a factory misprint where only a few thousand cards were produced with a typo or something. Another major exception is “jersey cards”, which have a one-square-inch piece of a jersey the player wore in a game attached to them. Those are often particularly valuable.
Finally, the other major thing to watch out for is the year the card was produced. This in particular very much applies to Jordan because he debuted for the Chicago Bulls in 1984. Many of his playing cards are from the 90s, which is when card values start to plummet.
In sports card circles, that decade is often called “The Years of Overproduction” because roughly 80 billion cards were produced between the four major US sports. Because these cards were and are still very common, they are generally not worth very much in the resale market.
Buying & Selling Michael Jordan Cards On eBay
If you’re still here…you’re great. Now we can get into the bread and butter of what we’re really good at, selling on eBay.
If you’re just starting out on your card-collecting journey then eBay is probably the lowest-risk place to start. It doesn’t cost much money and you only pay fees when your item sells.
Since I don’t have the space to give you the full rundown, let’s hit some of the more common questions that we get about selling cards on eBay:
Should You Have Your Cards Graded?
Probably not. Unless we find a card that is likely to go for $100+ we don’t bother to have it graded. Grading is expensive and takes a good amount of time. I’d rather just list something, take a slightly lower price, and roll that money into more cards to sell.
Is eBay A Safe Place To Sell Cards?
In general, eBay is a very safe marketplace. There are several common eBay scams that you’ll have to be aware of but it’s a good place to start selling lower-value cards and familiarizing yourself with the market and the types of people you’ll be dealing with.
Should I Sell Cards On Auction Or BIN?
It’s almost always better to list your items on a BIN (Buy-It-Now) listing than an auction. Auctions might get you a sale but they almost always go for less money. List something for the price you want and forget about it. If an item doesn’t sell we revisit it six months to a year later and rethink the price.
What’s The Best Place To Find Cards To Sell On eBay?
The absolute best place to buy sports cards to resell is at local yard sales. You can often buy entire lots of cards for pennies apiece. Thrift stores are overpriced and any other resale store is likely to be swarming with other resellers that drive up the prices.
If you’re serious about selling on eBay, the best thing you can do is to just get something listed. Nearly anything can sell but you’ll need to get some experience with the entire process and build the habit of listing daily before your store will really take off!
Summary and Final Thoughts
One final bit of advice is that you could find an unopened pack of basketball cards from the time of Jordan’s career. If the set that the pack belongs to contains a rare and expensive Jordan, you might get more money from selling it if you leave it sealed.
For example, imagine you find an unopened pack of 1986 Fleer basketball cards. This is the set that contains #57, the rookie card we talked about earlier that has sold for between $250,000 and $700,000.
A single unopened pack sells for about $600. You could open it and potentially find a Jordan or another card worth thousands or more. You could also open the pack and find nothing but common cards that sell for $2. It all depends on how much risk you’re willing to take.
I mean, I’d open the pack (with gloves…) but it’s up to you!
No matter whether you think Michael Jordan or LeBron James is the greatest basketball player of all time (or if you have no opinion on the matter at all!), you can still make a lot of money reselling high-value Jordan cards if you find them at the right price. Best of luck to you and happy hunting!