It’s 2020, and the biggest name in sports today is … a man who hasn’t played professionally since 2003. That would be one Michael Jordan – Washington Wizard, Birmingham Baron and, forever, a Chicago Bull if not The Chicago Bull.
In the absence of live sports, Jordan again dominates the hardwood and our small screens as star of ESPN’s 10-part documentary The Last Dance, watched by more than 6 million during its first week – record numbers for the Worldwide Leader. The series, which recounts the Chicago Bulls’ final championship season of 1997-’98, is all things to all people: conversation starter, record straightener, debate settler (MJ or King James?). And this was after only two episodes had aired.
Jordan’s ascension to the top of the pops – yet again — helps explains the increased interest in His Airness items in Heritage Auction’s upcoming Spring Sports Collectibles Catalog Auction, which takes place May 7-9 with bidding now open online at HA.com.
Look no further than card No. 57 in the 1986 Fleer Basketball set – Jordan’s official rookie card and one of the absolute must-haves in modern-day sports collecting, especially in this condition. With almost two weeks to go before the auction begins, bidding was already at $38,000, which comes as no surprise given its astonishing grade: PSA Gem Mint 10.
Speaking of ’86 Fleer Basketball …
Also included in the auction are 36 unopened, PSA-graded ’86 Fleer wax packs – an unfathomably rare thing in the hobby world. Made even more extraordinary because you can actually see three of the Jordan stickers included in the set that also features a number of Hall of Famers and household names. Is an MJ rookie card buried somewhere beneath – or, maybe, more? Hard to say … for now. Estimated to sell for around $50,000, and already more than halfway there.
While the Fleer is considered the rookie card, there was one card that came first; it, too, is in the Spring Sports Collectibles Auction. That would be the 1984-’85 Star Co. Michael Jordan card issued as part of its Bulls set in sealed team bags. There weren’t many made – somewhere below 5,000, with few of the survivors graded this high: BGS NM-MT+ 8.5. Two weeks out bidding was already nearing the card’s estimated value of $8,000.
Here’s a card that should be priceless: the 2007-08 SP Authentic Sign of the Times Sixes, which is autographed by:
Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Magic Johnson, Julius Erving and Kevin Garnett.
The card is graded BGS NM-MT+ 8.5; the signatures, Beckett Mint 9. Estimate is $6,000 or higher. Expect higher. Much.
Same for the 2002-03 SPx Winning Combos Autograph card bearing the signature of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Only 10 exist, and this one, No. 4 out of the 10, is graded BGS Mint 9. Early into the auction, it has already surpassed its early estimate of $2,000.
So, too, has this oversized photo of Jordan and Bryant taken in the 1990s – signed by both men. It was estimated at around $2,500 – and bidding is already three times that two weeks out.
Here’s a real rarity: a ticket stub to the Oct. 5, 1984, Bills-Pacers pre-season match-up at the Peoria Civic Center Arena. What makes it special? This was the night the Jordan Era officially began for the Bulls: He played 29 minutes and scored 18 points in his first-ever pro-ball appearance, leading the Bulls to a 102-98 win over Indiana. Even harder to find than a stub from Jordan’s first regular-season game three weeks – which, by the way, $33,600 in our August 2018 Platinum Night auction.
Of course, Jordan wasn’t just a basketballer: He first quit the game in October 1993, citing burnout and his father’s death, only to return as a minor-leaguer in the Chicago White Sox system by March the following year. Keepsakes from his days as a Birmingham Barons outfielder are difficult to come by. But in the spring auction Heritage is offering this rarity: a pair of Jordan-signed Air Jordan baseball cleats, not exactly the footwear with which he’s most identified. In fact, these are the first we’ve ever handled.
According to our consignor, the cleats come from longtime MLB pitcher Jeff Reardon’s Leukemia Charity Golf Tournament in 1995. A White Sox announcer got them from Jordan – and now they can be yours, along with a handwritten note from Reardon acknowledging that the cleats are indeed authentic. Estimated to go for upwards of $5,000.
Another Jordan baseball offering is in this auction: a signed bat – one out of only 500. Even that has intense interest in this sale, with prices already approaching the estimated $1,000.
But here’s the perfect thing with which to watch The Last Dance: an authentic MJ-signed Chicago Bulls home jersey from the very 1997-’98 championship season documented in the ESPN series. The closest you’ll get to a time machine. And, for now, just a bit less expensive.