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Collecting MJ: A look at Michael Jordan Collectibles

by Rob Bertrand (02/12/13).

As Michael Jordan turns 50, we’re taking at look at MJ’s collectibles. The top of the class are his game-worn jerseys. Recent sales in the last few years have ranged in price from $12,000 to $17,000 for his coveted jersey. This one sold at auction through Grey Flannel last May for $15,180.

Legally named Michael Jeffrey Jordan, the world simply knows him as Michael or M.J. The former basketball player responsible for captivating not only a nation but the world with his high-flying play rim and his intense competitive nature is turning 50 years old on Sunday, Feb. 17. To put that in terms that will make most of us feel our age, he is officially as close to receiving his AARP card as he is from winning his last NBA Championship in 1998.

For much of the late 1980s and ’90s, Michael Jordan became a global phenomenon that evolved from simply another talented basketball player to worldwide marketing brand. His popularity transcended sports, making him a coveted asset for both Madison Avenue advertising executives and Hollywood movie moguls alike. His charismatic personality, dominant on-court talent and competitive spirit were magnified on a global stage for all to see in route to leading his Chicago Bulls to six NBA titles.

Long-retired from active play, the game’s all-time greatest player and Hall of Fame member is currently the majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats. While he has yet to replicate the success he achieved on the court in his new front office capacity, he will always be remembered as a winner. So, happy birthday, Michael, and here is a look at some of his collectibles.

The now defunct Fleer trading card company was the only major manufacturer of official NBA-licensed basketball cards at the time of his entry into the league, and his card—#57 from the company’s 1986-87 release—is his definitive rookie card. The card still commands top dollar to this day in both raw and graded conditions. Samples at the top of the grading scale can sell for upwards of $12,000. With a piece of cardboard able to command that kind of value, the market is ripe with counterfeits. It is recommended to only purchase this card if it has been authenticated and/or graded by a legitimate third party service. If you already own one and want to know if it is real, there are tell-tale signs to look for under magnification, including blurring around the Fleer logo, and no white in the eyes of the Bulls’ logo on the back of the card.

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The Fleer NBA card #57 from the 1986-87 release (left) is his definitive Michael Jordan rookie card and it still commands top dollar, selling for upwards of $12,000. With a piece of cardboard able to command that kind of value, the market is ripe with counterfeits. One tell-tale sign to look for blurring around the Fleer logo and no white in the eyes of the Bulls’ logo on the back of the card under magnification (above).

Currently, The Upper Deck Company and its subsidiary, Upper Deck Authenticated, hold the rights to an exclusive licensing deal with Jordan for the use of his image, autographs and game-used memorabilia. This has been the case for years. While these items are expensive, buying items with the UDA hologram and COA are the only way to know for certain that what you are purchasing is 100-percent legitimate. As a result, signed basketballs, like the one pictured here, retails through the company’s website for $1,500.

Other Jordan collectibles guaranteed to hold, if not appreciate in value are framed, licensed and autographed photos from his early playing days. Perhaps no single image is more recognized or defines his career than the one taken during his first NBA Slam Dunk competition.

A signed Michael Jordan basketball, like the one pictured here, retails through Upper Deck Authenticated’s website for $1,500. UDA holds the rights to an exclusive licensing deal with Jordan.

An autographed floor section from the United Center in Chicago, where the Bulls played, and classic photo of Jordan’s famed “Wings” photo. It is a little more budget-friendly at $1,000.

Actual game-used and worn items from MJ’s career are at the top of the food chain when it comes to his memorabilia and collectibles. Recent sales in the last few years have ranged in price from $12,000 to $17,000 for his coveted jersey. The jersey pictured here, sold at auction through Grey Flannel last May for $15,180. A far more cost-effective option for owning a piece of MJ’s memorabilia is the actual floor that he played on at the arena he helped build, the United Center in Chicago. This specialty piece contains an autographed floor section and classic photo of Jordan’s famed “Wings” photo and is a bit more budget-friendly at $1,000.

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Perhaps no single image is more recognized or defines his career than the one taken during his first NBA Slam Dunk competition (left). Framed, licensed and autographed, it should to hold, if not appreciate in value. One of Jordan’s most iconic and valuable collectibles was initially simply just a commodity. The original Nike Air Jordan basketball shoe might be worth a small fortune.

It’s interesting to note that one of his most iconic and valuable collectibles was initially simply just a commodity. The original Air Jordan basketball shoe that helped put upstart athletic shoe and apparel manufacturer Nike on the map now sell for obscene amounts of money when they come to auction. They are also heavily counterfeited and would require an entire article as a separate subject to explain what to look for in terms of identifying an authentic sample. Suffice it to say, if you were a kid lucky enough to own a pair you might be sitting on a small treasure.

As with everything collectible, condition is everything and, although it is hard to imagine, you can find brand new Air Jordan I’s still in the box.

Rob Bertrand has been an active collector of sports cards and memorabilia for more than 20 years. His involvement in the hobby community is well documented, having been the content manager for the Card Corner Club website before the company’s merger with CardboardConnection in 2011, where he is now a staff writer and multimedia content producer. Rob is also the co-host of the sports collectibles hobby’s only live and nationally broadcast radio show, Cardboard Connection Radio. He is the author of the highly respected and trafficked blog, Voice of the Collector and you can follow him on Twitter @VOTC. A dealer himself, Rob runs an online business through eBay, and is frequently asked to consign collections.

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