The Most Valuable Michael Jordan Card Isn’t From His Rookie Season

When an NBA player puts together a career as historical as Michael Jordan, they almost always command a robust memorabilia market as well. Jordan-related items consistently rank among the highest-priced NBA memorabilia sales. Some of the most hotly collected items are rare basketball cards from his time in the league.

One Jordan basketball card recently made headlines by setting the third-highest amount for the auction of a basketball card. Those unfamiliar with the story assume the card in question must be from Jordan’s rookie season. Surprisingly, this wasn’t the case.

An obligatory word about Michael Jordan’s greatness

There’s not a lot that needs to be said about Jordan’s career. After all, he didn’t earn the GOAT mantle for nothing. Yet it’s nice to recap a few of Jordan’s most impressive accomplishments. To begin with, Jordan proved himself capable of contributing to team success at the highest level, racking up an impressive six title rings over the course of his career.

Jordan’s individual accolades are equally impressive. He won five MVP awards, as well as six final MVP awards. The 14-time All-Star made the All-NBA team 11 times and the All-Defensive team nine times. He led the league in scoring on 10 occasions and currently ranks No. 5 all-time in career points scored.

Jordan’s rookie card

As noted above, the commonly held assumption among fans is that Jordan’s most famous card is his rookie card. Up until recently, that assumption generally held true. In fact, back in 2011, Jordan’s 1986-87 Fleer Rookie Card brought in a record-setting $100,000 at auction. That’s pretty impressive for a card that isn’t even that rare.

Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) has allegedly examined over 17,000 different examples of the Jordan rookie card — and they’re just one of many grading and authentication companies. What set that $100,000 card apart was its exceptional condition. In fact, it was the first to have ever earned a perfect “10” grade.

By contrast, Jordan rookie cards graded 8.5 tend to fetch around $2,200. Cards graded 9.0 do a bit better, bringing in over $3,800. That gives you a pretty good idea of the emphasis that professional collectors place on perfection.

The holy grail Michael Jordan basketball card

The record sale for a Jordan card was shattered last February in an eBay auction handled by PWCC Marketplace. That card brought in a staggering $350,100. The most surprising thing was that it was not a Jordan rookie card at all, but rather a super rare Precious Metal Gems (PMG) Green card from Jordan’s 1997-98 season.

Card company Skybox produced just 10 of these cards, which were originally included as insert cards for their Metal Universe packs. Currently, only three of the 10 Jordan PMG Greens are accounted for. The one that sold in February 2019 was the only one of those three to have been authenticated by PSA.

Interestingly, PSA didn’t assign a numerical grade to the Jordan PMG Green. Instead, they described the card as “altered.” This term indicates a card that, though authentic, shows evidence of things like recoloring, trimming, restoration, or cleaning. PSA didn’t make clear why they utilized the altered descriptor.

Generally speaking, an altered card commands a much lower price. For that reason, many analysts were stunned by the price that the Jordan PMG Green fetched. Yet few would dispute that owning a basketball card like this is a great investment, regardless of what you had to pay to get it.