There are hobby superstars and then there's Michael Jordan. He transcends everything before him and Michael Jordan cards will be the measuring stick for everything that follows.
No matter the release, Michael Jordan cards sell. While there are thousands that command anywhere from the price of lunch up to a hefty house mortgage, there are some elite standouts.
The list of Michael Jordan cards that follows isn't only about value, although there are certainly tons of investment-worthy pieces here. Rather, we look at 23 Michael Jordan cards that could be considered cornerstones of almost any collection. They chart his early years, crazy inserts, limited parallels, autographs and memorabilia cards. Above all, they catch our attention.
This is by no means a definitive list of the best Michael Jordan cards. There are too many of them. Elite Michael Jordan cards are like pieces of art done by the masters. Every time these cards pop up, they seem to break records. Here are 23 Michael Jordan cards worth gawking at and dreaming of adding to your cardboard collection.
See Also: Real-Time Michael Jordan Card Hot List.
23 of the Best Michael Jordan Cards
Click on the images or listings to shop for singles on eBay. Linked sets in the description go to detailed product profiles.
The 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan rookie card is one of the most important cards in the history of the hobby. For modern card collecting, one could argue it's as iconic as the 1952 Topps Baseball Mickey Mantle is for vintage collectors. However, given its popularity and value, MJ rookie fakes are a huge issue, so be careful when shopping.
Those looking beyond his first Fleer card are in luck as there are also many more key Michael Jordan cards from the 1980s.
The 1996 SPx Michael Jordan Autograph is his first signed basketball card. These die-cut beauties feature on-card signatures and rarely surface for sale.
Is it a basketball card or a buzz saw? 1996-97 E-X2000 A Cut Above cards were inserted 1:288 packs, making any given card extremely tough to come by. Given the intricate design, condition can also be be a problem.
The road of high-end Michael Jordan cards is paved with a ton of low-numbered parallels. While the 1996-97 Flair Showcase Legacy Collection Row 2 Michael Jordan isn't the rarest, it is certainly one of the most beautiful. Mixing an action shot in the foreground with an emotional foil portrait in the background, the card beams with elegance.
The 1996-97 Metal Net-Rageous Michael Jordan is another outrageous mid-90s insert that's ridiculously tough to find. Loud and proud, cards from the die-cut set can be found 1:288 packs.
Another wild insert from the era, 1997-98 E-X2001 Jambalaya focused on basketball's best dunkers. And when you're talking about the game's best dunkers, Michael Jordan is king. Inserted at a very tough rate of 1:720 packs, Jambalaya remains one of the most desirable insert sets ever created.
Mixing a holofoil shimmer, a matte front and some horrible fonts, there's no doubt what era the 1997-98 Fleer Thrill Seekers Michael Jordan came from. Cards in the ten-card set are a case hit, falling 1:288 packs.
The grand-daddy of parallels, if you've got a 1997-98 Metal Universe Precious Metal Gems Michael Jordan, you've got a few tuition payments for your children's college education. And text books. And a lifetime supply of Kraft Dinner. The blazing red background is perfectly appropriate for Jordan. Although numbered to 100, only 90 of the famed Precious Metal Gems cards are red. The remaining ten are green. And if you have one of those, you may be able to trade it for a house, white picket fence and all.
If you haven't figured it out by now, Fleer ruled the wild insert designs, parallels and tough pulls of the mid- to late-1990s. The 1997-98 Ultra Star Power Supreme Michael Jordan is a case hit parallel that mixes a die-cut design with holofoil. Individual singles in the 20-card set appear 1:288 packs of 1997-98 Ultra Series 2 Basketball.
1997-98 Ultra Stars was the set's Series One case hit. Of those, ten percent were given the Ultra Stars Gold treatment. Basically, the 1997-98 Ultra Stars Gold Michael Jordan is an impossible parallel of a nearly impossible set. And it's got all the flash and jazz collectors expect and love.
The first Michael Jordan game-used jersey card might not be the prettiest. But it's still the first. With 22 cards in the set, even odds of one per case would make it tough. Try 1:2,500 packs for any given card in the set. That's 1:55,000 packs for the 1997-98 Upper Deck Game Jerseys Michael Jordan. There's also an autographed version that is numbered to 23.
Limited to 100 copies, the 1998-99 Fleer Tradition Playmakers Theatre Michael Jordan has a lot going for it. It's embossed and has some great gold shine. Collectors should beware of versions that have neither embossing or serial numbers. These were likely in the Fleer archives when the company went out of business and the assets were sold off.
The 1998-99 Hoops Slam Bams Michael Jordan is a strange beast. While it has some great photography, the overall design is among the busiest you'll ever find. Oh yeah, it's numbered to 100 copies so it commands attention whenever it pops up.
Instead of numbering to 100 like the previous year, the 1998-99 Metal Universe Precious Metal Gems Michael Jordan has just 50 copies. The parallel's immense popularity and the low numbering make this one of the ultimate Michael Jordan card prizes.
The 1998-99 SkyBox Molten Metal Fusion Michael Jordan is unique with its tiny die-cut dots that combine to create the legend's portrait. While the basic Fusion parallel is numbered to 250, a Titanium version is much tougher with just 40 copies.
Resembling something Pacific might have created with their Prism lines a few years earlier, the 1998-99 SkyBox Premium Star Rubies Michael Jordan is one of the most desired parallel cards of all-time. Numbered to 50, it pictures Jordan preparing to drive to the hoop.
Who names these cards? Although the title might be horrible, it's memorable—kind of like those late-night TV jingles that stick with you for months on end. The distinct die-cut design and rarity (1:300 packs) make the 1998-99 SkyBox Thunder Noyz Boyz Michael Jordan one of the greatest insert cards in the hobby.
Upper Deck made six different Michael Jordan autographed jersey cards in 1998-99, all of which are numbered to 23. All rank among the best Michael Jordan cards ever.
Upper Deck staff have gotten some amazing exclusive cards over the years. Perhaps none are more beautiful than the 1999 Upper Deck Employee Game Jersey Michael Jordan. Numbered to 275, the card pictures Jordan making his original last shot. The card was produced just for staff and wasn't inserted in packs.
When you think of Michael Jordan, a handful of iconic things come to mind: the number 23, his impressive dunks and his signature shoes. The Air Jordan sneaker line is bigger than the game. Yet, it has only appeared on a handful of Michael Jordan cards. The 1999-00 Upper Deck HoloGrFX Shoetime Autograph Michael Jordan is among the first of just a few signed shoe cards of the great.
The greatest strength of the 2000-01 Ultimate Collection Signatures Gold Michael Jordan is its simplicity. And autograph. And limited numbering to 25.
The 2003-04 UD Glass 1-2 Combo Jersey LeBron James/Michael Jordan is the only card from LeBron James' rookie year to combine the pair's signatures and jersey swatches. Numbered to only ten copies, the design is somewhat understated given its significance. The pair have signed many more cards together since then.
When was the last time you saw a modern base card that wasn't a rookie card go for $500? It's unheard of — almost. Michael Jordan and 2003-04 Exquisite Collection are two very special hobby beasts. One is the greatest player, the other is the greatest set.