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1986 FLEER Basketball Cards - Where are the Investment Opportunities?

May 25, 2021 6 min read

1986 FLEER Basketball Cards - Where are the Investment Opportunities?


1986 Fleer Basketball Set is arguably the most iconic card set in all of sports.  Very rarely do you find one with this many Hall of Fame rookie cards.  Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon, Karl Malone, and Patrick Ewing just to name a few.  These are all Top 50 players of all time.

Collectors want to get involved in the 1986 fleer action.  With the Michael Jordan card becoming out of reach for most collectors with a last sales price of $414,544 over the last 90 days, they are forced to look at other options.

That’s what today’s video is all about.  Seeing if we can find some investment and collecting opportunities within the 1986 Fleer basketball set.

All this data I am presenting you with today comes from Market Movers, which is Sports Card Investors software program.  I’ve talked about them many times before.  Love their software and how easy it is to pull data and track your sports card investments.  New features being added all the time.

There is a 20% off discount code in the video description below.  It is an affiliate link so I may receive a small commission.  However, only purchase it if you are going to use it and it fits into your budget.

OK, now that we got all that out of the way, lets jump into the data.

All this data is from the last 90 days and comes from eBay and is all PSA 10s base cards that have sold.  I will touch on the PSA 9s and the PSA 10 stickers at the end of the video.  As with anything, please always do your own research before making any purchasing decisions and always do what is best for you.

Before we take a look at some specific cards that may have some opportunities, let’s take a look at some quick data.  Going to be looking at the 16 highest selling cards from the set.  That includes Wilkins, Jordan, Barkley, Ewing, Drexler, Erving, Magic, Mullin, Thomas, Worthy, Olajuwon, Malone, Dumars, Kareem, Bird, and Oakley.

Most expensive card from this set?  Jordan obviously at $414,544.  Crazy this card sat around $30,000 for a long time.

Least expensive?  Charles Oakley rookie at $306.

Card with the lowest pop?  Dominique Wilkins at 92.  Highest is Hakeem Olajuwon at 327.  As you can see, out of the 16 best-selling cards from this set, they all have extremely low pops.

$ per pop count (sales price/total pop of that grade).  Highest Jordan at $1,307.  Lowest Charles Oakley at $1.56.

Now let’s take a look at some cards that may be under performing.  What I am looking for are cards of the superstars that are selling for way less than other superstars.  Also, I am looking for cards with low pop reports and also low sales.  Cheaper to get into, with the potential to maybe increase in price more than some other cards.  Let’s take a look at some cards where their pop rank is decently higher than their sales rank.

Guys on that list are Larry Bird, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Chris Mullin, James Worthy, Isiah Thomas, Julius Erving, Joe Dumars, and Charles Oakley.  Let’s focus on some of those for a second that meet that criteria.

Kareem is 2nd in low pop but only 9th in sales.  Last sales price $3,651.  With Kareem getting up there in age at 74, at some point a flood of collectors are going to be interested in Kareem.  His 1969 Topps rookie is tens of thousands of dollars, with the PSA 8 selling for $64,621 with a pop of 168. This is a far more affordable price for some to get a piece of his card action with a pop of just 94.  Plus, since Kareem played so long ago, many new collectors know he was a great player, but I don’t think he has been fully appreciated just yet.  Getting a Kareem 1986 Fleer card kills 2 birds with 1 stone.  You get in on the 1986 Fleer and Kareem action.

Isiah Thomas, I talked about a bit on the last episode on the Top 50 NBA rookie cards.  I still think at a price of $3,025 with a 183 pop he is still a bit undervalued.  Kareem’s 1986 fleer sells for $600 more than Thomas’s rookie.  Dominique Wilkins 4 x.  Charles Barkley 4.6 x.  Patrick Ewing 3 x. 

Thomas was a 2 x NBA Champion, Finals MVP and a 12 x All-Star.  Played in an iconic era of NBA basketball.  Whether or not collectors identify with him and his personality might be what is holding him back.

Chris Mullin, 12 in sales, and only 3rd in pop with 103.  My problem with Chris Mullin is his popularity just isn’t there.  Great player, loved watching him and Run TMC with my hometown Warriors.  I just don’t think he has gotten the love that he deserves yet.  Will he get that in the future?  I’m not so sure.  Something drastic would have to really happen such as becoming a Head Coach somewhere, or having some crazy popular documentary come out.  I just don’t see it.

Julius Erving is an interesting one.  14th in sales at $1900 and 7th in pop at 160.  Erving is an ICONIC player with a very expensive rookie card.  Last PSA 9 of his 1972 Topps sold for $50,000.  I think players like Erving, Bird, Magic, Jordan, those names for the most part are synonymous with being safe. 

Speaking of Larry Bird, 7th in sales at $4,700 and 4th in pop at 113.  $4700 is a big chunk of change.  But that is $2500 cheaper than Magic Johnson with 56 less being graded.  Definitely an opportunity here with Bird.

Let’s change gears here for a second and look at the PSA 9s of everyone on this list and see if we can see some big gaps.  For those of us who can’t afford a PSA 10, a PSA 9 is always a good option.

Cards with the biggest ratio difference?  PSA 10 selling price / PSA 9 average selling price?

Wilkins with 23.44, Jordan 15.33, Barkley 13.82, Ewing 11.68, and Drexler with 8.28. 

Wilkins $15,000 PSA 10, $640 PSA 9 with a pop of 842.  Jordan $414,544 PSA 10, PSA 9 price of $27,034 with a pop of 2787.  Charles Barkley $1,035 with a pop of 1577.  Ewing $770 with a pop of 1284.  Drexler $297 with a 1789 pop. 

Out of those 5 listed, Wilkins appears to have the most opportunity from a numbers standpoint.  Very low PSA 10 pop of 92, but also the 4th lowest PSA 9 pop of 842.

PSA 9s can be risky if the pop reports are fairly high on a card and the card has a decent chance to get a 9 if you grade it yourself.

As with any PSA 9, see if you can possibly find the card ungraded, do your homework on its condition, add the value of the card + whatever the current PSA grading cost and you might be able to get it cheaper than just buying the PSA 9.  Just be careful, lots of fakes and reprints out there, especially of Jordan.

Let’s touch on the top 8 stickers for just a moment.  Wilkins, Olajuwon, Thomas, Erving, Bird, Magic, Ewing, and Jordan.

Personally, I am not a huge fan of the stickers.  I just prefer the base card design.  However, some collectors really enjoy these.

Over the last 90 days, 20 PSA 10s have sold of these 8.

Naturally, the POP #s are even lower than the base cards, with an average of just 67. 

Latest sales price was of course Jordan at $125,000, followed by Julius Erving interestingly at $8,888.  Cheapest is Isiah Thomas at $4,284.

Lowest POP Larry Bird with 39.   Highest Michael Jordan with 120.

Stickers have taken a hit lately with the average one down 25%.

Larry Bird for example had a high sale of $12,600 and a last sale of $8,013.

Here is a list of players whose sticker price was higher than their base card.

Erving, Magic, Bird, and Thomas.  Erving is ranked 14th on the card price, but 2nd on the sticker price.  If we are under the assumption that the base card is going to be more popular than the sticker even if the POP reports are higher, it would seem those 4 guys base card (Erving, Magic, Bird, and Thomas) is undervalued. 

While yes, having a lower pop on a particular card or sticker should make it more valuable, that isn’t always the case.  Much comes down to collectability, design, and how many people want and can afford that card or sticker.

Hopefully this video helps you understand the 1986 fleer basketball set better or look at it in a different way.  I just love this set and the design.  Bit out of the price range for most of us.

They did come out with a 2006 Fleer for the 20th anniversary of the 1986 set that could be an option for you if some of the 1986 ones are out of the question.  Did a mix of older and newer players.  LeBron and Kobe for example have a 2006 Fleer in the 1986 design.  Those are just stunning.

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