ID A Fake 1986 Michael Jordan Rookie Card (Step by Step Guide)

Michael Jordan GOAT rookie card

The perfect forged card should be older, but not so old as to make it difficult to match the stock and the weathered look. 

It also has to be valuable, otherwise what’s the point in going to all of that trouble in the first place?

The Michael Jordan 1986-87 Fleer Rookie card ticks all of the boxes above, while it also features an icon of the NBA and sportscard investing industry.

Here’s everything you could possibly need to know if you want to be able to spot a fake ‘86 Fleer Jordan rookie, along with information about the card and the set.

Hot Basketball Rookie Cards: Lamelo Ball Rookie Cards, Zion Williamson Rookie Cards, and Stephen Curry Rookie Cards


About the Card: 1986 Fleer Michael Jordan RC

The ‘86 Fleer Jordan RC helped to reignite interest in the hobby during a lean period, and it’s included in our Card Chronicles series

Every basketball fan admires Jordan’s greatness, and the card combines some of the best aspects of older cards with upgrades seen from modern editions.

Besides Jordan, the set contains some other magnificent cards including plenty of RCs.

The 1986 NBA draft (view the entire 86′ NBA Draft) was a strong one, yet that is not the sole reason for the large number of signature rookie cards in this set.

Since no major card company was producing basketball cards for a few years in the early 1980s, this 1986 Fleer set acts as the de-facto first set for many superstars who entered the league during that time period.

Legends such as Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, Chris Mullin, James Worthy, Patrick Ewing, and many others all have their first card from a major card producer in this set.

Jordan himself needs no introduction, and there have been forged copies of his RC that have been around for decades.

In other words, it’s the top RC from a set containing a ridiculous number of hits.

Following his retirement, prices have exploded when looking at raw versions of the Jordan Fleer card, which is another reason why collectors should be wary. 


Spotting a Fake 1986 Fleer Michael Jordan RC (Step-By-Step Guide)

It’s not tough to spot a fake Jordan card if you know what to look for, especially if you’re able to see the card in person.

The only piece of equipment you’ll need is a loupe to go over the finer details. 

It’s fairly simple to identify a legitimate Fleer Jordan card, as fakes tend to have a number of issues when attempting to replicate the logo and various aspects of the design. 

We’ll discuss each one in a step-by-step guide below.


Look towards the Fleer logo for guidance.

The Fleer logo found on the front of the card is one of the easiest ways to identify whether a copy is real or fake. 


Fake versions tend to be slightly blurrier due to the reproduction process, while many fail to replicate the darker yellow/gold color seen underneath the Fleer crown logo. 

(Instead, they use the same yellow coloring which is seen around the edges.)

The difference is clear in an authentic version, so it may be worth buying a couple of cheaper cards from the set to get a look and feel for what you should be getting. 

If you’re buying a raw card online, we’d advise using a combination of the steps seen below.  


2. The Bulls Logo/Reverse 

In a similar theme, the Bulls logo on the back of the card is another design aspect that is exceptionally hard to replicate. 

Above is an Authentic Michael Jordan Rookie Card Back Showing The Bulls Logo. Notice the clear separation of white around the pupil vs the blue color.

With the real logo, you are able to see the white around the pupils with a loupe. With fake versions, the ink around the eye bleeds together.

Above is the back of a fake Michael Jordan Fleer rookie card showing the bull. Notice the clear lack of separation of white around the pupil vs the blue color as they bleed together. RED ALERT: FAKE MJ RC.

The reverse is often littered with minor flaws. The decimal in “27.2” average points will be clear to the naked eye on the real version and almost nonexistent on many forgeries.

The NBA Player logo in the bottom right should show a clear “NBA PLAYERS” in the middle of the ball, while “NATIONAL BASKETBALL PLAYERS ASSOCIATION” is found around the ball.

The lined logo forms a faint basketball, which is often just a filled circle with fake versions.


3. Lettering/Colors

The lettering on the front of the card is another great place to look if you’re unsure about a copy on your radar. 

Be sure to take in the overall clarity of the image and the text. 

Above is a fake Michael Jordan rookie card. Noticed the blur in regards to the white lettering.

Just because the card is a few decades old, it doesn’t mean that the photo should be hazy.

Above is a real Michael Jordan rookie card. Notice the crisp color separation of the white letters vs the blue backdrop.

The white text on the nameplate should be clear compared to the blue that surrounds it.

Above and below the blue background on the nameplate is where you’ll find a thin black border. 

This should be solid across the entire card with no pixelation whatsoever. If in doubt, be sure to use a loupe for the best possible results. 

The coloring on the border should also be deep, with many fakes opting to darken or lighten the image ever so slightly.


4. Ghost in the Stands 

The ‘ghost in the stands’ is obviously a fan wearing a white jersey and should appear as a small smudge when looking at the stairs in the background.

It’s difficult to see on many legitimate copies, and it’ll have faded away on many reproductions. 

(This is because it’s exceptionally difficult to make a perfect copy.)

Other scammers prefer a darker card as it makes it more difficult to discern any differences.

I wouldn’t use this method alone, but it works well when combined with the others on the list.


5. 1986 Fleer Michael Jordan RC: Prices and Grading 

Fake Jordan RCs have always been around, but the market for them has grown astronomically in recent years. This is due to a mix of hype, value, and interest.

For example, as I write this (5/14/21) the record for a Jordan card has been broken again, with the auction still running for a further eight days. 

Supply currently exceeds demand, which is another reason why many collectors are tempted by obvious fakes that are simply too good to be true.

Graded options tend to be a safer bet, so here’s everything you need to know about slabs and values.


Graded 1986 Fleer Michael Jordan Cards 

A graded Jordan Fleer card will be worth far more than the equivalent raw version, and it does come with various benefits. 

For example, as long as the slab is legitimate, you’ll be able to check PSA cards thanks to a QR code on the reverse. Beckett has also released a new tamper-evident certification sticker as of 2021.

Graded ‘86 Fleer Jordan cards tend to be the safest bet by a wide margin.  

They are sold at a significant premium, but you will be safe in the knowledge that your card has been verified by a professional grading service. 

However, the Jordan Fleer has been included in a number of forged Beckett slabs, so much so that they took to Twitter to remind users

“We are aware of the situation and have already taken actions to protect the brand/service.  If you look closely, there are differences with these cases/labels so be sure to buy wisely.”

In most cases, the card included is still legitimate, but it’s a lower grade. (For example, it would be a BGS 8, rather than a 10.)

Just because it’s wrapped in a shiny slab, doesn’t mean that it’s completely safe. Be sure to do your own due diligence beforehand.


‘86 Fleer Jordan: Values 

The iconic Jordan rookie peaked in 2020, coinciding with a resurgence in the hobby and the release of The Last Dance.

The hobby itself was seeing far more interest due to the pandemic, and the documentary was a chance for a new generation of fans to drink it all in. 

Prices simply continued to rise, outmatching market trends by several percentage points. 

A PSA 10 copy was worth less than $100,000 in May 2020. A couple of copies sold for $738,000 in February 2011, and have stayed between $400,000 and $500,000 ever since.

With such a massive rise in such a short space of time, it was clear that demand vastly exceeded supply. 

It has also made collectors and investors more desperate to find a raw gem of their own, especially if they think that there’s great potential for profit. 

Considering the above, it’s easy to see why scammers would choose the Jordan Fleer as their card of choice. Make sure you don’t fall victim to a fake card.

Despite the potential gains, it’s arguably better to stick with a graded version that you can trust.


Michael Jordan Fleer Rookie Card Summary

Fake Jordan rookie cards are more prevalent than you might expect. 

‘Vegas Dave’ Oancea sold a 1986 Fleer Michael Jordan RC for $18,000 in 2017. 

When the buyer brought the card to the National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago, it was determined to be a counterfeit. 

He reportedly “told the buyer he did not know that it was fake and subsequently refused to give a refund”.

It’s not uncommon for cards to be sold as seen, with no recourse if it turns out to have a problem. 

Be sure to consider everything from the color to the logos, and check both sides as well as the stock. 

If you’re still unsure, you can always buy a Jordan RC on another day. 

It’s easy to feel pressured into buying a card, especially considering the money at stake if you’re able to buy a mint ungraded copy of the RC for a fraction of the price. 

However, it’s unlikely that anyone selling won’t have a vague idea of the value, so be wary if it’s underpriced, so if they’re ‘not sure if the card is real or not.  

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