15 Most Valuable 1986 Fleer Basketball Cards
If there were ever a set that made you wish you had a time machine, 1986 Fleer basketball cards would certainly be one of them.
Just look at how far prices of some of these cards have skyrocketed over the years...
Many of these cards have gone up nearly ten-fold over the last ten years alone.
But, back in the 80s and early 90s, hobby shops struggled to sell them and they could be found dirt cheap
Funny how things can swing drastically in this hobby over time.
Since then, many of these guys turned into Hall of Famers, The Last Dance on ESPN fueled collector interest in basketball cards, and the hobby as a whole has been on an uptick as of late.
Most importantly, Michael Jordan's transformation into a basketball and cultural icon has sent his rookie card prices to meteoric heights.
As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats.
So just how expensive are some of these cards?
In this guide, I run through the fifteen most valuable.
Let's jump right in!
1986 Fleer #57 Michael Jordan Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $75,000
Arguably the most iconic basketball card in the hobby, the Michael Jordan rookie card has skyrocketed in price since The Last Dance aired on ESPN between April and May of 2020.
During May 2020, a few PSA 10 examples of this card sold for nearly six figures, which blows my mind.
I remember when this card was selling for less than $10,000 in a PSA 10 holder less than ten years ago.
If only I had a time machine...
From 2016 through 2019, they were typically going for anywhere between $20,000 and $30,000.
But, since April 2020, prices have exploded and they've routinely sold for over $70,000 in that condition.
Time will tell if sky-high prices for this and other Jordan cards hold or they're simply a short-term reaction to the hype surrounding The Last Dance.
1986 Fleer #76 Johnny Moore
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $8,500
Given the amount of Hall of Fame rookie cards on this list, you may be surprised to see Johnny Moore at the number two spot.
Although not quite the caliber of some of these other guys, Moore was a solid point guard who averaged 9.4 points and 7.4 assists over his nine-season career.
He even dished out 20 assists during a 1983 playoff game against the Nuggets, putting him in the rare company of very few players to ever post 20 or more assists in an NBA playoff game.
But, if he's not a legendary star, what makes his card so expensive?
It all comes down to scarcity: this card is notoriously among the most difficult to find well-centered and without printing defects.
As of this writing, just 2.9%, or 65 of the 2,247 Johnny Moore cards that PSA has graded, have received a PSA 10 grade.
1986 Fleer #121 Dominique Wilkins Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $4,250
The value of this card in PSA 10 condition puzzles me...
Dominque Wilkins was a 9-time All-Star, a 7-time All-NBA selection, and his elite scoring and dunking ability completely justified his legendary nickname: "The Human Highlight Film."
Yet, I still think this card should be worth more, and here's why:
- Wilkins was one of the greatest who ever played
- this is his rookie card
- this set is arguably the most popular basketball set in the hobby
- only 91 of the 3,692 (or 2.46%) of the examples PSA has graded have earned PSA 10 status
That last bullet point, more so than the others, convinces me that this card may be undervalued.
Wilkins may be less popular than some of the other Hall of Fame rookies lower on this list, but his card in PSA 10 grade is much scarcer than theirs.
And the percentage of Johnny Moore cards (2.9%) graded as PSA 10 is higher, meaning Wilkins' card is relatively tougher than those two guys, who are not Hall of Famers, as well.
I guess the only thing that could justify the lower value compared to Moore and Jeff Malone is that there are more Wilkins rookies graded PSA 10 (91) versus Moore (65) and Malone (63).
Perhaps there just aren't enough high-grade set builders out there to push demand for Wilkins' card up higher to justify a higher price.
1986 Fleer #7 Charles Barkley Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $3,750
Other than Jordan's card, I think this is the most action-packed card on the list.
You can almost hear the crunch of the rim as Sir Charles throws down a two-handed monster dunk with authority.
Barkley's rookie card has benefited quite well from the recent boom as you could usually find it in PSA 10 grade a year ago for around $1,100 to $1,300.
In May, multiple PSA 10 examples sold for north of $4,000, but prices on more recent examples seem to have tapered off to around $3,750 or so.
The 1986-87 season saw Barkley earn his first of eleven career trips to the All-Star game, and it was the only year he ever led the league in rebounds with a jaw-dropping 14.6 boards per game.
1986 Fleer #82 Hakeem Olajuwon Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $3,750
Selected #1 overall in the 1984 NBA Draft by the Houston Rockets, Hakeem Olajuwon is one of the most accomplished and dominant players of all-time.
Known for his incredible agility and footwork for a big man, Olajuwon faked and spun his way to developing one of the most iconic signature moves in NBA history: the Dream Shake.
Defenders were left frozen or completely misdirected as Olajuwon scored on them with ease.
Incredibly, he was even more dominant on the defensive end noted by his two Defensive Player of the Year awards and nine All-Defensive Team selections.
I could go on and on about Olajuwon as he was one of the most exciting players I ever saw.
His eye-popping resumé is loaded with achievements, but two of my favorite stats/facts are:
- he is the only player in NBA history to be named MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, and Finals MVP in the same year
- he is one of four players to record a quadruple-double in an NBA game
On March 29, 1990, he dominated the Milwaukee Bucks with 18 points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists, and 11 blocks.
1986 Fleer #132 Checklist
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $3,500
Like any checklist, these are tough to find without marks from collectors who ticked off the boxes next to each name to track their set-building progress.
Add that to the rest of the ordinary condition challenges of this set (poor centering, print defects, chipping along the colored borders), and you can quickly see why this card is difficult to find in high grade.
As of this writing, PSA has put only 81 of these cards in a PSA 10 holder.
1986 Fleer #67 Jeff Malone
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $3,250
A two-time All-Star, Jeff Malone was a successful shooting guard who relied on a lethal mid-range jumper to post a respectable career scoring average of 19 points per game.
Jeff spent the first seven seasons of his NBA career with the Washington Bullets but was later traded to the Utah Jazz where he teamed up with Karl Malone and John Stockton to help lead the Jazz to the Western Conference Finals in 1992.
Although Karl was undoubtedly the better Malone on the court, Jeff's card (in high grade) is worth far more than Karl's off the court.
Like Johnny Moore's card, this one is tough to find in pristine condition, with excellent centering and free of printing issues.
The population of PSA 10 Jeff Malone's is slightly less than Johnny Moore's (63 versus 65), but they do register in that grade at a higher rate (4.1% versus 2.9%).
1986 Fleer #32 Patrick Ewing Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $2,250
The New York Knicks used the #1 pick of the 1985 NBA Draft on Patrick Ewing, and the dominant center from Georgetown University transitioned quite smoothly to the pros.
For years, Ewing was pretty much a lock for a double-double night in and night out as he held down the front court for some fantastic Knicks teams.
His smooth fadeaway jumper was indeed something special.
Unfortunately for Ewing and the Knicks, though, timing was never on their side during Ewing's prime.
Michael Jordan and the Bulls eliminated them from the playoffs five different times.
If that weren't bad enough, Hakeem Olajuwon and the Rockets out-dueled them in the 1994 NBA Finals when Jordan was trying to make a run at playing baseball.
For that reason, Ewing goes down in NBA history as the greatest center who never won a title.
1986 Fleer #68 Karl Malone Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $2,000
If Ewing is the greatest center to have never won an NBA Championship, Karl Malone is arguably the greatest player without one.
A 2-time MVP, 14-time All-Star, 11-time All-NBA first-teamer, and the game's second-leading score of all time with an incredible 36,928 points, "the Mailman" was the model of consistently delivering over his storied career.
Amazingly, Malone appeared in the playoffs in each of his eighteen seasons in the league but was unfortunately never quite able to get over that championship hump.
The Bulls defeated the Jazz in those unforgettable, heated back-to-back NBA Finals appearances in 1997 and 1998.
Malone later fell short again against the Pistons in 2004 after trying one more time to get a title with the Lakers power squad that also featured Shaq, Kobe Bryant, and Gary Payton.
Nevertheless, his rookie card is one of the must-have cards from this set.
1986 Fleer #2 Alvan Adams
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $1700
Alvan Adams burst onto the NBA scene during the 1975-76 season as he picked up Rookie of the Year honors, was selected to the All-Star game, and helped lead the Suns on a surprising trip to the 1976 NBA Finals.
He'd spend his entire 13-year career with the Phoenix Suns but never could quite match the same level of success he had during his fantastic rookie campaign.
His is another example of one of the more challenging cards in this set to find in top condition as only 66 examples have received the cherished PSA 10 grade at the time of this writing.
While he may not be one of the more prominent stars on this list, you can't argue with the great action shot that Fleer chose.
1986 Fleer #77 Chris Mullin Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $1,500
From the late 80s to the mid-90s, Chris Mullin was one of the most devastating shooters in the game.
Relying on his pinpoint shooting ability, Mullin lit up opposing defenses to the tune of 25+ points per game over five straight seasons from 1988 to 1992.
Clearly at the height of his game during that span, Mullin earned a trip to the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona as a member of the infamous "Dream Team" and wound up being the third-leading scorer on the team.
The seventh pick of the 1985 NBA draft, the sharpshooter from St. John's University turned in a successful pro career and his rookie card continues to be one of the set's top cards.
1986 Fleer #9 Larry Bird
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $1,500
Speaking of great shooters, "Larry Legend" may have made his rookie card debut several years earlier in the 1980 Topps set, but his '86 Fleer issue is among his most desirable cards.
Coming off three straight MVP seasons, Bird and the Celtics had high hopes for a title during the 1986-87 season but ended up losing a hard-fought series to their heated Los Angeles Lakers rivals.
Often considered among the game's all-time greats, Bird was a 3-time MVP, 12-time All-Star, and 9-time All-NBA First Teamer who rode his incredible shooting ability and will to win to bring three NBA titles to Boston during his time with the Celtics.
Despite his success on the court, perhaps one of Bird's most impressive achievements is being the only person ever to win NBA Rookie of the Year, MVP, Finals MVP, All-Star MVP, Coach of the Year and Executive of the Year.
1986 Fleer #1 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $1,200
The game's all-time leading scorer (38,387 points), some consider Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to be the greatest player who ever stepped on the court.
Over his twenty-year career, he certainly built a strong enough resumé.
To name a few, along with the record for most points, Abdul-Jabbar is also third all-time in rebounds and blocks while he holds the record for most MVPs (6) and All-Star appearances (19) and is tied with Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, and Tim Duncan for most All-NBA selections (15).
The guy was simply dominant.
Because the set checklist runs in alphabetical order, Abdul-Jabbar received the honor of being card number one.
And the only thing that would have made this card even sweeter would have been if Fleer used a picture of him rising up over a defender with his signature "Skyhook."
1986 Fleer #109 Isiah Thomas Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $1,250
He may have been small in size, but Isiah Thomas was a force to be reckoned with night after night.
Lightning-quick within terrific instincts, Thomas was an incredible all-around talent who could score, pass and defend as well as any point guard in history, if not better.
His ability to step up as a leader during the playoffs when things counted most helped Thomas and the Pistons win two NBA titles during an incredibly tough era in which many of the game's all-time greats played.
Thomas's controversial reputation as one of the Detroit Pistons "Bad Boys," his well-documented feud with Jordan, and his absence from the 1992 Olympic "Dream Team" likely leave his 1986 Fleer rookie card a bit less popular than others on this list.
Since he made his NBA debut during the 1981-82 season, it would have been great if he appeared in the 1981-82 Topps set.
He'd likely be that set's most valuable card but settling among the top of the 1986 Fleer set isn't a bad alternative.
1986 Fleer #11 Rolando Blackman
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $1,250
You might be surprised to see Rolando Blackman beat out guys like Magic Johnson, James Worthy, and Clyde Drexler for the last spot but it was close.
And that's not a knock on Blackman's skill as he was a solid shooting guard who averaged eighteen points over his 13-year career and made four All-Star teams.
Before Pau Gasol snapped his record in 2015, Blackman was the NBA's all-time leading scorer among Hispanic/Latino players after totaling an impressive 17,623 points.
He just isn't quite in the realm of those other guys.
This is another case of a card being relatively more challenging to find in top condition with just 73 examples having received a PSA 10 grade.
1986 Fleer Basketball Cards In Review
As you can see, this set is loaded with Hall of Fame rookies and superstar cards that make it one of the hobby's most desirable sets across any sport.
And if the 132-card checklist wasn't enough, there are also eleven stickers featuring some of the biggest stars of the day like Jordan, Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Bird and more.
There's just so much to love about 1986-87 Fleer basketball.
Huge demand for these cards has driven up prices of unopened packs and boxes, too, with high-grade packs going for up to thousands of dollars and unopened boxes well into the five-figure range.
Time will tell just how high the prices of these cards can go.