These 1986-87 Fleer Basketball Packs Are Worth Way More Than 40 Cents Now

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Historically, big sports card finds have revolved around stashes of cards from the early days of the hobby. T206 Honus Wagners, Babe Ruth cards from his playing days — stuff like that.

But what about a large group of boxes from the mid-1980s. It sounds like a Friday afternoon on Craiglist. But Baseball Card Exchange didn’t discover a notable horde of 1988 Donruss Baseball or 1991 Topps Football. They might have a certain cool factor about them, but those sorts of finds can be found in virtually every major city.

How about seven boxes of 1986-87 Fleer Basketball — complete with the original grocery store price tags?

The discovery started with a wax case of 1984 Topps Football offered to Baseball Card Exchange‘s head buyer, Reed Kasaoka, by someone from Missouri. That in and of itself is one of the best that the 1980s have to offer.

But while talking to the collector, who was enquiring on behalf of a friend, Kasaoka found out there was more than just the potential for packs and boxes with John Elway and Dan Marino Rookie Cards.

Michael Jordan and the most popular set of basketball cards was in play — 1986-87 Fleer.

“As the conversation progressed, I started to learn about the other items his friend had, but then talk turned to what kind of product the caller had,” said Kasaoka. “It became clear I needed get down there immediately.”

He was heading to Jefferson City.

The purchase of the 1984 Topps Football case went as planned. Then, according to Baseball Card Exchange, Kasaoka made his way to the original caller’s house and discovered seven 1986-87 Fleer Basketball boxes waiting for him on the dining room table.

Every pack in the boxes still had the $0.40 price tag from the TG&Y store they were purchased from by the caller back around the time the set first came out. That meant that the boxes had been opened at some point to put the price tags on. But there were some definite signs that the boxes hadn’t been tampered with since.

1986-87 Fleer Basketball Pack - BBCE

The seller had bought more than the seven originally, but opened initially while leaving these in tact.

Kasaoka spent a good deal of time verifying and authenticating the boxes. They represent some of the only unopened product from the set that can be traced back to the original owner. But while doing some more inspecting back at the Baseball Card Exchange offices, he made another discovery. Besides the expected sticker collation, one of the boxes had two Michael Jordan Rookie Cards showing through the wrappers.

“Occasionally we’ll find a Jordan Rookie showing through the top of a pack, and consider it to be good fortune and a sign that a box is likely clean and unsearched.” said Steve Hart, Baseball Card Exchange owner, via press release. “The odds of a pack with a Jordan showing on top is 1 in 132 — and this box has two of them!”

1986-87 Fleer Basketball Box - BBCE

Given the small size of the set, 1986-87 Fleer Basketball boxes usually have three of four Michael Jordan Rookie Cards. Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon and Karl Malone are among the other key rookies.

What’s Next for the 1986-87 Fleer Basketball Boxes?

The box with the two Michael Jordan cards showing will be sold at the 2018 National Sports Collectors Convention in Cleveland. Rather than being sold full, it will be in a box break format. BBCE has yet to determine how the fate of the other six boxes.

The market for 1986-87 Fleer Basketball boxes has exploded over the past few years. In June, 2017, Heritage Auctions sold a box for $66,000. At the 2017 National, BBCE sold multiple boxes for $75,000 each.

Comments? Questions? Contact Ryan Cracknell on Twitter @tradercracks or by email.

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Ryan Cracknell

A collector for much of his life, Ryan focuses primarily on building sets, Montreal Expos and interesting cards. He's also got one of the most comprehensive collections of John Jaha cards in existence (not that there are a lot of them). Got a question, story idea or want to get in touch? You can reach him by email and through Twitter @tradercracks.

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7 comments

  1. Randy J. 2 April, 2018 at 10:26

    Wow! I remember back in 1988, when I was first getting into collecting, I had $20 to spend at my LCS. They had 86-87 Fleer basketball by the cash register, 3 packs for a dollar, but I went ahead and bought a full box of 1988 Topps baseball instead. They also had a Jordan rookie by itself in the glass case for $20, but I didn’t want to spend all of my money on one silly card!

  2. Ron 2 April, 2018 at 19:43

    If I remember correctly weren’t the Jordans usually in the same place in fresh undisturbed boxes . A certain stack and a certain number of packs down. I remember dealers having to shuffle the packs and not allowing collectors to sort through the packs because you could see through the packs and know the top card.

  3. JDonovan 3 April, 2018 at 00:40

    Wow. I had forgotten T G & Y. We didn’t have one in my town, but there was one in the next town and I remember going to it a really young kid. It was similar to Wal Mart or Target, but a little less popular and maybe a step down on the classiness scale. Still cool though.

  4. Joseph 3 April, 2018 at 17:56

    Wow. Unreal find. I had never even heard of TG&Y before this article. Apparently they were a force in the South, though. I’m from NJ, so it makes sense.

  5. Jeff 9 May, 2019 at 11:13

    I bought 2 86 Jordans individually when I was in my teens. I had 8 of them already. I paid 125$ and 150$ for the two that I bought. The rest of them I got out of packs.

    We used to draw names on my mom’s side of the family for Christmas and spent about 20$. I had 10 cousins growing up. Every year from the 1986 to 1990 I got and opened a box of Fleer from whoever drew my name. I’m from NC and Michael Jordan was my hero growing up. I’m turning 40 later this year and I still have some barely worn original air jordans

  6. Bryan Brown 26 October, 2019 at 01:07

    In 1986 I was 15 years old. I collected the whole 1986 Fleer Basketball set out of packs of cards. I sold it in 1991 for 350.00. It was in mint condition and worth a lot now. I shouldn’t have sold it. I always wish that I would have bought 20 sets of the 1986 Fleer Set from the factory back in 1986. I easily could have bought them. If I only bought 10 sets I’d be a millionaire. I knew in 1991 that the set was really going to appreciate. Michael Jordan is a one and only player and nobody will ever be as good. What a mistake I made. It makes me sick that I didn’t buy at least 5 sets because they cost nothing. I remember going into the in and out Mart and seeing full boxes of the 1986 NBA Fleer set. The packs were only 40 cents a piece. I could have bought boxes and boxes of them. Then I could have stored them. I just think of how wealthy I’d be right now if I had boxes and boxes of them. Like the Labron James rookie set. I’m stupid because I never bought a bunch of sets. The opportunity is to find a hot and up and coming basketball player. Then you go out and buy 50 sets of the rookie player in it. How much is 50 Basketball sets of Labrons rookie year going for now?!! The sets are cheap.

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