Few sports cards are more iconic than a Michael Jordan Fleer 1986-87 rookie card. The unmistakable border colors mixed with the historical significance made it not only highly-chased but also often counterfeited—probably the most faked card in the industry. Here is your guide to spotting a fake Fleer Jordan rookie card.
As we know, fake and altered cards are a real problem in the hobby. Many people have “reprinted” these cards because of their significance, but often the reprint is not marked as such.
Sadly, that means it is up to the collector to decide what’s real and what’s not, and getting it wrong can be a very, very expensive mistake.
To prevent that, we’ve put together a helpful guide to help make sure that never happens to you.
But before getting into the details, remember this: the best way to get a Michael Jordan rookie is to buy one graded by BGS or PSA. That way, there is a higher chance that it is authentic. That will come at a high price tag but significantly less risk. And certainly, there are potentially problematic BGS and PSA graded Jordan rookie cards on the market.
Additionally, remember that a deal that seems too good to be true is usually precisely that. Proceed with caution in every situation, and note that this is not investment advice.
All that said, here’s a great guide for how to spot a fake Jordan rookie.
As we all know, grading can be a pain to do, and not everyone bothers to grade their cards. But in the case of a Fleer Jordan rookie, if the seller is putting the card on the market raw, it is a warning flag, especially if it is in good condition.
If you had this card, why wouldn’t you grade it and enjoy the immense profits? Therefore, a raw card in gem mint condition is most likely a fake. That is just reality.
If the card comes in a slab, that increases the odds that it is real. But it is no guarantee. First of all, the grading companies make mistakes. Second, it is easier to fake a PSA slab than a card, and scammers have been known to do just that.
Frequently, you’ll need to look no further than the Fleer logo on the front of the card to pick out the reprints because two common printing mistakes come from the logo itself.
For one, check the color of the yellow arrow of the “Premier” banner. The arrow should be a darker shade of yellow than the rest of the banner, although many reprints printed them in the same color, yellow.
It is also worth noting that the arrow in the genuine card is mustard yellow. Meanwhile, most fakes have a more synthetic bright yellow shade.
Additionally, the arrow should not reach the Fleer premier banner’s top. Instead, stop slightly below it. The placement of the arrow is another common mistake in the fakes.
Another issue is the definition of the letters. Paradoxically, the fakes often have the word “premier” appear in better-defined print. Meanwhile, in the authentic card, it is usually fuzzier.
Above is a genuine Fleer premier banner from a genuine card as provided by allvintagecards.com.
For comparison, here is a counterfeit one, also provided by allvintagecards.com.
Next, you want to examine the colors and printing of the card.
If the card passed the first two rounds of inspection, another place to spend some time is the Bulls logo on the card’s back.
Much like the printing on the front of the card, the logo’s clarity is worth examining, particularly the bull’s eye. On the actual card, you should be able to see white around the bull’s eye pupil under magnification while the print runs together on the fake card.
Again, the bull’s print should be a continuous, solid line—nothing pixelated or dotted here.
This is the Bulls logo on a genuine card. You can see a division between the whites and pupils in the eyes as provided by allvintagecards.com.
Here is the Bulls logo on a genuine card also provided by allvintagecards.com. There is very little definition and differentiation in the eyes.
If you’re at this point and still believing the card to be authentic, that’s a pretty good sign. There are still a few more tests to check, however.
The NBA Player logo on the bottom right of the card is another possible giveaway. It should say “NBA Players” in the middle of the ball and National Basketball Players Association around the ball. The logo is a well-defined ball delineating each section separately. On some fakes, what should be the basketball is just a filled circle.
One last thing. The “R” logo should be clear beside the Fleer logo on the front of the card and the back NBA logo on the actual card. If it is fuzzy (or absent altogether), then the card is fake.
Here is the NBA player logo on a fake card as provided by allvintagecards.com. The ball is not differentiated at all.
In a real Jordan rookie card, the ball is divided into sections. The picture is provided by allvintagecards.com.
Again, in the case of a Michael Jordan rookie card, it is best is to bite the bullet and pay the hefty price of a BGS or PSA-graded one.
That said if you’re looking to get one and grade yourself, here are a few final words of advice.
For one thing, remember that—if at all possible—it will always be better to see the card in person with your own eyes. You know you run a particular risk when you buy anything online, and with something as often faked as a Jordan rookie card, this principle is even more valuable.
And lastly—my favorite tool—remember that (obviously) Jordan is not the only card from the 1986-97 Fleer set. You can always buy a low-cost option of a less-popular player and use that as a benchmark for color, printing, borders, logos, and everything else. If possible, get a Bulls player, so the Bulls logo test works, too!
No matter what you decide to do, always be thoughtful and cautious with significant purchases like this, and as always, have fun with the hunt!