The 1986 Fleer Michael Jordan rookie card is one of the most iconic basketball cards of all time. Since Jordan’s retirement in 2003, the collector demand for his rookie card has grown even stronger. Today, a PSA 10 Gem-Mint Jordan rookie card can sell for upwards of $750,000. But with the popularity of the card, a thriving counterfeit market has emerged in which the Jordan rookie has become one of the most popular forgeries in the hobby.
In several Facebook collecting groups I belong to, questions about the authenticity of a supposed Jordan rookie seem to be posted on almost a daily basis. Those without a trained eye for a fake Jordan rookie could be duped out of some serious money. The scammers are even resorting to putting the fake Jordan rookies in re-used or fake PSA holders.
Thus, I wanted to make the most comprehensive guide available to help collectors pinpoint those fake Jordan rookies. Hopefully, this guide helps you avoid any potential disasters!
The Fleer Logo
In the top right of the card lies the Fleer Logo. One of the tell-tale signs of a fake Jordan can be found with discrepancies with the logo color.
Here is an authentic Jordan rookie. If you look at the section below the Fleer logo where is says ‘Premier’, you can see a little arrow. Notice that the arrow color is a darker yellow than the yellow background of the ‘Premier’ box.
The Jordan fakes normally have a very similar yellow color for the Premier box and the arrow. Note I said normally, as I’ve seen more recent fakes that do have the arrow color correct.
Here’s an even closer look at the Fleer logos. The first is a fake, with the authentic logo for a Jordan below that. Pretty clear to see that difference in color.
On the fake there is no difference in color between the arrow and the ‘Premier’ background; plus you can also see that the ‘FLEER’ text has a more rounded balloon-type look where the ‘Premier’ text is not as well defined as on the authentic Jordan.
In addition, on an authentic Jordan, there is /a dot-matrix effect that is evident in the mustardy arrow–here’s a closer shot below:
But do note, the fakes keep getting better and better. Here’s a fake Jordan I came across recently where the arrow looks a lot better, and the colors are almost perfect, but if you compare it to the original above, still not that mustardy yellowish color as on the original card.
And here’s a big thing to look for: notice how the black lines that surround the yellow in the logo and the black text that spells out the word “Premier”. The lines are dotted on the fake copies, yet are solid on the real Jordan rookie cards.
Bulls Logo – Examining The Eyes
The Bulls logo on the top rear of the Jordan rookie card is another place to help identify whether a Jordan Fleer rookie card is a real or a fake. Above is the back of an authentic Jordan rookie card.
Here is a closer shot of the bull logo on a real card. You can see that there is some separation in color near the pupils of the eyes of the bulls.
On many of the fake versions, there is not as much clarity. Here’s one example of the back of fake Jordan rookie, where you can’t really see the whites of the bull’s eye.
On many, but not all of the fake Jordan rookies, the scoring average on the back of the card is missing the decimal in the ‘27.2’ average.
Here’s a real card, with the decimal in the average. If it’s missing that decimal, it’s 100% a fake.
Also, I’ve seen some that have the decimal, but the 27.2 is offset to the right, like this one here—a total fake (note the fonts are also way off on this one);
NBA Logo – Examining The Lines and Fonts
At the bottom right of back of the Jordan card there’s an NBA Logo which can be a big help in trying to identify a fake.
Here’s the NBA logo on a real Jordan rookie card. You can see that the basketball in the logo is well defined, with lines going through the ball.
Here’s the logo on many common Jordan fakes. As you can see there are none of the same lines as on the real one above. If you see one like this, run far, far away.
In addition, there are many good fakes I’ve seen of late that have the wrong text in the ball with the letters ‘NBA’.
This is a clear sign of a fake. The first image shows the ball on one fake example I’ve come across of late, and then the NBA text on a real Jordan.
Height And Weight Colons
One key item to look out for on the back of the Jordan rookie card are the colons (:) after the Height and Weight headers on the back of the card. Here is an important lesson and something I just learned the other day that most collectors do not realize. On most Jordan Fleer rookies, there is a colon after the Height and Weight headers, like this:
However, I have come across some authentic Jordan rookie cards up for auction that have a colon after the 'Height' yet only a single dot after the Weight.
This sort of dumfounded me at first, as I had never seen one in person.
Here is one example of a PSA graded Jordan that was recently for sale on eBay. The buyer contacted me and was panicked before he received the card, thinking that he had purchased a graded 'fake'.
However, come to find out that many dust removal features of modern scanners will actually remove one of the decimals next to Weight. Here is a photo of the same card received from a seller--who was now very much happy with his purchase after seeing two colons in person.
Just know however that if you have a Jordan card with only single dots after the Height and Weight, you can be assured that it is 100% a fake. Here's a fake example with missing colons (and fonts that off also).
I have never come across one in person that had a colon next to Height and one dot next to Weight...but if you see one let me know.
Michael Jordan Lettering
On the front of the Jordan Rookie card, the lettering on an authentic card should be clear, with clean white text on the light blue background. Here is an example of the lettering on an authentic Jordan card.
Now here’s the lettering on a common fake Jordan. Can you see the difference? Notice the lack of clarity between the white and the blue. Also, the color blue used on many of the fakes is darker than on the real Jordan cards.
Ghost In The Aisle
This was something that I had never even noticed in all my years of examining Jordan rookie cards, but something that a reader alerted me to. After all these years, I can't believe I never noticed the 'Ghost In The Aisle' on authentic Michael Jordan rookie cards. On all authentic Jordan rookie cards, you will see that ghost (which is basically just a shadow of a fan walking in the stands). We've circled it on the real card below:
On many fakes, just because the poor print quality, that 'ghost' is missing. Thus this is at least one of the more important areas to check when trying to authenticate a Fleer Jordan rookie. Note that not all fakes are missing this ghost, but it does at least help piece together the puzzle.
Here's one fake that has a missing 'ghost in the aisle':
Still Need Help Authenticating Your Jordan Rookie?
If you are still unsure about your Jordan rookie, shoot us an email at email@example.com and we can see if we can help you out.
Also, if you find any good fakes please let us know. We are trying to get our hands on as many as possible so that we can keep collectors informed.
Also be sure to check out our price guide with constantly updated values for Michael Jordan’s Fleer rookie and his other cards from the 1980s.
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