1986 Fleer Basketball Box: An Iconic Product Release

1986 Fleer basketball box, sealed

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Last Updated On: June 7th, 2023

What makes the 1986 Fleer basketball box a timeless relic is the chance to pull a Michael Jordan rookie card which is the holy grail for many basketball card collectors.

If you are an avid sports card collector and basketball fan there is no question you have come across 1986 Fleer basketball cards at one point or another. Not only are they aesthetically pleasing due to their retro appeal, but they go for astonishingly high prices in today’s sports card market.

Here’s an all-you-need-to-know guide about Fleer’s iconic product release of the 1986 Fleer basketball box. We’ll talk about the box’s contents, checklist, the odds of finding prized rookie cards including the all important Michael Jordan RC, and brief helpful tips to save you from becoming prey to counterfeit items. Step into your Nike LeBrons and let us delve deep into the ABCs of 1986 Fleer basketball cards.

1986 Fleer Basketball Box: What’s Inside?

1986 Fleer basketball box, one wax pack
1986 Fleer Basketball Wax Pack

Before we discuss the contents of the 1986 Fleer basketball box, let us take a moment to appreciate how good the card box looks for something that was manufactured in the 80s. Everything from the font of the text to the overall color scheme embodies the nostalgia and theme of simpler times.

The 1986-87 Fleer basketball box comes with 36 packs of cards. Each pack consists of 12 basketball cards including a sticker card and a stick of gum (we’d humbly suggest you avoid eating that). Right off the bat, in a 1986 Fleer basketball unopened box, you’ll notice four stacks arranged in rows of two. Each stack has nine packs and this gives you a total of 432 cards. If you want to see it for yourself, then here’s a very eventful 1986-87 Fleer basketball box unboxing (aka box break) with the NBA legend, Spud Webb himself. 

If you wish to skip straight to the breaking of the 1986 Fleer basketball unopened wax box, then jump ahead to 10:10. And SPOILER ALERT: If you want to see the first MJ pulled, it’s in the 3rd pack of the break at around 17:00 minutes into the video. The 2nd is at 35:50.

Now, let us talk price. As you might have already predicted, given their scarcity and the golden chance to pull the rookie cards of Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, and other NBA legends, a 1986 Fleer basketball unopened box can cost you anywhere from five to six figures a box. Only recently, an unopened wax box sold for a whopping $92,000 on Goldin, with buyer premium pushing it up to $110,400 in total. According to Baseball Card Exchange (BBCE) who authenticated and reviewed the wax packs within the box, there were four Michael Jordan #8 Rookie stickers promised. These can be easily seen through the back of the semi-transparent wax packs.

You’d also find single 1986 Fleer wax packs for sale. The price varies depending on the grade of the packs; nevertheless, single packs are a cheaper investment that carry a high risk and high reward. Recently, on May 11th, a 1986 Fleer wax pack in PSA 8 condition was sold for $2,520 — featuring the Julius Erving Sticker on the back. When it comes to investing in 1986 Fleer basketball cards, it is perfectly okay to be pedantic about the quality of packs. After all, the condition of the cards can be directly proportional to the condition of the pack itself.

1986 Fleer Basketball Set Checklist

Having enlightened ourselves with the contents of the box and the price tags, let us proceed to the official 1986 Fleer basketball checklist. Fleer made 132 different basketball cards. The official number of copies made for each card hasn’t been disclosed, however, in the contemporary, it is well known the cards were mass produced back in the 1980’s.

Without further ado, here is a list of all cards that fall under the 1986 Fleer basketball checklist, including the last card (#132) as the checklist itself. You’ll notice this set is absolutely loaded with rookie cards!

1986 Fleer Basketball Cards1986 Fleer Rookie Cards (RC) 
#1 Kareem Abdul Jabbar #3 Mark Aguirre 
#2 Alvan Adams #4 Danny Ainge 
#9 Larry Bird #5 John Bagley 
#10 Otis Birdsong #6 Thurl Bailey 
#14 Joe Barry Carroll #7 Charles Barkley 
#16 Maurice Cheeks #8 Benoit Benjamin 
#17 Michael Cooper #11 Rolando Blackman 
#18 Wayne Cooper #12 Manute Bol 
#21 Adrian Dantley #13 Sam Bowie 
#23 Walter Davis #15 Tom Chambers 
#24 Darryl Dawkins #19 Pat Cummings 
#29 James Edwards #20 Terry Cummings 
#30 Alex English #22 Brad Davis 
#31 Julius Erving #25 Larry Drew 
#35 World B. Free #26 Clyde Drexler 
#36 George Gervin #27 Joe Dumars 
#37 Artis Gilmore #28 Mark Eaton 
#38 Mike Gminski #32 Patrick Ewing 
#39 Rickey Green #33 Vern Fleming 
#41 Dave Greenwood #34 Eric Floyd 
#42 Darrell Griffith #40 Sidney Green 
#43 Bill Hanzlik #44 Derek Harper 
#45 Gerald Henderson #46 Roy Hinson 
#48 Phil Hubbard #47 Craig Hodges 
#50 Dennis Johnson #49 Jay Humphries 
#53 Magic Johnson #51 Eddie Johnson 
#54 Marques Johnson #52 Frank Johnson 
#55 Steve Johnson #57 Michael Jordan 
#56 Vinnie Johnson #58 Clark Kellogg 
#59 Albert King #63 Lafayette Lever 
#60 Bernard King #64 Alton Lister 
#61 Bill Laimbeer #67 Jeff Malone 
#62 Allen Leavell #68 Karl Malone 
#65 Lewis Lloyd #71 Rodney McCray 
#66 Maurice Lucas #72 Xavier McDaniel 
#69 Moses Malone #77 Chris Mullin 
#70 Cedric Maxwell #78 Larry Nance 
#73 Kevin McHale #81 Charles Oakley 
#74 Mike Mitchell #82 Akeem Olajuwon 
#75 Sidney Moncrief #86 Sam Perkins 
#76 Johnny Moore #88 Paul Pressey 
#79 Calvin Natt #89 Kurt Rambis 
#80 Norm Nixon #91 Doc Rivers 
#83 Louis Orr #92 Alvin Robertson 
#84  Robert Parish #97 Ralph Sampson 
#85 Jim Paxson #98 Danny Schayes 
#87 Ricky Pierce #99 Byron Scott 
#90 Robert Reid #101 Jerry Sichting 
#93 Cliff Robinson #103 Derek Smith 
#94 Tree Rollins #105 Rory Sparrow 
#95 Dan Roundfield #106 Steve Stipanovich 
#96 Jeff Ruland #107 Terry Teagle 
#100 Purvis Short #109 Isiah Thomas 
#102 Jack Sikma #110 LaSalle Thompson 
#104 Larry Smith #112 Sedale Threatt 
#108 Reggie Theus #113 Wayman Tisdale 
#111 Mychal Thompson #115 Kelly Tripucka 
#114 Andrew Toney #116 Mel Turpin 
#119 Bill Walton #117 Kiki Vandeweghe 
#124 Gus Williams #118 Jay Vincent 
#128 Al Wood #120 Spud Webb 
#129 Mike Woodson #121 Dominique Wilkins 
#132 Checklist #122 Gerald Wilkins 
#123 Buck Williams
#125 Herb Williams 
#126 Kevin Willis 
#127 Randy Wittman 
#130 Orlando Woolridge 
#131 James Worthy 

Most Valuable Fleer Rookie Cards

All this talk about 1986 Fleer rookie cards, it’s time to explore the cream of the crop in terms of value. Here’s a curated list of the most sought after Fleer 1986-87 rookie cards that have modern collectors tirelessly pursuing them 24×7.

Michael Jordan Rookie Card

1986 Fleer Basketball Michael Jordan Rookie Card #57

The G.O.A.T. needs no introduction. With so many unprecedented achievements to his name, Michael Jordan’s fame and career will continue to inspire future generations to come. Due to this cardinal reason, Michael Jordan’s 1986 Fleer rookie card is no less than a treasure. There are almost 40,000 graded copies of MJ’s fleer rookie via PSA and BGS alone, with a total estimated value surpassing 250 million dollars.

Michael Jordan Rookie Card Value

If we are to talk about the most recent sale involving a PSA 10, GEM MINT condition Michael Jordan rookie card, then it went for an easy 6-figure value. On May 11th, 2023, the card sold for $156,000 on Heritage Auctions. Similarly, past sales have shown even greater figures. The record-breaking sale touched the $840,000 mark in 2021. 

Patrick Ewing Rookie Card

1986 Fleer Basketball Patrick Ewing Rookie Card #32

That’s the beauty of the 1986 Fleer basketball box. It doesn’t just revolve around Michael Jordan rather it brings so many other legends into the spotlight and Patrick Ewing is one of them. He is easily among the finest Center players of all time, and his rookie card is easily one of the most valuable Patrick Ewing cards.

Patrick Ewing Rookie Card Value

At a very recent online auction a GEM MINT condition #32 PSA 10 1986 Patrick Ewing rookie card sold for $4,080. The auction for the card was held on PWCC on March 2023 and the item did not take long to fly out to the highest bidder.

Hakeem Olajuwon Rookie Card

1986 Fleer Basketball Hakeem Olajuwon Rookie Card #82

Known for his “Dream Shake” and for his impeccable center play and footwork, Olajuwon’s career includes spectacular highlights of his versatile skillset as well as two NBA championships to his name. From a collector’s point of view, his 1986 Rookie card is definitely worth grabbing if you are presented with one that is in pristine condition. 

Hakeem Olajuwon Rookie Card Value

The card value for a GEM MINT condition PSA 10 Hakeem Olajuwon rookie card falls pretty much on the same value tier as Patrick Ewing’s 1986 rookie card. On the recent most online auction held on PWCC, a pristine 1986 Fleer Hakeem Olajuwon Rookie card sold for $4,680. If you are out to hunt Hakeem Olajuwon’s most valuable cards, then this RC is amongst them.

Charles Barkley Rookie Card

1986 Fleer Basketball Charles Barkley Rookie Card #7

Charles Barkley was titled, “Sir Charles,” for being an absolute beast on the court. He was an 11-time NBA All-Star. He won the NBA Most Valuable Player award in 1993 and his rebounding abilities were up to par with the best of the best players, even for being a relatively shorter player than many of the best rebounders of all time.

Charles Barkley Rookie Card Value

The ongoing appraisal for the Charles Barkley 1986 Fleer RC in PSA 10 GEM MINT condition can be determined from the recent sale of the card on an auction held on, you guessed it, PWCC. The card was sold to the highest bidder for a high value of $5,880. Needless to say that the 1986 Fleer Charles Barkley RC also happens to be one of the most expensive Charles Barkley cards ever produced.

Karl Malone Rookie Card

1986 Fleer Basketball Karl Malone Rookie Card #68

There is no debating on whether or not Karl Malone is among the greatest power forwards ever to be witnessed in NBA history. His all-time scoring tally of 36,928 points falls slightly behind Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and newly crowned all-time scoring king Lebron James. A 14-time NBA All-Star and a 2-time MVP winner, Karl Malone played 18 seasons in his NBA career. 

Karl Malone Rookie Card Value

According to the most recent sale on PWCC, a PSA 10 1986 Fleer Karl Malone RC sold for $3,240.

1986 Fleer Basketball Stickers Checklist

As mentioned at the very start, every 1986 Fleer basketball card pack came with one sticker card and one stick of gum. A single 1986 Fleer basketball sealed box would contain 36 total stickers. These stickers had a plain back and could be used to customize/decorate notebooks and other accessories. The 1986 Fleer basketball sticker set can be considered a bonus addition to the iconic product, and it holds a separate short checklist of just 11 sticker cards. 

1986 Fleer Basketball Stickers Checklist
#1 Kareem Abdul Jabbar 
#2 Larry Bird 
#3 Adrian Dantley 
#4 Alex English 
#5 Julius Erving 
#6 Patrick Ewing 
#7 Magic Johnson 
#8 Michael Jordan 
#9 Hakeem Olajuwon 
#10 Isiah Thomas 
#11 Dominique Wilkins 

While the base and rookie cards of the 1986 Fleer basketball set are desirable to collectors, some of the stickers are highly collectible, too, and fetch decent appraisals. 

Michael Jordan Fleer Sticker Rookie Card

1986 Fleer Basketball Michael Jordan Sticker Rookie Card #8

Among the 11-card 1986 Fleer basketball sticker set, Michael Jordan’s sticker card retains one of the highest values. As a matter of fact, the 1986 Fleer Michael Jordan sticker card value is up massively in the last 15 years. A recent GEM MINT PSA 10 copy sold for over $46,000 at Memory Lane Auctions in May, 2023.

If you are aiming for MJ’s 1986 rookie card, make sure to keep a lookout for his much sought-after sticker as well. 

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Fleer Sticker

1986 Fleer Basketball Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Sticker #1

The only sticker card more expensive than the MJ in GEM MINT PSA 10 condition is the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Fleer sticker #1. With a scarce population of just 15 PSA 10 copies in total, any set collector looking to pick up a Jabbar has to pony up six-figures in cash, with the most recent sale topping $180,000 at PWCC’s premier auction.

Authentication and Avoiding Counterfeits

The Internet has made the trading card hobby much more flexible. However, it creates a vacancy for fraudulence and exploitation as well. When shopping online, it is imperative to a good investment, that you stay safe from counterfeit cards and card sets. Every rare and collectible card has the potential of thousands of fakes in the marketplace — and the 1986 Fleer basketball set is at the top of the list.

To ensure a successful purchase, you should know your way around authenticating a 1986 Fleer basketball card such as the1986 Fleer Michael Jordan rookie card #57. For starters, the recommended tip is to leave the authentication process to reputable grading companies such as PSA and BGS. According to an article published on CBS News, experts on card collecting state that Michael Jordan’s 1986 RC is widely counterfeited as it is also among the most valuable and popular cards in existence.

To avoid becoming prey to counterfeiting, always pay close attention to the logo, border, nameplate, jersey, and player stats located on the back of the card. Invariably, a counterfeit can be recognized from these particular features of the card. Compare them with Cardboard Connection‘s guide on how to spot a fake Michael Jordan RC to spot noticeable differences when buying a raw, ungraded card.

Authentication of Wax Packs and Boxes

It is not uncommon for scammers to open wax packs and search for high value cards, then reseal and sell them to unaware customers. For the authentication of wax packs, we’d suggest not manually checking for abnormalities, but rather using the authentication services of BBCE to properly authenticate the integrity of a 1986 Fleer basketball box, or wax packs. BBCE can be trusted just as PSA and Beckett services can be availed for grading services.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many cards are in the 1986 Fleer basketball set?

The official checklist includes 132 cards, with the 132nd card being the checklist itself. The sticker subset contains 11 cards as well, for a grand total of 143 cards.

How much is a box of 1986 Fleer basketball cards?

Depending on the condition of the box, and assuming it is in its original factory packaging, it can cost anywhere from $90,000 – $200,000.

How many Jordan rookies in a 1986 Fleer box?

A 1986 Fleer basketball box should yield around 3 to 4 cards of each player on average. This is calculated based on the fact that there are 432 cards in a single box, and taking into consideration the 132 set of cards a given player can show up 3.27x per box.

How much is a 1986 Fleer Michael Jordan worth?

Depending on the card’s grade, it can be valued at anywhere between $1,600 – $220,000+. 

How many 1986 Fleer basketball sets were made?

There is no official disclosure of exact figures; however, seeing how many Michael Jordan cards from the 1986 set have been graded over the years, they were undoubtedly mass-produced. With around 40,000 graded MJ’s between PSA and BGS alone, it would not be a surprise if there were 100,000 sets produced in total.

What are the most expensive 1986 Fleer basketball cards?

Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, and Karl Malone’s rookie cards are some of the most expensive 1986 Fleer basketball cards.

What is the most valuable Fleer basketball card?

A PSA 10 #57 Michael Jordan rookie card. It can consistently fetch over $150,000 or more in recent years.


The 1986 Fleer basketball box product release marked the very debut of Michael Jordan’s rookie card two years into what would become a storied career with the Chicago Bulls. With a well-rounded understanding of the 1986 Fleer basketball box’s contents, checklist, price values of the most sought-after rookie cards, and having become more aware of detecting counterfeit cards, you are on the right track to collect these treasured cards. With that, happy collecting!

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