Last Updated On: November 13th, 2023
Skybox is to 1990s NBA card collecting what jazz is to the 1920s. Or what the Celtics-Lakers rivalry was to the 1980s. Few cards typify the era so well – fused with funky, futuristic designs, the cards challenged what to expect from a wax pack. While the Skybox name was eventually done away with after Marvel purchased it, the sweet designs continued under the Fleer name well into the 21st century.
Skybox wasn’t the only basketball legend roaming the ‘90s; there was also his Airness, Michael Jordan. And from the jump, some of the coolest Skybox Cards are those featuring the Bulls legend.
One particularly slick line was the Credentials parallel, produced by Skybox. In this post, we’ll cover all nine Michael Jordan Credentials cards, beginning with ‘96 E-X2000 and finishing with the 2012 Fleer Retro Essential Credentials set. We’ll also include recent sales data for the cards, and a warning over those Skybox and Fleer cards that are missing a serial number.
Let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
Michael Jordan Credentials Parallels
Top-of-the-line Michael Jordan Credentials cards are already scarce due to limited print runs. As a result (and not to spoil the last section of this post), these cards, in top condition, can be extremely valuable.
And hey, if Credentials Michael Jordan cards aren’t your speed, but you’re still looking for high-end cards, we’ve got you covered in our top-10 most valuable Jordan cards list.
1996 E-X2000 Credentials Card
The first Michael Jordan Credentials cards to hit the market came with the debut of the Skybox E-X2000 set in 1996. A total of 80 players make up this season’s checklist, and the Credentials (numbered to /499) as the lone parallel of the bunch (a bit jarring considering the multitude of parallels available today).
The ‘96 Credentials design features Jordan set against a window of blue, cloudy sky, bordered in a silver-white. And, as a sign of this card’s rarity, PSA and BGS have combined to grade fewer than 200 of them (176, according to CardLadder).
Jordan wasn’t the only big name to grace a Credentials card. The ‘96 draft featured a host of promising rookies, including Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Stephon Marbury, and Ray Allen.
1997 E-X2001 Essential Credentials Cards
The following year, Skybox mixed things up a bit. Instead of just one Credentials parallel, there would be two, a “Now” and “Future” versions. And they called them Essential Credentials this time. The “Now” cards were a green version of the base, while the “Future” cards took on a pink tone.
And here’s where things get really funky. The “Now” cards’ print run directly reflects the card’s number; for example, there is precisely one “Now” parallel for #1 Grant Hill, the first name on the set’s checklist, and two “Now” parallels for Kevin Garnett, who is the #2 name.
The “Future” parallel works the opposite way; for example, there is exactly one “Future” parallel for #80 Ron Mercer, while there are 80 “Future” parallels for #1 Grant Hill. This brings the grand total of Credentials parallels in the E-X2001 set to 81 for each player. Confused yet? Let’s just look at the cards…
Since Michael Jordan is #9 in this set, there are nine “Now” Essential Credentials cards total, making it an extremely scarce Jordan card. Despite such a low pop count, PSA and BGS have graded seven of the nine cards.
The last public sale of the Now Credentials in BGS 9 was way back in 2016, for $52,000. It’s likely a multi-hundred thousand dollar card today given how well the Future version has sold, which we’ll discuss next.
Conversely, there are 72 total “Future” Credentials Michael Jordan cards. While still more than nine, 72 is still extremely rare. The card last sold for $132,000 in BGS 8.5 condition (September, 2022).
2001 Fleer E-X Essential Credentials Cards
By 2001, Jordan had traded his red and black Bulls jersey for the teal and gold of the Washington Wizards. And while his Wizards tenure wasn’t quite as illustrious as his stead in the Windy City, at least the Essential Credentials card from this year offered plenty of flash.
In 2001, Jordan’s Credentials card was #98 – remember this when trying to find it online. A cursory search for “2001 Michael Jordan Credentials cards” will likely pull up results featuring the ‘97 card since the series was E-X2001. It’s always best to search for a given card with its number to avoid this confusion. You can also exclude results containing a particular term (or terms) with a dash (-) in front like this “-1997”. The exclusion trick works on Google and eBay searches as well.
Jordan’s 2001 “Now” version features the legend making mince meat of Mark Jackson en route to a date at the rim. Don’t worry – it’s not Jackson’s first awkward card moment. The “Now” version has a red theme and is numbered to /38.
The “Future” version, to contrast, comes in a blue that actually meshes quite well with Jordan’s Wizards jersey. With a print count of /33, the “Future” version is even rarer than the “Now” from this year.
2006 Fleer E-X Essential Credentials Cards
In 2006, the E-X line expanded its number of parallels, including the addition of autographs, and four 1/1 “Plates” in Yellow, Black, Cyan, and Magenta.
Credentials went back to its confusing print runs for the 2006 set. Jordan, who is #4 in the set, has precisely four “Now” cards printed, while the “Future” version works in the inverse, numbered to /77 for a grand total of 81 cards.
2006 featured many other young stars, including LeBron James and Chris Paul. Additionally, a slew of rookies are represented in this set, including Kyle Lowry, PJ Tucker, JJ Redick, and LaMarcus Aldridge. Michael Jordan, however, would be three years into his final retirement when the set was released.
So, here’s the thing about Jordan’s “Now” version card from 2006 – it’s borderline impossible to find. It has never sold publicly, and probably for a good reason: only four of these cards are out there. It’s also worth noting that 2006 wasn’t exactly a fertile time for the hobby. The frenzy of the Junk Wax Era had calmed, and we were still many years away from the hobby’s renewed boom during the late 2010s and early ‘20s.
A deep search for the card all across the internet only yielded this photo of serial #2 of 4, posted by user hobbysbestcards on Instagram (even they don’t recollect where the photo first appeared). It is the only BGS 9.5 Gem Mint in Beckett’s population report, with only one more graded as BGS 9 Mint. PSA has zero recorded in its report.
Note: a single “missing serial number” version of the card is also in BGS’s pop data, having been graded as a BGS 9 Mint. We’ll talk more about missing serials towards the end of this post.
What’s also interesting is that according to BGS’s pop report, both the BGS 9 and BGS 9.5 graded copies were graded on the same day back in 2007! Is it possible the same person owns both cards?!
Thanks to its much larger print run (77 total), we have plenty of records of the “Future” version of the 2006 Michael Jordan Credentials card. Given a bronze and purple theme, the colors mesh pretty well together and give it an elevated feel.
2012 Fleer Retro Essential Credentials Cards
By 2012, the E-X Brand had been absorbed into Fleer’s “Retro” line, which launched in 2011. And what a debut it was – Beckett called the 2011 Retro premier “perhaps the biggest hit” of the year for collectors.
In 2012, the Fleer Retro Essential Credentials Cards featured 42 players, ranging from legends like Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, and Larry Bird, to current stars like LeBron James, all styled in a throwback card. The set numbering ran in the same confusing pattern that you’ve undoubtedly gotten used to at this point – the #1 card had precisely one “Now” card produced and 42 “Future” cards printed.
The cards also harken back directly to the ’97 series, with a similar card design and color scheme for the two parallels.
Another interesting facet of these cards is that they feature the players in their college jerseys (or, in LeBron’s case, his high school uni). Traditionally, cards with a player’s college jersey are worth significantly less than one where the player wears a pro uniform, but given the scarcity, that same logic can be thrown out. Further, it took a lot of work to come by these cards. Essential Credentials was competing with 13 other inserts in this series, four of which were included in any box.
Retro ’97 E-X2001 Essential Credentials ‘Now’
We might have let the cat out of the bag already, but only one of the “Now” versions of the 2012 Michael Jordan Essential Credentials card exists. It’s never been sold on the market, and finding a picture depicting the card is exceedingly tricky. That said, we know that the card differs from the base card in its green theme (noticing a trend, yet?).
Retro ’97 E-X2001 Essential Credentials ‘Future’
A total of 42 “Future” cards were printed, making it more available than the “Now” version, but still very rare. A reddish/pink theme was thrown on the “Future” cards, again a nod to the cards printed back in ‘97.
Recent Sales Prices Summary Table
The following table includes recent sale prices of the Michael Jordan Credentials cards that we’ve discussed in this post. The results come from CardLadder (unless otherwise noted) and are PSA 8 or greater, where available.
|Card Description & Grade||Selling Price||Sale Date|
|1996 E-X2000 Credentials PSA 9||$16,800||Oct. 2023|
|1997 E-X2001 Essential Credentials, Now BGS 9||$52,000||Apr. 2016|
|1997 E-X2001 Essential Credentials, Future BGS 8.5||$132,000||Sept. 2022|
|2001 E-X Essential Credentials, Now PSA 8||$8,100||June 2023|
|2001 E-X Essential Credentials, Future BGS 9||$6,600||Apr. 2023|
|2006 E-X Essential Credentials, Now||Never Sold Publicly||N/A|
|2006 E-X Essential Credentials, Future BGS 9.5||$6,832||Oct. 2023|
|2012 Fleer Retro ’97 Essential Credentials, Now PSA 10 (#23/42)||$6,777||Oct. 2023|
|2012 Fleer Retro ’97 Essential Credentials Future||Never Sold Publicly||N/A|
Careful Buying “Missing Serial Number” Cards
Remember our old friend Skybox from the beginning of this article? In 1995, Marvel Comics acquired Skybox, merging it with Fleer, which the company acquired three years earlier. A decade later, Fleer/Skybox would essentially file for bankruptcy, to be saved by Upper Deck in a $6.1 million purchase (which was nearly $20 million less than Upper Deck offered to pay for Fleer/Skybox just a year prior).
Amidst the bankruptcy, Fleer/Skybox began selling off its inventory. Think massive liquidation sale, all things must go. In the flurry, the company also sold cards without Serial Numbers. These cards continue to float around the market today, so keep an eye out! They aren’t “fake” cards by any stretch – Fleer/Skybox printed these non-barcoded cards as potential replacements for rare cards that got damaged (and the Essential Credentials sets would certainly count as rare). You could send in a damaged card and have it replaced with a non-serial numbered card; rather than reprint an entirely new card, the company would reprint the damaged card’s barcode onto the fresh card and destroy the damaged one.
Even though they’re technically still authentic Credentials cards, the non-serial number cards go for significantly less than their serial numbered counterparts. For instance, have a look at sales of Kobe Bryant’s 2003 E-X Essential Credentials “Future” card /94 with and without a Serial Code in the same grade; missing serials barely sell for 15% of the value of numbered cards.
It’s a serious difference, so it’s extremely important to stay vigilant when searching for these cards.
Summary: Michael Jordan Credentials Cards
Undoubtedly, the Credentials cards produced by Skybox and Fleer are some of the slickest to feature Michael Jordan. Their rarity also serves as a reminder of Jordan’s singular greatness; he is, like his 2012 Fleer Retro “Now” card, a 1/1.
But as you search for these cards to add to your basketball collection, it’s important to proceed cautiously. Remember to search for a card’s full name, including its number and print run. This will help avoid confusion between some of the admittedly mind-boggling card names. It will also help you ward off non-Serial Numbered cards, which aren’t nearly as valuable as their complete counterparts.
Have some luck finding these cards? Have a favorite Michael Jordan Credentials card? Let us know in the comments!