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When it comes to the 1980’s basketball cards, one player stands above the rest. Michael Jordan’s dominance might have come towards the end of the decade, but he still features heavily, as he helped to usher in a new era for the sport.
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In the present day, here’s a list with 10 of the most valuable 1980’s basketball cards, which make for some of the best long-term investment options in the hobby.
The 10 Most Valuable Basketball Cards from the 1980s
We’ve listed 10 of the most valuable basketball cards from the ‘80s, in order of when they were first released.
The most valuable cards are invariably gem mint options, so we’d stick to looking at graded copies to ensure that you don’t fall victim to the thousands of fakes on the market. Given the prices involved, it’s better to be safe, rather than sorry.
Let’s get started with a card that features three legendary players.
1980 Topps Larry Bird / Julius Erving / Magic Johnson
As you might have guessed, this is a trio card that features some of the greatest players from the era. It has the rookie card of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, along with Julius Erving in the middle.
It’s a perforated card, with untouched versions of the trio being the most valuable overall. With the majority being torn away, it’s rare to find mint copies on the market.
1981 Topps Basketball Magic Johnson #21
The next card also features Magic Johnson, in a great action shot that sees him evading multiple players on the court. The 1981 Topps has a vintage pink background, listing player and team info in a small section at the bottom.
Gem mint versions can sell for five figures, highlighting his importance for fans, investors, and collectors alike. As with many of the others, you’ll be able to grab lower PSA grades for an affordable price.
1981 Topps Basketball SETBREAK Larry Bird #4
In a similar theme, Larry Bird is featured in a card from the 1981 Topps set. There’s a shot of the player in Celtics training gear, staring off-camera with his hands hidden behind the green border.
It manages to make the list because gem mint versions are worth a significantly higher amount than the norm, and can easily sell for five figures depending on the buyer.
1985 Prism Jewel Sticker Michael Jordan
A unique older Jordan card that was originally distributed via vending machines, the ‘85 Prism Jewel has a hologram illustration of the player as he leaps towards the net. There’s a second, simple profile shot of the player, in his iconic 23 kit.
The unconventional release and the bright yellow background make it difficult to find high PSA grade versions, and it even has a copy of his signature at the bottom.
1985 Michael Jordan Star Basketball RC #101
1985 was clearly a strong year for MJ options. The ‘85 Star is often seen as his true RC, coming in a year before the fabled 1986 Fleer.
Star is a popular brand, with a strong image of Jordan battling for the ball amongst a crowd of players. The border is red and white to fit his jersey, and there’s a classic Red Bulls logo at the bottom. However, it’s worth noting that there are numerous fakes on the market, so we’d stick to graded versions only.
1985 Michael Jordan Nike Promo RC
Up next, the 1985 Nike Promo is possibly the most iconic Jordan image of them all. Featuring a shot of the player leaping towards a basket, it’s the basis for his famous Air Jordan brand, which is still popular to this day.
It might not be a traditional card, but it’s a valuable option from the mid-’80s. Be aware that there are multiple reprints, so check the back for the latest season info to see exactly which version you’re looking at.
1985 Interlake Bulls Michael Jordan RC #1
An oversized release produced by the Boy Scouts of America via the Interlake Youth Incentive Program in the Chicago area, this is another great card that features Jordan dribbling past a player, with his tongue out.
There’s a small Interlake logo at the bottom, along with a Bulls logo at the top. It’s not the most popular 1985 option, but it’s valuable thanks to the association with a true icon.
1986 Fleer Michael Jordan RC #57
Undoubtedly the best known Jordan rookie, the 1986 Fleer is incredibly expensive when looking at gem mint copies. It’ll fetch a six-figure sum, which is incredible considering it wasn’t the rarest card when it first released.
It has a red, white, and blue background, with an action shot of Jordan flying towards the net in typical fashion. The red corners are susceptible to chips and wear, and cause many versions to be unable to achieve the highest grades.
1986 Fleer Stickers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar #1
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is back again, as part of the ‘86 Fleer stickers set. The image shows him rising above everyone as he starts to dunk, with a ball held in one outstretched arm. He’s in his Lakers jersey (33), and there’s a yellow tab found on the left-hand side.
Along with the Jordan sticker from this set, they’re two of the most valuable options overall. Of course, unpeeled versions are preferred if possible.
1987 Fleer Sticker Michael Jordan #2
Finally, there’s a Jordan Fleer sticker that rounds out the list. Released in the 1987 set, it has a great design, with a stars and stripes background, and a shot of Jordan in his iconic red jersey.
Prices have risen along with every other older Jordan RC, perhaps due to his huge mainstream appeal, along with The Last Dance, Space Jam, and the endless records and achievements on and off the court.
The Most Valuable 1980s Basketball Cards
As you can see, it’s all about MJ, even if there were a couple of notable cameos on the list. The most valuable 1980’s cards are always going to be dominated by the biggest star that the sport has ever seen, while age and condition have played their part in the overall increase in rarity over the years.
High PSA grades are inevitably few and far between, so they make for the best investment options if you’re happy to hold onto them for a while.