The SkyBox Metal Universe cards were some of my all-time favorite cards to collect as a kid. I honestly couldn’t spend money on them fast enough. I’ve even spent a bit as an adult acquiring a parallel or two that I was never lucky enough to pull from a pack (but the wife doesn’t need to know that bit). The 1997-98 Metal Universe set had some of the coolest looking base cards around, featuring players dunking a flaming basketball while flying through space (both MJ & Penny feature this design), dribbling planet earth (Iverson), or dishing the rock with the Death Star looming in the background (Kobe). These cards were exciting to collect as a kid and they still bring a smile to my face today.
The most treasured base card in the set for many is card #23, aptly featuring Michael Jordan. It features MJ going up for a dunk in space wearing the traditional white home jersey. As a kid, what drew me to this card was that it just made sense. Space Jam had been out for about a year at this point, so why wouldn’t Jordan be flying through space with a flaming basketball? The flaming ball still makes me think of NBA Jam, the classic game for the Sega Genesis that my buddies and I spent countless hours playing (anyone else remember the code to unlock Bill Clinton?).
In my mind, having a base card in this set is the closest most of us will ever come to owning one of most sought-after Jordan cards of all time, the PMG23. The reason I feel this way, and one of my main reasons for loving the Jordan base card #23, is because the photo used on the base card is the exact same image used for the incredibly rare and wildly expensive Precious Metal Gems (PMG) cards, which are serial numbered to 100. The PMG cards come in two forms, the first 10 feature Jordan (or any player for that matter) over an emerald green foil backdrop while cards 11-100 feature Jordan over a ruby red foil backdrop. These exceptionally rare PMG23’s rarely come up at auction, but when they do, they always go to a top six-figure bidder.
However, for us normal folk, we can get the foil-free base card in good condition for around $60-80 on Ebay. This even feels a bit high because I remember looking at this card prior to The Last Dance debuting, and I think it was selling for around $50, which gives me one more indication that Jordan cards, even base cards, and the card industry in general may be experiencing a comeback. Anyway, even if you aren’t looking to make this card an investment piece, its still a really cool and interesting card and will fit well into anyone’s basketball collection.
February 2021 Metal Jordan Update
I recently saw the base MJ card listed on eBay the other day for $25 and saw a deal so bid $50 on it, hoping this card would go unnoticed. I was very wrong. The closing price for the base Metal Jordan went for just over $200. I saw an article recently pointing to how basketball card sales on eBay were up almost 400% and seeing how this common Jordan card was selling for around $50 just last year I believe the article.
I’m not sure if these base cards will continue to pop, but given this huge price appreciation in a little under a year it is certainly a good card to keep an eye on to help keep the pulse of the basketball card market.
For those who love the look of this card but can’t afford any of the extremely rare cards, there were also some Fleer Retro cards the were copies of many of the best Metal cards, but feature players in their college jerseys. I was bidding on a beautiful retro Julius Erving Red Precious Metal Gem card today that was a short print (only 150 made) and within the last minute of bidding the card popped up from $21.50 to close at $100 even. I didn’t win but tip my hat to whoever it was that secured that beauty!