Karl Malone is one of the greatest power forwards to have ever played the game. He played 18 of his 19 seasons for the Utah Jazz and over the course of his 19-season career, he was an absolute beast on the basketball court. One of the greatest injustices in basketball is that Malone never won a title.
Despite never winning a title, Malone still deserves a ton of respect for what he was able to accomplish on the court. His career highlights include winning two gold medals, including one as a member of the ridiculously dominant 1992 USA Men’s Basketball team (aka the Dream Team), being a 14-time All Star, two-time MVP, and he is the second-leading scorer in NBA history with 36,928 points.
Another stat that Malone doesn’t get enough credit for is how he almost never missed a game. In fact, while he played for the Jazz, he never had a season where he missed more than 2 games. Think about that for a second. Basketball is both a physical sport and an exhausting one, and being able to show up night in and night out for almost every game for 18 seasons in a row is just crazy. In fact, if you think of the toughest and most reliable player today and go check their stats, I can promise with almost 100% certainty that your player of choice has missed more than 3 games in at least one season. Malone wasn’t just the mailman, he was a machine.
Malone also gets a decent amount of love from collectors, but with stats like his, he may not be getting enough love. Maybe there is a penalty for being ringless? But as I was researching Malone, I found plenty of his cards being sold on eBay these days including numerous graded rookie cards. At this very moment, a 1986 Fleer Karl Malone rookie card (#68) with a PSA 9 grading is selling for $148.50 with 8 days and 13 hours left before bidding closes, which I see as a healthy indication of demand for Malone rookie cards.
I wanted to give Malone some love in the early stages of this blog because I grew up appreciating his game and he had such a dominant presence on the basketball court. I’ll take a look at his rookie card, along with two other cards that I think are both cool and could be great additions to one’s collection. But first things first, let’s take a look at Malone’s ’86 Fleer rookie card.
Probably the first thing that any collector would point out with this card is that is comes from the same 1986 Fleer set as the famed Michael Jordan rookie card. The Jordan rookie card is #57 (out of 132) and Malone’s rookie card is #68. Looking at the photo, it’s a nice shot of Malone dribbling the ball up court, but my one wish for this card would have been to show such a dominant power forward like Malone posting up, playing defense, or throwing down a dunk. But all things considered, its a fine photo by 1986 standards.
The total population of the Malone PSA 10 rookie is fairly low, with only 207 registered with PSA. As you’d expect with a scarce high-grade card like his, it also isn’t cheap. Right now, the PSA 10’s are selling in the $2,000 – $3,000 range. And if we dial the clock back to summer or 2018, we see that his PSA 10’s were selling for around $600. There was one PSA 10 sale from August 5, 2018 that went for only $129, but I believe that is either a data error with PSA’s website or a crazy outlier that can be ignored. So, if we feel good using $600 as the 2018 PSA 10 and $2,000 as the modern price, we see a very healthy 200+% increase in two years.
On a side note, a funny thing is starting to happen to me with all the basketball card blogging and card price research because I saw the 200% return number and my honest first reaction was, “Oh, just 200%”. I need to keep reminding myself that any increase over 25% in two years is terrific, and seeing these numbers consistently come back in the 100%-500% range is messing with my sense of normalcy. I know this massive interest in basketball cards can’t continue, but it’s wild to see nearly every basketball card’s price popping in real time.
Alright, sorry for the aside. Moving back to Malone cards, the next card I want to highlight is the 1991 Skybox Team USA 2 Card (#545), which feaures four players from the Dream Team: Michael Jordan, John Stockton, Karl Malone, and Magic Johnson. It is a really nice card featuring four of the twelve players on the Dream Team in their Team USA jerseys.
This is also an interesting and noteworthy card because this card is not a typical “stand alone” basketball card, but rather it is a member of a 3-card set, one that creates a larger picture when joined with the other two cards. I know this used to be a thing in the 90’s with other card sets (for me, it was my X-Men cards), but this is a very rare thing in sports card collecting. This is easy to see with the card, because both Jordan and Magic are a cut off and the big red letters “ELON” sit in the background, but “ELON” is part of the larger word BARCELONA, where the Olympics were hosted in 1992. But if anyone close to Elon Musk knows if he’s a basketball fan, this might make for a fun gift.
When I went to find the prices for this card, I was pleasantly surprised to see there was enough data on the PSA website to see a trend with the sale of this card. I’m sure most of that is due to Jordan also being featured on this card, but at present, the PSA 10 copy of this card is selling for around $100. And going back just two years, this same PSA 10 card was selling in the $20-$30 range, so it too is up over 200%.
The last card I want to highlight is an early autograph card that features both an awesome shot of Malone plus and on card autograph. The card I’m referring to is the 1997 Topps Stadium Club Malone/Starks Co-Signers (#CO12) dual autograph card. It has Malone on the front and John Starks on the back, with both players signatures in their respective sides of the card. For this post, I’m only going to focus on the front side of the card featuring Malone.
As I said earlier, this is a great shot of Malone in action going up for a two-handed dunk with a beautiful signature on the actual card. An especially cool thing about this card is Malone, at least back in 1997, used to sign his name and include his #32 jersey number with the signature, so you get the autograph and a little extra. I also love the way this card was designed with a light team logo design in the background. It’s a nice touch and works well with the design of the card.
The simple design elements of the card really allow for the signature to pop, which I love. I don’t own this card, but would love to get it into my collection. Right now, this card is selling on eBay for about $75, so its a card that many of us could look to add to our collections without breaking the bank.
Although collectors love focusing on players that have won championships, I believe Malone cards will hold up and continue to increase in value over time. Anyone who has the stats that Malone has should prevail with collectors though the years. Not only that, but with Malone’s rookie card being from the same 1986 Fleer set as Jordan’s, and considering the two squared off against each other in the most watched NBA finals of all time, I’m confident the mailman will keep delivering for collectors for many years to come.