When I think about Jordan, the first thing I think is GOAT (greatest of all time… obviously). The next thing that comes to mind is probably a #23 Bulls jersey. But there was also a short period of time in the mid-90s when Jordan wore #45. Remember? Jay-Z even raps about it in his single Encore, “When I come back like Jordan, wearin the 4-5”.
I’ll be the first to admit Jordan sporting the #45 jersey looks a little weird and I always forget he did this for a short while after he returned from his first retirement. But it happened, and I respect the man for switching it up after going through all he went through.
But this is a basketball card blog, and with respect to Jordan wearing #45, there just so happen to be a few cards that captured that very moment, and I’m going to cover a few of those cards in this post. I’m also interested to see how the #45 cards have done value wise relative to the other cards I’ve covered during this Covid card craze.
You may also be asking yourself, why did Jordan ever change his number in the first place? Jordan speaks to this in episode 8 of The Last Dance, when he explains, “I didn’t want to wear 23 because I knew my father wasn’t there to watch me, and I felt it was a new beginning and 45 was my first number when I was playing in high school.”
And what made him switch back to #23? Well, Nick Anderson gets credit for that after trash talking to a reporter after Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, saying “45 isn’t 23”. The following game, Jordan came out wearing #23 and never wore a different number after that.
1994-95 Flair #326
Jordan only wore jersey #45 for 22 games back in 1995, so of course all cards with him in #45 are from 1994-95 sets. The Jordan in #45 card I like least is from the 1994-95 Fleer Flair set, and Jordan’s card is #326.
As you can see, this card is just too busy and it gives me a headache looking at it. The dual images of Jordan are too close in size and he’s looking in different directions and it’s a bit of a mess. The back of this card isn’t any better. It features a mediocre shot of Jordan in an upright defensive stance and it lists his stats from 1984-1994, although you do get a very clean look at him in the #45 jersey.
This card also doesn’t go for much on the market. This card can be purchased easily on eBay for under $10. There are many of them and collectors as a whole probably feel the same way I do. If you want a cheap Jordan wearing #45, this might be the card for you, but if you’re willing to spend more, there are better cards available.
1994-95 SkyBox Emotion N-Tense #3
My favorite design for a card featuring Jordan wearing #45 was the SkyBox N-Tense parallel set, and Jordan’s card was #3 of 10. This card features a shimmering golden border around the outer edge of the card with a cool jagged edge as your eye moves toward the center. The center of the card features a solo image of Jordan against a reflective background.
The image of Jordan is very clean and he looks to be about to pass the ball. There is also very minimal text on the front of the card, and all the text is printed with refractor-like foil. The back of this card is also pretty unique, in that other than two images of Jordan, there is basically nothing else. Its basically just the word “Jordan”, the card number, and the SkyBox copyright info at the bottom of the card. No stats, no little write-up about Jordan, just two images. An interesting choice to forgo putting anything else on the back of the card, but all in all, its a very nice card.
There are just shy of 500 PSA graded copies of this card, and of those, just over half (248) are PSA 10s. If we only look at the PSA 10s, we see that this is a pretty affordable Jordan. Taking the last five sales going back to July 9, 2020, we see a median price for the PSA 10 of $520. Going back to the summer of 2018, we see the PSA 10s were selling in a pretty tight range of $100-$130. Lets be conservative and use a price of $125 for the 2018 price. If we do, we see the Jordan N-Tense card has popped quite nicely, and not sells for roughly four-times what it sold for just two years ago. With still relatively few PSA 10s available, this may be a really nice card to buy ungraded, especially if you can find one for under $150.
1994-95 Topps Finest #331
The card that almost certainly would have been my favorite card featuring Jordan in the #45 would be the base card from the Topps Finest set, card #331. However, I knock this one down a notch because many of the cards have card protectors (aka coatings), and those really grind my gears, so I’m penalizing the whole set. However, the card without the protector is a very nice looking card with a great image of Jordan.
The picture of Jordan on this card looks like he is lining up his shot for a free throw and its a really nice clean shot. The reason I think he’s taking a shot from the stripe is only because he looks too relaxed to be putting it up under any other in-game scenario. For his career, Jordan shot 83.5% from the line, in case you were curious.
Unlike the two other cards I’ve covered thus far, you also get a clean and essentially perfect shot of the number 45 in full view, since this is a photo or Jordan shooting rather than passing.
At present, the non-refractor Jordan PSA 10 cards with no coating sell at a very wide range. There were five sales in June, 2020 and they sold at the following prices (rounded to the nearest dollar): $247, $343, $310, $285, and $525. So for simplicity, let’s just grab the median value and go with $310 for this card without the coating.
Going back two years to June, 2018, there were four PSA 10 no coating sales with a median price of $86. Therefor, the PSA 10 no coating card has more than tripled in two years. It may be more for the card with the coating (if you can put up with it), but as I’ve said already, I’m not a fan of the protected cards so I ignored that data for a reason.
Bonus: Jordan wearing #12… WHAT?!?
It technically isn’t a Jordan card, it’s a card featuring Sam Vincent, but the 1990-91 Hoops card (#223) is one that gets attention from collectors because it features a shot of MJ wearing #12, a jersey he only wore for a single game. It turns out, on valentines day in 1990, some sticky-fingered fan (or employee) stole Jordan’s iconic #23 jersey so Jordan had to wear a nameless #12 jersey against the Orlando Magic.
There are not many images of this, but the photographer who snapped Vincent’s picture that day caught Jordan in the nameless #12 jersey. As a result, this incredibly affordable card still gets attention from collectors and is a pretty neat card to add to one’s collection. These cards are common on eBay so you shouldn’t pay more than $3-$4 for this card, but if you want to capture that crazy day in your collection, you should grab the Vincent card.
Lastly, I was wondering if anything tied these three numbers (12, 23, 45) together. I’m a bit of a numbers guy, and from what I can tell, they all are near half, or double, of Jordan’s original #23. If you take half of 23 and round up, you get 12. If you double 23 and subtract one, you get 45. Perhaps it’s all a coincidence, but its funny how that works.