Basketball card

Flair Hot Shots

I put up a poll on Twitter the other day asking about collectors feelings toward die cut cards. Personally, I’m not a big fan. However, 100% of the people that responded said they “Love ’em”, which I found a bit surprising. Oh and a big thank you to the two people who responded to my poll. 😂

In my humble opinion, a minor die-cut element can be fairly cool if done right, but too many die cut edges lead to too many corners, all of which can be too easily destroyed and ruin the card. For better or worse, the 90s was a decade that saw a lot of die-cut parallels.

One die-cut parallel in particular, the 1996 Flair Showcase Hot Shots set, seems to be gaining traction with collectors recently. Maybe this has something to do with the card’s shape, looking a bit like the fire emoji (🔥🔥🔥)? In any case, these cards seem to be heating up these days and are the parallel in focus for this post.

The Hot Shots set features a great selection of the mid-90s All-Stars, players like Jordan, Drexler, Robinson, Rodman, Shaq, Malone… the list goes on as there were 20 Hot Shots cards in all. The design for the Hot Shots card is very unique and I don’t know of any others like it.

The background of the card featured an image of a Spalding basketball surrounded by flames and the edges of the card were die-cut to capture the shape of the flames. The images of players featured were action shots, and most were great photos. However, there are certain instances where the die-cut nature of the card leads to an awkward image, especially with the Malone card, but more on this later. Let’s look at some cards!

Clyde Drexler (#18)

Clyde Drexler never gets enough love, but he does get the 18th card spot in Flair’s Hot Shots parallel set. The Drexler photo is a pretty good one and shows him going up for a two-handed dunk in the deep blue Rockets pinstripe uniform with a white sweatband on his left wrist.

1996-97 Flair Showcase Hot Shots Clyde Drexler (#18)

The back of the card is simple and includes a nice write up about Drexler and gives him credit for being “one of the most exciting dunkers the game has ever seen”. Well said Flair, and I agree with you.

The card sells on eBay for around $65. There is no PSA data for this card, but there is one PSA 10 card listed on eBay with a Buy It Now price of $440, but that is the only graded data point I have to work with so lets move on.

Karl Malone (#13)

In my opinion, the Karl Malone card is ruined by the die-cut design of Hot Shots. I am a big fan of “The Mailman”, but because of the way this card was designed, Malone’s head is positioned up at the top of the card among the flames and gets partially cut off. As a result, Malone ends up looking like he was dropped as a kid and reminds me of Sloth from The Goonies.

1996-97 Flair Showcase Hot Shots Karl Malone (#13)

It is an awful look for what would otherwise be a decent shot of Malone dribbling the ball in an all white Utah Jazz uniform. Double bad luck for Malone with his head getting cut off AND getting card #13.

The back of the card highlights Malone’s amazing consistency on the court. As far as stats go, consistency tends to get overlooked, but I love how Malone was able to show up and deliver night in and night out and I’m glad Flair gives him credit for his incredible dependability and durability.

There are only two Malone Hot Shots cards selling on eBay at the moment, and they are priced at $60 (up for auciton with four hours left and zero bids), and a Buy It Now asking for $100 or a best offer.

PSA only has one transaction listed on their website and it was a PSA 9 that sold in July, 2018 for $40. Since most card’s I’ve reviewed have at least doubled in two years, I’d expect the same PSA 9 Malone Hot Shots to go for $80-$100, but given the weird flaw I’d seek out a different Malone parallel because this one just frustrates me. I’d probably only take this card if someone gave it to me and wouldn’t pay, but if you like Malone and poor die-cut card layouts, this may be the card for you!

Jason Kidd (#11)

One of the players who was a true thorn in my side growing up a Celtics fan was Jason Kidd, since his Nets always beat the Celtics in the early 2000s on the road to the NBA Finals. But I did like Kidd’s game and his ability to fill up the stat sheet. He also has a very nice looking Hot Shots card, which is partially why I chose to highlight Kidd rather than a few other big names included in this parallel.

1996-97 Flair Showcase Hot Shots Jason Kidd (#11)

Like the Malone card, Kidd’s head is also up at the top of the card and the border of his head is die-cut like the flames around it. However, the front-on image of Kidd’s head makes it so there isn’t any awkward cuts with the image and the photo actually works well.

The image of Kidd features him dribbling the ball in the mid-90s Suns uniform, which also featured a flaming basketball. The back of the card also has a nice write up about Kidd and I didn’t realize until I read it, but Kidd put up a triple-double in his first ever NBA game. I don’t know how many players can tout that impressive statistic!

There are two Kidd cards selling on eBay at the moment and both as Buy It Now purchases. The one for $85 looks nice on the front of the card but has some scratches on the back and looks like a little wear to the edges, so I’d avoid that card altogether. The other card is listed at $150 and is in better condition, but still has some wear to the edges, especially up along the die-cut flame section (which again is why I don’t like die-cuts).

Unfortunately, the PSA website has not sales transaction data for the Kid card so it is anyone’s guess as to what a high-graded card would go for. Knowing the Malone PSA 9 went for $40 two years ago, I’d expect the Kidd PSA 9 could fetch around $100-$150 today. With that as a benchmark, I have to believe the two Kidd Hot Shots listed on eBay are overpriced and should be avoided.

Shaquille O’Neal (#5)

Whenever there is a Shaq parallel, you can pretty much bank that I will cover it, because Shaq is simply the man and was basically unstoppable out on the court. You’re welcome to disagree, but you’d be wrong.

1996-97 Flair Showcase Hot Shots Shaquille O’Neal (#5)

The Shaq Hot Shots card features a nice shot of Shaq holding the ball about waist-high and looks like he’s about to back someone down in the post. He’s wearing the yellow Lakers jersey and although his head is up among the flames, it doesn’t get cut funny like the Malone card so it looks fine.

The back of the card includes a write up focused on Shaq’s mid-90s movie roles, which includes headline roles in Steel, Blue Chips, and Kazaam. I like Shaq as an actor, but I wish they had focused on his on court accomplishments, like averaging 20+ points and 10+ rebounds per game every season since entering the league.

There is only one ungraded Shaq Hot Shots card selling on eBay right now and it is listed with a Buy It Now price of $249, plus it has 18 people watching it so it could be off the market soon. But at $249, it might be priced a bit too high for an ungraded card.

PSA has a few data points for recent graded transactions. There were two PSA 9s sold in May, 2020. One sold on May 12th for $207 and the other sold ten days later for over $80 more ($289).

There were also two PSA 10s sold in 2020, one sold in February for $427 and the other in April for $500. There isn’t much price history to draw from so I won’t highlight any earlier sales, but I’d expect any recent sales of these cards would sell today for at least 20% higher than their previous sales under the current Covid card craze environment. From this set, this is easily my second favorite card.

Michael Jordan (#1)

My favorite card would have to be the Jordan Hot Shots, and MJ gets the honor of having card #1 in this set. The Jordan card is very nice and shows MJ holding the ball high over his head in his right hand and wearing an all red Bulls jersey. One very nice aspect of the Jordan card is that the ball, not Jordan’s head, is up at the top of the card with the edge of the flames so there is not funny business with the die-cut card screwing up the photo.

1996-97 Flair Showcase Hot Shots Michael Jordan (#1)

If I had to find fault with one aspect of this card, it would be the write up on the back. For the greatest of all time, Flair had lots of options to write about, but rather than highlight any of his on-court achievements, they chose to focus on how quickly his Bulls #45 jerseys were selling after he came back from retirement. Oh well, still an awesome card despite a not so great write up on the back.

The Jordan card is difficult to come by, and it is well out of my price range. Having said that, when I looked on eBay, I only found one copy for sale and it was a BGS 9.5 with a Buy It Now asking price of $15,000! As I said, WELL out of my price range.

There are only a few data points on the PSA website, but with what little exists, you can see a trend emerging. There were two PSA sales so far in 2020. In March, a PSA 9 sold for $3,700. Then in August, a PSA 8 sold for $4,400. The last PSA 10 sold for $3,750 back in March, 2019.

Based on the most recent sales, and seeing the one BGS 9.5 listed on eBay, my estimates for current PSA 9s would be around $7,500 and I bet a PSA 10 could fetch in the $12,000 – $15,000 range. I hope to see one sell in the next few months just to get a sense of how hot this card it, but seeing the PSA 8 sell in August for $4,400 is a strong indication that collectors and burning to acquire this die-cut parallel.

Panini doesn’t strike me as a die-cut type of gal, and I don’t see them trying anything similar, so this unique design may be one-and-done. Some of these cards are exquisite, and if encased in a PSA or BGS graded protector, this could be a fantastic card for the collection. I wouldn’t be surprised if these became more sought after in the near future and I’m very confident the Jordan and Shaq cards will continue to appreciate in value.

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