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Basketball card

1986 Fleer Basketball Stickers and the Crazy Sticker Bubble

The 1986 Fleer basketball set is one of the most iconic sets in sports card collecting, and its a set I’ve written about multiple times thus far (I’ve posted about the biggest winners and losers in 2020). But one aspect of this set that I’ve yet to cover are the sticker cards that were included in every pack of 1986 Fleer.

Back before parallels and inserts were included in packs, Fleer decided to include a sticker in each pack featuring some of the greatest players in the mid-80’s. There were 11 stickers in total, and they were included at the bottom of each pack of ’86 Fleer. The Fleer stickers aren’t as prized among collectors, but the top graded stickers still sell for thousands (and sometimes tens of thousands) of dollars.

Below I’m going to highlight all 11 1986 Fleer stickers and provide insights as to the one year trend for top graded stickers (both PSA 9s and 10s) as well as how the top graded stickers compare to the top graded base card. I also included simple 9-month PSA 9 dot graphs for the Jordan and Olajuwon stickers to show a crazy February sticker bubble that took place in early 2021.

The top graded PSA 10 stickers are VERY rare, with only 620 graded by PSA out of a population of nearly 40K, so the GEM Mint 86 Fleer Stickers only make up roughly 1.6% of the total graded sticker population. The PSA 9s are far more common, with a total population of over 7K, so roughly one out of six graded Fleer stickers is a PSA 9.

1986 Fleer Sticker #1: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

The first sticker features Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and its a beautiful image featuring Kareem in the middle of one of his unlockable sky hooks against the Boston Celtics. Looking on are Celtic’s small forward Scott Wedman and I believe the Laker in the specs is James Worthy. This is a stunning shot of Kareem and is one of the best, if not the best, image from the 1986 Fleer sticker set.

1986 Fleer Sticker #1 of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
1986 Fleer Sticker #1: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

The top graded PSA 10 Abdul-Jabbar sticker is very rare, with less than 1% of Kareem stickers receiving a perfect grade. As a result, we rarely see sales. The most recent PSA 10 sale happened in February 2020 and sold for $18.9K, up 7% from the only 2019 sale that occurred in August, 2019.

The PSA 9s are much more prevalent and far easier to track, with the most recent sale happening in December 2020 and going for $3,150. Prior to that sale, the PSA 9s were selling between $1,500 – $1,900 in late 2020. However, going back to November and December of 2019 we would see this card selling in the $750-$1,000 range, so it looks to have more than doubled in a year.

1986 Fleer Sticker #2: Larry Bird

The second sticker in the 1986 Fleer set features Celtic’s legend Larry Bird. The image of Bird on the sticker is nothing to get excited about, its just Bird holding the ball. I wish they’d gone with a more visually interesting action shot instead, but still not a bad image of Bird.

 1986 Fleer Sticker #2 featuring Larry Bird
1986 Fleer Sticker #2: Larry Bird

The top graded PSA 10 Larry Bird card is also quite rate, there are 39 that have received a perfect PSA 10 grade (roughly 1.5%). These top graded cards have absolutely exploded in value recently. The PSA 10 bird sticker was going for under $2,000 as late as May, 2020. Then in February there were three PSA 10 Bird stickers sold, and they sold for $17.5K, $21K, and $12.6K.

The PSA 9s are much friendlier on the wallet in general, but the prices for the PSA 9 are all over the map. The most recent PSA 9 sales, both of which came in early March, 2021, sold for roughly $830. However, there have been sales thus far in 2021 as high as $3.2K and as low as $350. I’m putting this card on my radar, and hoping to grab one below $500.

1986 Fleer Sticker #3: Adrian Dantley

The third sticker from 1986 Fleer features six-time NBA All-star Adrian Dantley. The Dantley sticker image shows Dantley going up for a shot and being covered by Laker’s forward Larry Spriggs.

1986 Fleer Sticker #3: Adrian Dantley
1986 Fleer Sticker #3: Adrian Dantley

The Dantley sticker has the fewest of all graded stickers, but the top graded Dantely sticker is not the most rare PSA 10 sticker in the set, as there are 52 (2.9%) GEM Mint PSA 10 listed on the PSA website. The top graded Dantley stickers currently sell in the wide range of roughly $2,200 to $5,000, with the most recent sale on February 26, 2021 selling for $2,225. However, right before the March 2020 COVID lockdown, these top graded cards were going for about $300-$400, with one selling for $367 on February 22, 2020.

The PSA 9 stickers are selling at a steep discount relative to the top graded cards, and the 9s are only seeing prices in the 5%-10% range relative to the GEM Mint Dantley stickers. The most recent PSA 9 sales have been selling in the $150-$250 range, with one card selling on March 9, 2021 for only $148. Interestingly enough, the latest PSA 8 sold for $111 on that same day, so I’d expect the PSA 9s to rise as long as the basketball card market stays strong.

1986 Fleer Sticker #4: Alex English

The fourth sticker in the 1986 Fleer set features Alex English, an 8-time All-star who played the majority of his 17-season career in Denver. The Alex English sticker is a decent looking image of English with his arms fully extended and about to release a shot.

1986 Fleer Sticker #4: Alex English
1986 Fleer Sticker #4: Alex English

The English sticker is the easiest one to find in Gem Mint condition, with a population of 85 PSA 10 stickers listed on the PSA website (4.7% off all graded stickers are PSA 10s). Despite being the easiest PSA 10 to find, the top graded stickers sell for over $1,000. The most recent sale, on March 8th, 2020 sold for $1,526. However, in the month of February 2021, there were four PSA 10 stickers that sold $3,000 or more.

The PSA 9s are heavily discounted relative to the PSA 10 Alex English stickers, with the most recent PSA 9 sticker selling for $189 on March 8th, 2021. However, in February there were five PSA 9s that sold for $300 or more, so it looks like there is a lot of market confusion around this card as is evident by these wide ranges in both PSA 9 and PSA 10 sales.

1986 Fleer Sticker #5: Julius Erving

The 1986 Fleer sticker set is stacked with Superstars, with the fifth sticker in the set featuring Julius “Dr. J” Erving. My one complaint about this sticker is that its a pretty lame picture of Erving that makes me wonder why they chose this image? I imagine Fleer had a catalog of really nice action shots of Erving, so why choose this image? I digress…

1986 Fleer Sticker #5: Julius Erving
1986 Fleer Sticker #5: Julius Erving

The top graded Dr. J sticker is among the more rare stickers to find in this set, with PSA listing only 40 GEM Mint stickers out of nearly 2,700 (1.5%). These top graded PSA 10 stickers go for nearly $10K, with the two most recent sales in 2021 selling for $9,500 and $9,047. These stickers have exploded in value in just one year, as the PSA 10s were selling for only $800 back in February, 2020.

The PSA 9s are heavily discounted compared to the 10s, with recent prices sticking between a range of $300-$500. The most recent PSA 9 sold on March 8th for only $293, but just two weeks earlier a PSA 9 sold for $532. The PSA 9s are also up nicely this year, as these nearly top graded stickers were going for as low as $76 back in February, 2020.

1986 Fleer Sticker #6: Patrick Ewing

Patrick Ewing is one of only five players with a rookie sticker in this set. The shot of Ewing on this sticker is a nice one showing Ewing fully extended playing defense. The white from the wrist bands also jumps out to me, but this was a common look in the NBA during the mid-80s.

Ewing is one of the most underappreciate and disrespected players in NBA history. The recent story of staffers at Madison Square Garden accosting Ewing was mind blowing, and on top of that I want to petition that the Ewing Theory be renamed to the Carmello Theory. But let me step off my soapbox and get back to the Ewing sticker.

1986 Fleer Sticker #6: Patrick Ewing
1986 Fleer Sticker #6: Patrick Ewing

The top graded PSA 10 Ewing sticker in this set appears to be difficult to find, but not impossible. There are 71 PSA 10 Ewing stickers listed on the PSA website, resulting in roughly 2.5% of all graded stickers having received that top grade. There were five PSA 10 Ewing stickers sold in February, 2021 between the range of $7,000 and $12,000, and averaging out to just over $9,000. If we go back to March and April of 2020 (right at the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown), we see the average price for this top graded sticker was roughly $700. I’d attribute this to a heavy focus on this set in general, and perhaps less to do with a focus on Ewing.

The PSA 9s take a very steep price cut compared to the PSA 10 Ewing sticker, with March 2021 sales hovering around $600. The most recent PSA 9 Ewing sticker sold on March 16, 2021 for $598. Going back to March of 2020, the PSA 9 Ewing sticker was selling for about $75, so the 9s are up big, but not seeing a 12x pop like the 10s.

1986 Fleer Sticker #7: Magic Johnson

The 7th sticker in the 1986 Fleer set features Erving Magic Johnson. It is a very nice shot of Magic bringing the ball up court and it looks like Kurt Rambis is in the background (Rambis was famously clotheslined by Kevin McHale in Game 4 of the 1984 NBA finals). For sneakerheads out there, the Magic sticker features Magic wearing THE basketball shoe of the 1980’s: the Converse Weapon.

1986 Fleer Sticker #7: Magic Johnson
1986 Fleer Sticker #7: Magic Johnson

The Magic sticker is one of the more rare top graded stickers in this set. Of the nearly 3,000 graded Magic stickers, only 44 (1.5%) were given GEM Mint PSA 10 status. The GEM Mint Magic stickers, like the Bird sticker, has also exploded in value over the past year. The most recent PSA 10 Magic sticker sold on February 5, 2021 for just over $20K. Back in February and March of 2020, the top graded Magic stickers were going for roughly $1,000, so Magic’s sticker is up roughly 20x in just one year.

The PSA 9 Magic sticker sells for roughly 5% of what the GEM Mint sticker goes for. The most recent sale of a PSA 9 sticker sold on March 16, 2021 for $787. Of the 30 PSA 9 stickers that have sold in 2021, 21 sold for $1000 or above, but the recent trend for the Magic sticker looks to be down, since there were a few sales above $2K back in early February. Going back to the beginning of 2020, the PSA 9 stickers were selling in the $70-$100 range.

1986 Fleer Sticker #8: Michael Jordan

Perhaps the most famous and most expensive sticker of all time, sticker #8 from the 1986 Fleer set featuring Michael Jordan would almost certainly make every collectors dream list for 1980s cards. The Jordan sticker isn’t nearly as iconic as the 1986 Fleer Jordan base rookie (card #57), but its still a great looking image of Jordan driving baseline.

 1986 Fleer Sticker #8: Michael Jordan
1986 Fleer Sticker #8: Michael Jordan

As you’d expect, the Jordan sticker is by far the most graded sticker in the set, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the most graded sticker in the world. There are only 120 GEM Mint PSA 10 stickers out of a population of over 14K, so fewer than 1% of graded Jordan stickers receive that perfect PSA 10 grade.

Like many of the other stickers so far reviewed, the value of the Jordan sticker has also taken off like a rocket recently. The most recent sale of a GEM Mint PSA 10 Jordan sticker sold on March 23, 2021 for $155K. However, that was actually the lowest price paid for a PSA 10 Jordan sticker in 2021. The three other PSA 10 Jordan sticker sales in 2021 all sold over $200K, with the highest sale taking place on February 11 for $235K at a Goldin Auction.

Going back to the beginning of 2020, the GEM Mint PSA 10 Jordan stickers were selling for under $15K, which seems impossible. If we take the most recent sale price of this perfectly graded Jordan sticker as the true price, that means the Jordan rookie sticker is up over 10x in roughly one year.

The PSA 9 Jordan sticker has recently been selling in the $10K – $15K range, almost exactly the same price as what the PSA 10 Jordan sticker was selling for last year at this time. The most recent PSA 9 sale has come down from the 2021 highs, and sold on March 22, 2021 for a little over $10K.

Back in February, 2021 the PSA 9 Jordan sticker was selling for as much as $33.6K! If we look back to early 2020, we see the PSA 9 Jordan rookie sticker selling consistently within a range of $1,500 – $2,000. Anyone else kicking themselves for not grabbing this near perfect Jordan rookie sticker last year?

The prices for the PSA 9 Jordan rookie sticker look like they very cleanly highlight the quick bubble (or spike) in basketball card and sticker prices in January and February of 2021. The chart below shows all PSA 9 (no subgrades) sales listed on the PSA website from June 1, 2020 to March 22, 2021. As you can very clearly see, there was a crazy price spike topping out at $33.6K, but the price has come back down to the $10K range. My long term view is that this Jordan rookie sticker is probably close to a bottom and will continue to be great long term investment at any grade.

PSA 9 Michael Jordan 1986 Fleer Sticker #8 price chart (6/1/2020 - 3/22/2021) - has the basketball card bubble burst?
PSA 9 Michael Jordan 1986 Fleer Sticker #8 price chart (6/1/2020 – 3/22/2021)

1986 Fleer Sticker #9: Akeem Olajuwon

Another huge rookie sticker from this set is the 1986 Fleer sticker #9 featuring Hakeem Olajuwon. The Olajuwon sticker image shows Olajuwon fully stretched out attempting to block a shot put up my Magic Johnson. This sticker is the only one to feature two of the best players from the 1980s.

 1986 Fleer Sticker #9: Akeem Olajuwon
1986 Fleer Sticker #9: Akeem Olajuwon

The Olajuwon rookie sticker is the second most graded sticker in the set, with a total population just north of 3,000. Of those, there are only 57 (1.9%) GEM Mint PSA 10 Olajuwon stickers. The most recent PSA 10 Olajuwon sticker sold back on February 22, 2021 for $12K. Rewinding the clock back to February 2020, the GEM Mint Olajuwon stickers were going for around $900-$1000, so this card has seen a massive run up in price.

The PSA 9 Olajuwon rookie sticker has recently been selling below $1,000 recently. The most recent sale of a PSA 9 sold on March 23, 2021 for $863. Going back one year, the PSA 9 Olajuwon sticker was selling in the $75-$125 range. Like the Jordan sticker, the Olajuwon sticker also saw a pretty sharp spike in February but has since come down. The most recent prices are still higher than where they were in the summer of 2020, but it looks like prices for the 1986 Fleer stickers are well off their highs from earlier in 2021.

 PSA 9 Hakeem Olajuwon 1986 Fleer Sticker #9 price chart (6/1/2020 - 3/23/2021)
PSA 9 Hakeem Olajuwon 1986 Fleer Sticker #9 price chart (6/1/2020 – 3/23/2021)

1986 Fleer Sticker #10: Isiah Thomas

The 10th sticker in the set and fourth rookie sticker from 1986 Fleer features the Detroit Pistons Hall Of Fame point guard Isiah Thomas. The shot of Thomas on the card is mediocre, its just him dribbling the ball. Its very similar to his base rookie card (#109) from the same set. The total population of PSA graded Isiah Thomas stickers is just over 2,200, and of those only 40 have received a GEM Mint PSA 10 grade (1.8%).

1986 Fleer sticker #10 featuring Detroit Piston's point guard Isiah Thomas
1986 Fleer sticker #10: Isiah Thomas

The GEM Mint PSA 10 Isiah Thomas stickers have very recently more than tripled in value. The two most recent PSA 10 Thomas stickers sold at or above the $9K mark, with the most recent sale taking place in mid-February 2021 and sold for $9.5K. Going back to August and September of 2020 there were two PSA 10 sales, and both went for just over $1.7K. Prior to May 2020 there was no record of a PSA 10 Isiah stickers selling above the $1,000 mark, so this card looks to be up over 800% in less than one year.

The PSA 9 sells for a fraction of what the PSA 10 sells for and is down from its sales price peak back in February, 2021. The most recent PSA 9 sale on March 20th, 2021 sold for $375, which is well off the PSA 9 peak that occurred on February 15, 202 when it sold for $2,010. Skipping back to March 2020, it was possible to get a PSA 9 for under $100. In fact, all but four PSA 9 Isiah Thomas sticker sold prior to March 26, 2020 sold for less than $100.

1986 Fleer Sticker #11: Dominique Wilkins

The eleventh and final sticker from the 1986 Fleer sticker set features Dominique Wilkins. Fans of Wilkins or those familiar with the 1986 Fleer set may know that this is a rookie sticker as well. The image of Wilkins is pretty decent, he has the ball and it looks like he is about to make a move.

 1986 Fleer sticker #11: Dominique Wilkins
1986 Fleer sticker #11: Dominique Wilkins

The total PSA population of graded Wilkins stickers is slightly below 2,400, and of those there are only 57 GEM Mint PSA 10s (roughly 2.4%). This means the Wilkins sticker is in line with the Ewing sticker in terms of PSA 10 scarcity, but is no where near as difficult to come by as the PSA 10 Jordan or Kareem stickers.

Top graded Wilkins stickers were selling for five figures back in February, with all three February sales going for $11K or more. However, as we saw with the Jordan and Olajuwon stickers, we know there was a pretty hefty spike in these sticker prices at this time so I don’t anticipate the Wilkins sticker to command such a lofty price for long. In January 2021 a Wilkins sticker sold for exactly $5K, and back in October 2020 the PSA 10 Wilkins sticker sold for just $1.4K. Going back to February and March of 2020 the PSA 10 Wilkins sticker was selling in the $800-$900 range.

The price of the PSA 9s has bounced around quite a bit in 2021. The most recent sales price of a PSA 9 Wilkins sticker took place on March 25th 2021 and sold for $535. Just three days prior to that sale one sold for under $300. And during the “1986 Fleer sticker bubble” in February 2021 the Wilkins PSA 9 sticker was selling for as much as $1700! Just over a year ago, in February 2020, the PSA 9 stickers were selling in the $90-$125 range.

Its too bad Sir Charles Barkley didn’t get a sticker. His rookie card is from the 1986 Fleer set and its a shame Fleer didn’t expand the stickers to 12 players and include Chuck in this set. But Chuck or no Chuck, this is still an impressive sticker set and one that I will actively look to build for my personal collection. I wonder how many kids actually peeled these stickers and stuck them to their lockers or Trapper Keepers back in the day?

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