Why the 1986 Fleer Basketball Card Set is One of the Greatest Ever!

1986 Fleer Basketball Card Set - Greatest Ever

Everyone knows the 1986 Fleer Basketball card set has the coveted Michael Jordan rookie card, so they quickly assume that’s why it’s such an amazing set. But in reality, there are so many other reasons why it’s considered one of the all-time greatest card sets ever made, not just in basketball either! (Interestingly, the 1986 Topps Football set ranks as one of the greatest ever, too, boasting rookie cards of Jerry Rice, Bruce Smith, Reggie White and Andre Reed.)

History Lesson For Anyone Under 30 Years Old

The 1986 Fleer Basketball card set features 132 cards, including rookies of Jordan, Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon (known as Akeem back then!), Karl Malone and Patrick Ewing. The cards are also notable for their colorful, red-white-and-blue, eye-catching designs.

The 1986 Fleer Basketball Card Set was released on October 28, 1986. The set was produced by Fleer, a company that had been producing basketball cards since the 1960s. It was an instant success, quickly becoming one of the most popular basketball card sets of all time.

One of the reasons for its popularity was the fact that it features a number of star players, and this set held the rookie cards for several NBA superstars who starred in the ’80s and into the ’90s. Many of them would go on to win a historic Olympic gold medal in Barcelona as part of the 1992 Dream Team!

Topps stopped producing basketball cards after their 1981 set, and no major manufacturers picked up the baton until Fleer did it in 1986. That means all the rookies drafted in 1981 through 1985 got their rookie cards in this 1986 Fleer Basketball card set!

Best NBA Rookie Card Crop Ever!

Here are some of the more notable rookie cards from this legendary basketball card set:

  • Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls (Dream Team) (HOF) – #57
  • Akeem Olajuwon, Houston Rockets (HOF) – #82
  • Charles Barkley, Philadelphia 76ers (Dream Team) (HOF) – #7
  • Patrick Ewing, New York Knicks (Dream Team) (HOF) – #32
  • Clyde Drexler, Portland Trailblazers (Dream Team) (HOF) – #26
  • Karl Malone, Utah Jazz (Dream Team) (HOF) – #68
  • Chris Mullin, Golden State Warriors (Dream Team) (HOF) – #77
  • Mark Aguirre, Dallas Mavericks – #3
  • Danny Ainge, Boston Celtics – #4
  • Rolando Blackmon, Dallas Mavericks – #11
  • Manute Bol, Philadelphia 76ers – #12
  • Tom Chambers, Phoenix Suns – #15
  • Joe Dumars, Detroit Pistons (HOF) – #27
  • Larry Nance, Phoenix Suns – #78
  • Kurt Rambis, L.A. Lakers – #89
  • Ralph Sampson, Houston Rockets (HOF) – #97
  • Byron Scott, L.A. Lakers – #99
  • Isiah Thomas, Detroit Pistons (HOF) – #109
  • Spud Webb, Atlanta Hawks – #120
  • Dominique Wilkins, Atlanta Hawks (HOF) – #121
  • Kevin Willis, Atlanta Hawks – #126
  • James Worthy, L.A. Lakers (HOF) – #131

What also makes this set amazing is that it was during a time that saw the back end of the careers of other superstar Hall-of-Fame basketball players!

Here are some of the more notable cards of Pro Basketball Hall of Famers from this set, too:

  • Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers (HOF) – #53
  • Larry Bird, Boston Celtics (HOF) – #9
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, L.A. Lakers (HOF) – #1
  • Julius Erving, Philadelphia 76ers (HOF) – #31
  • Maurice Cheeks, Philadelphia 76ers (HOF) – #16
  • Adrian Dantley, Detroit Pistons (HOF) – #21
  • George Gervin, Chicago Bulls (HOF) – #36
  • Artis Gilmore, San Antonio Spurs (HOF) – #37
  • Dennis Johnson, Boston Celtics (HOF) – #50
  • Bernard King, New York Knicks (HOF) – #60
  • Moses Malone, Philadelphia 76ers (HOF) – #69
  • Kevin McHale, Boston Celtics (HOF) – #73
  • Sidney Moncrief, Milwaukee Bucks (HOF) – #75
  • Robert Parrish, Boston Celtics (HOF) – #80
  • Doc Rivers, Atlanta Hawks (HOF) – #91
  • Jack Sikma, Milwaukee Bucks (HOF) – #102

Very Few Missteps With This 1986 Fleer Basketball Set

Since there were just 132 cards in the set, and it was covering the stars of the NBA, and trying to squeeze in the important young players that were drafted in the five NBA Drafts from 1981 to 1985, they missed some pretty great young players!

Here are some players that should have had their rookie card in the 1986 Fleer Basketball set, but somehow got overlooked:

  • Detlef Schrempf, Seattle Supersonics
  • A.C. Green, L.A. Lakers
  • Terry Porter, Portland Trailblazers
  • Arvydas Sabonis, Portland Trailblazers
  • John Stockton, Utah Jazz
  • Otis Thorpe, Houston Rockets
  • Jerome Kersey, Portland Trailblazers
  • Clark Kellogg, Indiana Pacers
  • Mark Eaton, Utah Jazz

Legendary Set Full of Legends

Jordan, of course, went on to become one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Barkley and Ewing were also All-Star players who had long and successful careers.

The 1986 Fleer Basketball Card Set is a valuable set of cards. The set is especially valuable in mint condition, but even cards that are in poor condition can be worth a significant amount of money. The value of the set has continued to increase over the years, and it is likely that the value of the set will continue to increase in the future, as the NBA continues to grow in popularity worldwide.

With just 132 cards in the set, it’s a popular one for serious collectors to try to complete, while also getting all the cards graded. Personally, my goal is to collect the entire set of cards, all graded with at least a grade of a PSA 7.

If you are a fan of basketball or of trading cards, then the 1986 Fleer Basketball Card Set is a set that you should definitely consider collecting. The set is a classic, and it is sure to bring back memories of the 1980s.

One suggestion is to try to collect all the rookie cards of the 1992 Olympic Dream Team. As we mentioned, many of those rookies come from this set, but then you’ll only have a few from other sets you’ll need to collect:

  • Magic Johnson / Larry Bird, 1981 Topps (both are on one card, along with Julius Erving)
  • Scottie Pippen, 1988 Fleer
  • John Stockton, 1988 Fleer
  • David Robinson, 1989 NBA Hoops
  • Christian Laettner, 1992 Upper Deck

1986 Fleer Basketball Stickers

Don’t forget that one sticker also came in each pack of 1986 Fleer Basketball cards, so there are plenty of stars to collect here, also. (These are often much cheaper than the true rookie cards, but because they are stickers, they often come with wax stains or just in generally worse condition. Below is the stickers checklist for this set:

  1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, L.A. Lakers
  2. Larry Bird, Boston Celtics
  3. Adrian Dantley, Utah Jazz
  4. Alex English, Denver Nuggets
  5. Julius Erving, Philadelphia 76ers
  6. Patrick Ewing, New York Knicks
  7. Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers
  8. Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls
  9. Akeem Olajuwon, Houston Rockets
  10. Isiah Thomas, Detroit Pistons
  11. Dominique Wilkins, Atlanta Hawks

My wife, Shelby, and I did a video on how to remove wax stains from the backs of cards, but we certainly don’t guarantee it will work!

We sent a 1988 Fleer Michael Jordan sticker in to PSA (the card from the above video) and it came back graded as a PSA 7! We’ll take it!

The set is certainly expensive, but compared to great baseball card sets, which often have over 700 cards in the checklist, the 1986 Fleer Basketball set is certainly attainable. That is, as long as you’re OK not owning the Michael Jordan card, or handing over $5,000 to finish the set with that one card. Just make sure you keep on the lookout for Michael Jordan rookie card fakes, because this card is one of the most-counterfeited cards in card-collecting history.

I wrote an interesting article on 9 Amazing Facts You Didn’t Know About the 1986 Topps Jerry Rice Rookie Card that might interest you, too!

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