Collectors land three rare Michael Jordan cards in pack opening

On Wednesday night in Somerset, New Jersey, well-heeled collectors got a chance to go back to the past and take a shot at opening packs of 1986 Fleer basketball cards.

Neglected by collectors at the time for baseball cards, the 1986 Fleer set became one of the hottest sets in the hobby as the value of a Michael Jordan rookie card skyrocketed over the past 10 years. Jordan's 1986 card is considered his rookie card, as no major brand produced basketball cards in his first two seasons in the league.

"Back then, there was so little interest that you could buy packs of those cards for 25 cents for a couple years," said Leighton Sheldon, who bought a 1986 Fleer set for $75,000 in July.

Sheldon sold the 36 packs in the set for $2,000 apiece, then opened each of them live on his website Wednesday night.

Opening the box was as intense as expected, especially because there wasn't a Jordan pulled for the first half of the box.

"I was doing my best to stay to calm," Sheldon said. "I wanted a Jordan in the worst way."

That came in Pack 19, which was bought by a collector named Brian Dwyer. The card was nearly perfect -- a possible gem mint 10, which could be worth $20,000.

"Seeing it come out of the pack on camera was incredible," Dwyer said. "I'm babbling now just talking about it."

Dwyer is a baseball card collector who didn't own a single basketball card before tonight.

"I thought the concept of opening packs on a bigger scale was a good one," Dwyer said. "It was good to be a part of."

Two other Jordans came out of the box in packs 29 and 35, but none as centered as Dwyer's.

Sheldon is the owner of Vintage Breaks, which buys pieces of boxes and cases of old, unopened cards and sells them fractionally, allowing collectors to invest by the unopened pack or even down to the card.

He bought the 1986 Fleer box, which typically contain three to four rookie Jordans, at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago in July and offered collectors a piece of the action for $2,000 a pack.

The buyers of the packs, which come from as far away as Hawaii, were declared before the packs were opened at the headquarters of Sheldon's vintage card business, Just Collect.