Card's sale for $2.7 million sets Michael Jordan-item record

At 58, Michael Jordan is still achieving new heights.

Goldin Auctions, out of its Private Sales Division, completed the most expensive Jordan item sale of all time when a 1997-98 Upper Deck Game Jersey game-worn patch card, with an on-card autograph, sold for $2.7 million over the weekend. That broke the all-time Goldin Auctions record of $2.1 million -- held by the same kind of, but differently numbered, card.

The $2.7 million Jordan card is graded an 8 Near Mint-Mint from Beckett Grading Services (BGS). Jordan's autograph received an 8 grade, and it's numbered 6/23. The identities of the seller and buyer were confirmed to ESPN on the condition of anonymity.

As popular as Jordan's 1986-87 Fleer rookie card has become -- Jordan card sales increased by 370% on eBay in April 2020, following the release of "The Last Dance" -- the 1997-98 Upper Deck might be Jordan's most important: It's the first example of a Jordan-autographed memorabilia card in a set.

"For people who want to own the absolute best [of Jordan]," says Ken Goldin, founder of Goldin Auctions, "this is the flagship card. It's the first Jordan game-worn jersey in a set, it's autographed, it's from a known and specific game -- which is highly unusual in 2021 trading cards -- back from an era when they still did that."

There has recently been an industry trend of card manufacturers becoming more vague about the provenance of relics inserted into cards; what used to be "game-used" and "game-worn" have become "player-worn." Increasingly often, cards will feature the phrase "the relics contained in this card are not from any specific game, event, or season."

But this card's jersey patch is game-worn from the 1992 NBA All-Star Game, notable as it served as the ceremonious farewell to Magic Johnson, who retired on Nov. 7, 1991. Magic was a fan vote for the game, scored 25 points and was the game's MVP. Jordan scored 18 points.

"On the heels of Fanatics trading cards getting a $10.4 billion valuation, the market has to five-to-10 X. I believe we're going to see tens of millions of new collectors around the world getting into trading cards over the next five to 10 years," Goldin said. "A percentage of that aren't going to be satisfied by buying whatever new releases are in 2024 and 2028. Some are going to want the all-time greats, and in basketball, that's Jordan, LeBron [James] and Kobe [Bryant].

"For the people of my era, the undisputed GOAT is Jordan, so it would make sense that, as people get into the hobby, they're going to gravitate toward his deep cards -- like this one."