Michael Jordan rookie cards from secret signing: Experts critique the autographs

Was it the right pen choice? Why the inscriptions? Experts share opinions with cllct

Cover Image for Michael Jordan rookie cards from secret signing: Experts critique the autographs
One autograph expert estimates the signed cards are worth around $500,000 apiece. (Credit: PSA)

A collection of autographed Michael Jordan rookie cards, signed at a secret signing in April, has been the talk of the hobby for months.

Collectors got their first look at the signed 1986 Fleer cards, all graded PSA 10, when they were entered into the PSA database this weekend.

Darren Rovell of cllct talked with several autograph experts to get their opinions on the signed Michael Jordan rookies that surfaced last weekend.

Of the six cards that also got PSA 10 signatures, four had inscriptions added by Jordan: "5x NBA MVP," "6x NBA CHAMP," "84/85 ROY" and "87/88 DPOY."

We asked collectors and dealers in the autograph space for their opinions on how these cards turned out.

Jason Koonce (Instagram: @OtiaSports): When I envision a 1986 Fleer Gem Mint Michael Jordan autograph rookie, I immediately think of a million, if not millions of dollars. Shockingly, that was far from the case after seeing these examples. I would have had Jordan do pen or fine marker. I also would not have done any inscriptions. They just take up too much space, and it looks too busy.

Matt Powers (Instagram: @PowersAutographs): If your goal is to maximize value and get a 10 autograph grade along with a card grade of a 10, then blue sharpie is your only way to go. Most consistent pen, doesn't streak. If you wanted something thinner, a Staedtler would work. Silver paint pen is a decent choice, however it often tends to get an auto grade of 9 due to every streak line being easily seen. Paint pen can have a thicker tip and make the inscription and the auto almost take over the entire card.

A lot of collectors see 10/10 and they have to have it. However, there is a strong collector group that wants an autograph to “pop,” and they don’t care if it is a 9. They want to see the autograph. If it ended up being slightly streaky, you could always just grade only the card. The issue you run into with a paint pen is you don’t know how its going to look until it hits the card. What they should have done is have Jordan sign 1 card with a silver paint. Have PSA verify it’s a 10 auto, then have the rest signed that way.

Some experts believe inscriptions are unnecessary for a player of Jordan's legendary status. (Credit: PSA)
Some experts believe inscriptions are unnecessary for a player of Jordan's legendary status. (Credit: PSA)

Dingyu Yang (Instagram: @spinotron): I think the pen should be thinner to show greater detail of the strokes of MJ's fine signature and to conform with the usual norm and taste in the hobby. Maybe a non-dispersive metallic pen would also work, and one could experiment on that paper stock. Silver, gold look better for contrast, or red (if away from Bulls jersey).

The autograph needs to agree with the orientation of the card, away from the face of MJ and edges of cards. One can move the autograph slightly left and place the bulk of it between the left border and the MJ flying pose, that way inscription would not be on the defender's head. As far as inscriptions, I would have loved "Michael Jeffrey Jordan" and "This Is The True RC."

Adam Gray (Instagram: TheReal27Guy): Everyone loves a bold blue autograph on most cards, but the '86 Fleer MJ is a card where blue is probably the worst choice. I would personally go with silver or gold or black. I've seen some collectors use a white marker as well.

Some collectors are going to argue that it would have been better in thinner blue marker, but we've seen a lot of those. On this card, those autographs get lost in the busy background. Some inscriptions are fine. They teach the audience a little about who the person on the card was (once they're gone). I'm not sure if there's an athlete who needs an inscription less than MJ. Imagine Babe Ruth inscribing how many World Series he won? I don't believe that's accretive to the story of the card. Gimme the auto, and only the auto.

Bernie Gernay (Instagram: @TheCardBully): I've had the opportunity to get certain cards signed where the pen choice is paramount and certainly needs to be different on each card. Someone mentioned they considered using the Staedtler Lumocolor blue fine tip. However, that would've been an even poorer choice as the area that was signed is just too noisy for that specific pen to even be noticed on that type of background.

For me, there would be no other choice other than the liquid gold fine tip paint pen. The signature would actually be at the top of the card next to the hoop in the dark area for optimal eye appeal. Additionally, the inscriptions were another poor choice. Michael Jordan doesn't need inscriptions stating his accolades. It almost diminishes the signature. We don't need to know what he did during his career. His name and brand stand alone.

For me the signature with an "His Airness" inscription below would look incredible. I would also do another with the "Air Jordan" inscription and another with a "GOAT" inscription. The other three, if I had to come up with something would be "Michael Jeffrey Jordan", "HOF 2009" and one with him adding #23 which he also has never added to his signature.

Darren Rovell is the founder of cllct.com and one of the country's leading reporters on the collectible market. He previously worked for ESPN, CNBC and The Action Network.