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Why was the 1984-85 Star #101 Michael Jordan card classified as an XRC?

Beckett assigned the XRC status to the 84-85 Michael Jordan Star #101 card along with all first player cards of the Star Co. sets. Over time other price guides and eventually the market at large took on this term along with its Beckett derived application onto various individual cards.

From our definition of Beckett’s XRC term above we can assume that the reasoning behind the Star Co. sets designation is that collectors believe that the sets were:

  • Special release sets
  • Distributed in set form
  • Not distributed through retail channels

However, is this definition of Star Co. sets correct? Our roundtable sounded a resounding NO!

In fact Steve Taft believed this so wholeheartedly that he spoke with Jim Beckett after the decision was made lobbying the points for Star Co. cards to be designated RC’s:

While I’m a bit foggy on the conservation, as, it has been a long time, my recollection is that Jim knew and understood this decision was a gray area for the XRC / RC designation with Star Co. I think he recognized this was not the best result, but, they made the decision and did not want to make another rule change.

1984-85 Star #101: Michael Jordan Rookie Card

It will be obvious to you by now that the members of our roundtable discussion believe the 1984-85 Star #101 card is Michael Jordan’s true rookie card. Accordingly we also believe there are a range of other players whose true rookie cards are from Star Co. sets (including Thomas, Wilkins, Worthy, Barkley, Stockton, Olajuwon, Ewing as noted above).

Given the examination of what defines a rookie card and an extended rookie card above, let’s look at each requirement to defend our assertion of the status of the 84-85 Star #101.

#1 – A rookie card is the professional player’s first appearance on a card

Michael Jordan was drafted with the third pick by the Chicago Bulls in June 1984 in the 38th draft of the NBA. The 1984-85 season commenced on October 26, 1984 at which time Michael Jordan played his first game for the Chicago Bulls and as a professional basketball player.

In December 1984 the 1984-85 Star set was released. Further releases were made until March of 1985.

There is no denying that the 1984-85 Star Co. sets contained cards featuring Michael Jordan’s first appearance as a professional basketball player. To be exact these cards are:

  • The base card #101
  • 1984 Gold Medalist #195 (Jordan is shown as a member of the 1984 USA Olympic Team)
  • 1985 Rookie Of The Year #288
  • Court Kings #26 (oversized 5×7 card and part of a special release additional set)

#2 – A rookie card must be manufactured by a company with a license to print cards for the major league they are representing

Star Co. held a license to print NBA basketball cards from 1983 until 1986 – for three years it was the only authorized card manufacturer. The cards produced during this period were printed 100% legally.

Unfortunately Star Co. seriously tainted their image by illegally printing back dated cards in late 1996 to 1997 (see my interview with Steve Taft about the Star Co. illegal printing); however this affects no cards from the 1984-85 Star sets.

There is a common rumor that cards from the 80’s were reprinted in the 90’s with the original printing plates from the 80’s and that there is no way to tell the difference. This is simply not true. The illegal printing involved new cards (though re-using some photography) with new border colors and were printed in late 1996 to 1997 and back dated to appear as though they were printed in the early 80’s.

Star Co. printed the 1984-85 Star sets with complete and legal licensing from the NBA.

#3 A rookie card must be part of a regular release set unless the only card released was part of a special set

As we saw in #1 there were actually three Michael Jordan Cards printed as part of the 1984-85 Star set along with one card from an additional special set.

There was a base card: the #101 card and thus this card should be viewed as the rookie card.

#4 A rookie card must NOT be part of an additional special release set

This part refers to special extra sets which have been released in the past to complement the main set of the season. For example Topps Traded and Fleer Update baseball sets were released as well as the standard sets from Topps and Fleer.

The Star Co. released set of 1984-85 Star is simply not one of these special sets. It is the main set for the season; in fact the only main set as there were no other manufacturers of basketball cards at the time.

Some say that the Star Co sets were special sets due to the way they were distributed which we will look at below. Regardless of this, I believe the true intention of this rule to define an XRC was more to do with additional sets as opposed to unusually distributed sets.

#5 A rookie card must NOT be from a set distributed in set form

This point piggy-backs off point #4 and argues that rookie cards should be randomly pulled from packs and not bought as part of a complete set.

It is true that Star Co. distributed their cards in team bags: when you bought a Star Co. bag you knew exactly what was inside. However this was not the complete Star set. The complete 84-85 Star set comprised of 288 cards with only 12 of these cards inside the Chicago Bulls team bag.

As above, we do not feel the intention of this rule completely fits the Star Co. sets and Jarret Kahn makes a good point:

It is not for us to say how Star Co. should or should not have issued their cards, but certainly issuing cards in team bags is closer to the definition of issuing cards in packs than sets.

Regardless, how the cards were issued to the public is meaningless because only the Star Co. had a license with the NBA to produce cards at the time.

Steve Taft states:

The fact that the only NBA Licensed issue of the 1984-85 season was released in team bags was a decision by Star Co. on how to issue their set. You can argue this allowed collectors to get exactly what they wanted instead of having to buy random packs. Given the limited production of the Star sets, I’d suggest that Star Co. was perhaps the most collector friendly when it came to how they were issued and originally distributed.

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