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#6 A rookie card must be available to the general public

Steve Taft confirmed for us that this point was a major reason Beckett chose to designate the Star Co. sets as sets containing XRCs as opposed to RCs.

Star Co. was a small company producing limited numbers of each set in the early to mid 1980’s. The Wikipedia article on Star Company Basketball Cards 1983-1986 shows that estimated print runs of the early sets range from as low as 1,400 to 15,000 copies.

Star Co. was the only company producing basketball cards from 1983 to 1985 due to the simple fact that there was not great deal of collector interest in basketball cards at the time. Topps ceased producing basketball cards at the end of the 81-82 season and it would be a further five seasons before Fleer would re-enter the basketball card arena with the 86-87 set.

Due to the limited public interest it seems common sense that Star Co. would limit the number of sets they produced. Due to the limited number of sets produced it seems common sense that Star Co. would limit the distribution to hobby dealers.

The supply and demand economics model states that, to return a sustainable profit, Star Co. would need to meet demand with an accurate level of supply; oversupply of sets would cost money and reduce the viability of the company.

Should a manufacturer’s cards be ‘downgraded’ due to the size of the market? Topps and Fleer were not interested in basketball cards and Star Co. helped continue a flailing hobby. My point here is that it was not the fault of Star Co. that interest was low in basketball cards at the time.

However, even if it was a pure business decision for Star Co. to limit the production and distribution of their sets, I maintain that this alone should not result in a ‘downgrading’ of the Star sets. These days, there are plenty of highly limited cards from sets which were not available at your corner store and retain the full RC status according to the hobby at large. For example:

  • 03-04 Exquisite Collection LeBron James #78 RC (limited to 99)
  • 03-04 Skybox LE LeBron James #118 RC Die-cut Hobby (limited to 99)

Steve Taft states:

When cards are NBA Licensed and distributed directly into the hobby via hobby distributors and dealers, I find it difficult to support the theory that this was not an appropriate distribution method worthy of maintaining RC status.

Round up

The 1984-85 Star Michael Jordan #101 card fits the description of a rookie card perfectly, it doesn’t fit the description of an XRC perfectly.

Steve Taft makes a good conclusive point:

Something I think is very important is for collectors to understand is that all ‘XRC’ is, is nomenclature for Beckett’s Price Guide. It does not say you have to agree to it and use it. Personally, I don’t acknowledge XRC for a Star Co. RC, so, my Internet and advertising of these cards describes them as RCs, unless the listing is pre-set by the hosting source. When it comes to the other Jordan cards from 84-85 Star Co. issues, I refer to those as ‘First Year’ MJ issues (as I would with Barkley, Stockton, etc., from the various subsets that were issued).

Although we disagree with the decision by Beckett to assign Star Co. sets the XRC status for RCs we highly value the contribution Beckett has made to the industry. In addition, the fact that Beckett is one of only a few companies grading Star Co. cards is to be congratulated.

Additionally, we are by no means attempting to downgrade the status of the 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan #57 card – this will always be considered Jordan’s rookie card due to its place in the market for so long. However, strictly speaking, Michael Jordan was in his third season of the NBA when this card was released; his first card as a professional player was the 1984-85 Star #101.

This card is rare, condition sensitive, historic, has an eventful past, and truly shows Jordan in his first season of the NBA – what more could you ask for from a rookie card?

Do you agree? We’re keen to hear your thoughts on this topic in the comments section below or see your vote in the poll on the Michael Jordan Cards Facebook page.

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