Many a game plan in the 1990’s would have included strategies to combat Michael Jordan. From straight up double-teaming to physical play to denial and trap defenses. Jordan copped it all as teams did their best to “Catch 23”.
Jordan was the ultimate target on court but it didn’t stop there. Off the court everyone wanted a piece of Jordan - media, events, fans were all looking to “Catch 23”.
There is a small subset of basketball cards which captures this multifaceted focus on Michael Jordan: the 1997-98 Collector’s Choice Catch 23 cards.
This is a readily available 10 card subset, released as part of the regular issue Collector’s Choice set of 1997-98, numbered 186 - 195. At a glance there’s nothing particularly interesting about this subset but let’s take a closer look.
Upper Deck have helped involve collectors with this set - on the back of card #192 is the question: “Can you find any other shots of Michael in this photo?“. So can you “Catch 23”? Flip the card over for a closer look at the front and you’ll see a tiny smiling Jordan on Reggie Miller’s wrist band. Many collectors have owned these cards and browsed them many times without ever noticing.
Every card in the 10 card subset features a Jordan Easter egg hiding somewhere in the shot.
It’s hard to pick a favourite but I do like card number 193 where we see Jordan not only flying up for a dunk but as a smiling official looking on. I also like card number 188 as mini Jordan rolls towards the golf cup.
You can tell Upper Deck’s graphic designers had a bit of fun with these!
Here I’ve listed out each of the cards - can you find all the mini Jordans?
Jumbo Catch 23 cards
If you bought a retail blister containing two packs of Collector’s Choice you also got a jumbo 5x7 Catch 23. These were identical to the regular issue cards only numbered C1 to C10.
They’re a little harder to find for sale but if you do find them they make very nice companion pieces.
International sticker set
Upper Deck released a series of Catch 23 stickers internationally. The designs were similar to the regular subset cards however feature a silver background and the Collector’s Choice logo is replaced by the regular Upper Deck logo.
Interestingly, only one of the stickers features the mini Jordan hiding in the photo. Take a close look below to see if you can find him.
Other background photo manipulation
While we’re on the topic of photo manipulation let’s take a look at another couple of examples.
First up is the 1997-98 Michael Jordan Topps Stadium Club #118. If you look carefully in the crowd you’ll see a lady who appears twice in a case of graphic design duplication.
Those who collected in the 90’s might remember the popular Luther Wright Upper Deck RC #339. This features a double whammy of photo manipulation Easter eggs - there’s at least five duplicated crowd members and a partial player head floating behind him.
Next look at photo manipulation isn’t a Jordan card but Clyde Drexler’s 1996-97 Hoops Hipnotized. Jordan is seen in the background in an extreme use of photo manipulation.
Jordan in the background of other players cards
The Drexler Hipnotized segways us to our next topic. It’s not always photo manipulation that can make checking the backgrounds of cards interesting. Looking for PC players in the background of other players cards can be a lot of fun and a great way to grow your collection inexpensively (usually).
Take a look at my visual and ever growing guide to Michael Jordan background cards also commonly called shadow or cameo cards if you’re interested in these.
Have you seen any?
I’d love to hear from anyone that has found interesting uses of photo manipulation in trading cards - please feel free to write in.