My visual guide to collecting Michael Jordan shadow cards ended out being very well received. Many collectors commented that they appreciated the work in pulling together a list - including scans - of some of the most well-known cards featuring MJ in the background of the photo.
One collector I talked with was David Murrell from Ohio. Dave actually debunked one card I had listed - the 97-98 Fleer Karl Malone - and we discussed a couple of others which David agreed were MJ shadows.
We talked through and debunked a couple of cards that had been brought up elsewhere and started chatting about Dave’s collection. We found Dave and I both agree on the definition of a shadow card and collect the same late 80s to early 90s era of MJ cards. And, as it turns out, Dave is on a mission to collect as close as he can to a complete MJ shadow master set having already reached past the 75% mark!
Dave shared his checklist of Jordan shadows with me and was able to show over 100 more cards than I had listed. I will add these to the original post as time allows - given there are so many it is a large task!
Just take a look at Dave’s photo with his grail Elston Turner Wendy’s card to see how his love of Jordan shadows shines through. Its not only the collecting and discussing that Dave enjoys but also in the detective work involved in finding or debunking new cards.
Dave was kind enough to agree to share his collection here as well as answer a few questions which we hope will interest and inspire other Michael Jordan shadow card collectors.
Thank you to Dave for his time and wisdom on this interesting topic and for sharing his collection. At the end of this article I’ll post photos of the bulk of David’s collection. If you’d like to connect with Dave about Jordan shadow cards feel free to write in.
Interview with David Murrell
Tell us about yourself and how you got into collecting.
My name is Dave Murrell, I’m from Ohio, and I began collecting Michael Jordan memorabilia and cards as a kid. My childhood bedroom literally had every square inch of the wall covered in MJ posters, magazines, etc. Anything I could get my hands on that was MJ, I had to have it.
As I got into my teenage years, girls and cars trumped collecting sports stuff, so I put that hobby to the side for about 20 years. Then, like so many others, I dug out my old collection during the start of COVID (out of sheer boredom), and realized very quickly I still had a love and passion for collecting. And then I found eBay, and it was on.
Do you collect Jordans or PC another player? Do you collect any other shadows?
My PC consists almost solely of MJs (regular and shadows), mostly from the late 80s and 90s (yes, junk wax, I know). I also have a half dozen or so full sets from that same era. And almost all of my collection is raw cards. I don’t love slabbed cards for my PC (only have a handful of them), because I love the nostalgia of an awesome raw card… the look, the feel, and the smell!
I also have a collection of every Chicago Bulls card from 1986 - 1994 (major releases), save for the super expensive/rare MJs in that timeframe. I’m not a big fan of the thousands of MJs released after his playing career ended, or the massive “MJ only” sets out there.
How and when did you start collecting Jordan shadow cards? What drew you to collecting shadows?
When I got back into collecting MJs during COVID, I realized very quickly that I already had most of the affordable MJ cards, that weren’t a part of one of those huge “MJ only” sets. I also noticed that in my childhood binder of MJs I had a couple pages dedicated to cards that showed MJ, but weren’t true MJ cards. After a few mins of internet research, I realized those cards were often referred to as “shadow cards” or “cameos”, and most of them were super affordable.
Besides the affordability of most MJ shadow cards, I was also drawn to MJ shadow collecting because getting a complete, or near complete collection felt attainable. It’s like trying to complete a puzzle, but a puzzle where you aren’t really sure you have all of the pieces, and you keep finding more pieces as you build.
How have you identified Jordan shadow cards and found the cards in your collection?
This is actually the coolest part of my MJ shadow collecting story I think. In an attempt to find out what other MJ shadow cards existed, I posted some pictures of my MJ shadow collection at that point (circa 2021 I think) on a Michael Jordan buy, sell, trade FB page. I got several replies from other collectors, showing off some of their shadows, but one person’s reply stood out to me because he had some cards I’d never seen before, and he had a lot of them.
So I messaged him, and turns out he is an MJ shadow collector in France! His name is Jimmy Blaevoet. In my opinion, he is the world’s best MJ shadow identifier, detective, and debunker. Anyway, he was willing to share a massive list of every MJ shadow card that him and a few of his French buddies put together over the years, and that was when I really got hooked into tracking down every single MJ shadow card in existence.
Since then, him and I stay in frequent contact via FB Messenger, using each other as detectives to uncover other possible MJ shadows to add to the list. Ironically as I write this story, him and I are messaging each other, and debunking two 91-92 UD shadows that he found posted on another site. After some Google sleuthing and just looking at the cards I have in my hand, they are definitely not MJ.
To date, we’ve amassed a list of 542 different MJ shadows, which includes every parallel version of the cards as well. One place we’ve agreed to disagree on is what actually constitutes an MJ shadow. To me, the card cannot be a purposeful picture of MJ. It has to be an “unintended” image of MJ. So things like team picture cards MJ’s a part of, or checklists where MJ is in the background, or “dual player” type cards (Michael vs. Magic, etc), are not MJ shadows in my book. MJ is on those cards intentionally.
By the way, I’ve purchased just about every card in my collection from eBay or COMC, with a few purchased thru Michael Jordan card Facebook pages. I’ve also done some trading and shadow debating & researching with a guy in Vermont named Brock Miller, who has been able to find several new shadows to add to my list over the past few years. Brock is starting out his own card collecting and selling business, find him on Facebook at Wally’s Hobby Shop, and he’s also actively selling on the 90’s Basketball Card Collectors page.
What percentage of Jordan shadows do you estimate your collection to be at?
There are several different ways to slice what makes up the full MJ shadow collection.
As I mentioned, if you include every parallel/error/variation version of every card, there are 542 different cards, and I have 413, or 76% of them. But what’s even more impressive is if you take out any card that is serial numbered less than 250 or /250 printed (or fewer of course), it brings the total down to 483 cards in existence, and I have 413 of them (86%!).
Another way to slice it, if you instead don’t consider all of the parallel/error/variation versions of each card at all, much like the list is here on jordancards.com, the total comes all the way down to 291 “base” versions of each card (meaning each card that actually has a different MJ pic on it), and there are only 7 MJ shadows (that I’m aware of) that I don’t have from this list:
Cards I’m missing:
- 1989 CAO Muflon Yugoslavian - #15 Kenny Smith (bought through Steve Taft’s eBay store in September 2023 - pic below)
- 1997-98 Metal Universe - Titanium - #7T Anfernee Hardaway
- 2002-03 Upper Deck MVP - #97 Jim Jackson
- 2004-05 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection - Signatures - #US-MA Magic Johnson
- 2010-11 Panini Elite Black Box - #153 Dennis Scott (/99) (Back)
- 2015-16 Panini Gala - #AA-DRM Dennis Rodman - Action Autographs
- 2020 Generation Next - #8 Kobe Bryant - Rookie Replay RC Set (Back)
Update September 2023
Dave was able to purchase the Kenny Smith CAO Muflon through Steve Taft’s eBay store in September 2023.
What have been the hardest so far to find?
Other than the cards noted above, most of which aren’t really “hard to find” as much as overly expensive for this hobbyist, the main ones I’ve had a hard time finding are the more rare parallels of these cards. Notably the Tiffany versions of the 97-98 Fleers, or the Members Only/First Day Issues of some of the Stadium Clubs just to name a few. And the newer the card is, the harder it is to find those parallels.
Has there been anything you’ve had to pay or trade excessively for?
The short answer here is no, save for the $350 I just paid to get the 1985 Wendy’s Nuggets Police #8 Elston Turner. And the inexpensive nature of these shadow cards is the reason I got into this collection… most of them are not expensive at all.
Just using my memory, other than my recent “splurge purchase”, I think the most I’ve paid is $50 for an MJ shadow, and there’s only a couple examples even that high in my collection (Entenmann’s Scottie Pippens, and the infamous 2017-18 Donruss Optic Retro Series #14 Scottie Pippen Holo, which is one of the few slabbed cards I have). The bulk of my collection was built on $1-$5 cards.
What cards are you missing?
As mentioned above, I’m missing about 100 different parallel versions of cards that I have the base/other parallels of, and then the 7 I listed above.
Another “interesting” part of my collection story fits here pretty well. About 9 months ago a liquor shelf in my man cave fell off the wall when I was at work (kids being crazy upstairs I think), and busted open several bottles of liquor right onto my MJ shadow collection binder. In total, about 1/3 of my collection was ruined. At that point, I was so disappointed/depressed about it that I gave it up. But, my French friend Jimmy kept messaging me about possible newly discovered shadows, asking for advice/research, and slowly but surely I got back into it. I’ve since replaced every card that was ruined in the liquor shelf fiasco, except for 9 parallels that I either can’t find, or am not willing to pay the asking price on because I have the base/other parallels, and I technically still have the damaged ones as well.
What is your top five Jordan shadow cards?
- 1985 Wendy’s Nuggets Police #8 Elston Turner (the holy grail of MJ shadow collecting… pre-dates his 1986 Fleer RC!)
- 1987-88 and 88-89 Entenmann’s Scottie Pippens, grouped these together because if you have one, you have to get the other!
- 1990-91 Hoops #223 Sam Vincent, probably the most famous shadow card because of MJ’s #12 jersey
- 2017-18 Donruss Optic Retro Series #14 Scottie Pippen, the shadow card that brought on a lawsuit… epic!
- 1995-96 Collector’s Choice #173 Grant Hill “Fun Facts”, MJ in the #45
Honorable Mention (because it was so hard to narrow down to a Top 5):
- 90-91 Fleer Rony Seikaly
- 92-93 Ultra Harold Miner RC
- 93-94 Stadium Club Dan Majerle Frequent Flyer
- 93-94 Ultra Tom Gugliotta NBA All-Rookie 1st Team
- 95-96 Metal Stackhouse Scrapbook
- 95-96 UD Special Ed Dennis Scott & Dennis Rodman
- 96-97 Stadium Club Glen Rice (matrix parallel is amazing)
- 96-97 Topps David Robinson (chrome parallel)
- 98-99 Ultra Eldridge Recasner
- 98-99 Skybox Dennis Rodman & Reggie Miller
- 98-99 Fleer Tradition (and classic) Kobe Bryant.
What is the nicest Jordan shadow card in your collection?
For me it’s the 1985 Elston Turner, but a close #2 would be the 2017-18 Donruss Retro Pippen, because it’s my only slabbed MJ shadow (CSG 9).
Is there a particular player whose Jordan shadow cards are best?
Oh man, this is a tough one, because doing this collection does make you realize that MJ is “shadowed” on certain players cards MUCH more than others.
#1 for me is probably Rodman, just because there’s so many of them, but he’s also often pictured with guys like Joe Dumars, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Mitch Richmond, Gerald Wilkins, and others.