What may be valuable Michael Jordan trading card found in unclaimed deposit box

DES MOINES — State Treasurer Roby Smith is having what appears to be a rare Michael Jordan rookie card appraised before including it in an auction.

The trading card was in an unclaimed safety deposit box turned over to the state treasurer’s office. Smith says the card is being sent to a California company that determines if sports memorabilia is legit and how much it might be worth.

“It might take a couple of months, then we’ll try to continue to get the owner or will probably put it up for auction,” Smith says. “We’ll see.”

A company called Fleer released a set of NBA trading cards in 1986 that included a rookie card for future hall of famer Michael Jordan. The state treasurer says experts from the Professional Sports Authenticator company will consider the Jordan card’s condition and come up with a grade.

“If it’s a 10, it’s worth $150,000,” Smith says. “It could be fake, so we want to make sure it’s worth that.”

Smith’s office hired a national firm that handles auctions for state and local governments to sell valuables from some of the safety deposit boxes that have been declared unclaimed property and turned over to the state. An online auction currently underway through next Wednesday initially included the Michael Jordan card, but Axios Des Moines was first to report it had been pulled for an appraisal.

The proceeds from these auctions will be available — just in case someone discovers their name or a relative’s listed on the Great Iowa Treasure Hunt website or comes forward to claim a long-abandoned deposit box.

“We have the right to be able to auction it off after a year, but some of this stuff is over 10 years so we’ve kept it an extra long period of time auction to make sure we can return it to the owners,” Smith says. “When we do sell it, the money still goes back to the owners of the box and there’s no time limit. They can wait 10 more years, 20 more years. They will still get the money.”

The state currently has 3000 unclaimed safety deposit boxes and is running out of secure storage. Smith was given a tour shortly after he took over as state treasurer in January and got to see the contents of one of the boxes. “The one they opened up, it was just a random one. I think it had some bicentennial quarters in there. It had some old credit cards,” Smith says. “…It’s kind of like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get when you open it up, but there’s always a story behind it.”

Last year, someone paid over a million dollars for a rookie Michael Jordan trading card, but it had been autographed by Jordan. The value of Jordan trading cards went up in 2020 after the release of a documentary about Jordan’s career and the Chicago Bulls’ last championship season.