Jason Koonce Chats '86 Fleer Wax
This Friday at 12 PM EST, Rally is set to IPO a '1986 Fleer Basketball Sealed Wax Box', authenticated by the Baseball Card Exchange, Inc. The financials:
• Market Cap: $165,000
• Price Per Share: $10.00
• Total Shares: 16,500
A sealed wax box comes with 36 packs and 432 cards at 12 cards per pack and 36 sticker inserts at 1 per pack. The complete set consists of 132 cards and 11 stickers, so a box consists of between 3 and 4 (3.27X) copies on average of each card and sticker.
Last week, we wrote extensively about this set in “The Future Is Fleer” leading up to the 1986 Fleer Complete Set PSA 10 graded offering on Otis. This week we spoke with Jason Koonce, founder of sports cards and memorabilia broker OTIA Sports on his love for the set.
1. When did you get into the hobby? What is OTIA Sports and what has this year been like for you and your business?
I started buying and selling cards at around 10 years old, and I’ve never looked back. All my friends veered off into other stuff, and I went at it harder because it was fun and I was finding success. As an adult, I turned it into a business through OTIA Sports, a broker of high end historic sports cards and memorabilia. I’ve been in the hobby so long that I can remember when PSA representatives would come around booths at a sports card convention to try and convince you to let them grade your cards. Now, that process has a 6 month turnaround time given its sky-high demand. I got in when it was the wild west, but grading set the foundation to turn sports cards into an asset class.
The past 3 years have been really good for OTIA Sports, but this year is on another level. When the stock market dipped in 2001 and again in 2008, the one thing that always scared me about the industry was “will sports cards as an asset class be thrown to the wayside in the event something catastrophic were to happen?” This year answered that question for us: not at all. I believe that the sports card market is near bulletproof, and I’ve been buying and accumulating as much as possible in anticipation of the value going through the roof over the next 5 years. As millions of new investors enter the market, demand will outpace supply.
2. When a new client approaches you wanting you to invest in sports cards, where do you start?
If someone is looking to invest big money into sports cards, I recommend starting with the 1986 Fleer Michael Jordan, then extending into other cornerstones such as the 2003 Topps Chrome Lebron James, 2000 Tom Brady Bowman Chrome, the ‘52 Mantle, Gretzky’s 1979 O-Pee-Chee, and others.
3. Do you have a personal collection? What is it composed of?
Since I deal in cards all day long, I prefer to center my personal collection on memorabilia that I love: I collect celebrity checks. I made a list of 100 signed celebrity checks I wanted and bought them. John Lennon, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Bruce Lee are some of the highlights of my collection. I also jumped into graded video games this year. I think these will increase in value given their limited supply, and they also bring back such great memories.
With cards, I continuously work on building 1986 Fleer Basketball sets. I’ll receive a great offer and sell the set, only to rebuild it again. I find the real fun is in putting the collection together, which I’ve done seven or eight times over now. My personal card collection consists of a lot of one-offs. There are many current players I really believe in that I’m investing in. Devin Booker is one player I collect his cards and tuck those away.
4. Let’s dive into the 1986 Fleer Basketball set, your favorite set. What makes it so special to you?
Let’s first set the stage: There was a six year gap in basketball cards since the 1980 Topps cards, and those cards weren’t very attractive. That gap in basketball card production had people craving this 1986 set, and it was the first time the majority of the 1980’s NBA stars had Rookie Cards. I remember purchasing boxes for between $12,000 and $15,000 per box years ago, and I could tell that the sellers would almost feel bad for me. I’ve cracked over 100 boxes of 1986 Fleer Basketball in my lifetime. It’s through this set that I really learned about grading. I made my first grading submission in the mid-90’s and got crushed, but learned from it. I then developed an eye for how to go about purchasing raw cards and what grades to expect. I’ve been collecting the set for so long that even the checklist holds sentimental value -- it’s rare that a checklist is so valuable, but it’s such a hard card to find in a high grade! I’ve even purchased this set’s empty display Case for a couple thousand bucks just to have the cardboard. Collectors want and will continue to want the cards surrounding Michael Jordan’s Rookie Card. It’s the holy grail set.
7. Do you still open packs of this set? Given there has been a lot of pack resealing and fraud specific to this set, how do you ensure you are buying legitimate packs or boxes?
There is a significant chance that the ungraded packs you would find on eBay are fraudulent. Resellers are buying the wax wrappers and the cards for $50 or less and repackaging them. You can tell based on the sequence of the packs. Even with the graded packs, there’s a good chance there won’t be a Jordan in those if you were to crack them. If you’re interested in going this route, I’d suggest doing a group break through Vintage Breaks or another service that you know has the legitimate product.
5. Jordan’s Rookie Fleer PSA 10 card continues to break its own records this year. Last Sunday, one sold for $150,000 at Robert Edward Auctions. On Monday, one sold at Sotheby’s for $151,200. At the time of writing this, there’s a PSA 10 on Goldin Auctions that closes on Saturday on pace to break both of those numbers. With records seemingly toppling each day, does this card have more room to run?
I am breaking my own records as a buyer, because I bought both of those! That’s how bullish I am on the future of the card and the future of the sports card market. If and when the market goes the direction I think it is heading, this is still good value for the holy grail of basketball cards. I try to keep 50 Jordan rookie cards in my inventory at all times across all grades.
6. What is your favorite non-Jordan card in the set, and why?
If I had to choose, it would have to be Barkley, who I love as a talent and also think is hilarious. I just love the set. I’m a Detroit guy, so the Joe Dumars and Isiah Thomas Rookie Cards hold a lot of sentimental value for me as well.
8. Rally acquired their Fleer box on 11/2/20 for $146,400. We know that it has at least one Jordan rookie card, as it’s showing through the thin wax at the top of one of the packs. We know it also contains three MJ stickers, which show through on the back of the packs. Are the cards in the Fleer boxes completely random? Give us your take on investment outlook for this sealed wax box given its market cap of $165K.
I bid on a sealed case a few months ago, and I wish I had bid more aggressively. The market is moving really quickly on these, just like it is with the Jordan card. Investment-wise, I’m extremely bullish, and even moreso on the wax than the singles. With the continued rise of popularity in the set, more people will want to crack these and the sealed supply continues to go down. There’s no doubt that this should serve as the catalyst to help the sealed wax continue to appreciate. When it comes to sports cards, what better commodity is there to own than 1986 Fleer Basketball wax?
There you have it. Thank you Jason!
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