Counterfeit Card Alert: 1997-98 Fleer Tiffany #23 Michael Jordan

Posted on 3/7/2024

This is one of the best counterfeits CGC Cards experts have come across, but a key factor enabled our graders to determine that it's not genuine.

Michael Jordan is generally regarded as the most well-known and greatest basketball player in NBA history. Collectibles of iconic players like the Chicago Bulls shooting guard who led the franchise to six NBA titles are often extremely valuable, and Jordan is one of the most collected athletes ever. Therefore, it's no surprise that counterfeiters would attempt to replicate some of his most expensive basketball cards for profit.

Take this 1997-98 Fleer Tiffany #23 Michael Jordan for example. While a base 1997-98 Fleer #23 is only worth a few dollars, the premium Tiffany version can be worth hundreds of dollars or more in the right condition. Any card valued so highly is a good candidate for counterfeiting, such as the example below.

Views of the front and back of the counterfeit Michael Jordan card.
Click images to enlarge.

There are only a few differences between the base and Tiffany versions of the card. The lettering and numbers on the front of the Tiffany card are embossed with blue foil compared to silver on the base. There is also a Tiffany logo below the Fleer logo on the front of the card, and another Tiffany logo on the bottom back of the card. Aside from those few identifying factors, the base and Tiffany versions are basically identical. This particular fake included these identifying characteristics of an authentic Tiffany.

The counterfeit was so well conceived that the CGC Cards graders have deemed it one of the best fakes to ever be seen in the grading room. Almost every identifying factor of the Jordan card is spot on, including the sizing and thickness of the card stock. In addition, the text, logos and foil each appear to match a genuine copy of a '97-98 Fleer Tiffany, even under magnification. Only one difference stood out — the surface texture of the card gives it away as counterfeit.

Close-up views of the counterfeit "rippling" effect compared to an authentic example.
Click image to enlarge.

When comparing the counterfeit Jordan card against a genuine '97-98 Fleer Tiffany version of a Brian Shaw card, the surface textures of the two cards are clearly different. In the images above, showing the corners of each card, you can see the texture difference. Under magnification and the correct lighting, there is a "rippling" effect present on the counterfeit Jordan card stock. The authentic Shaw card is much smoother in comparison.

Close-up views of the counterfeit's shiny surface compared to an authentic example's matte-like surface.
Click image to enlarge.

Looking closer at the blue foiled lettering that features the player's name, team name and position, you can see more surface differences. When viewed at a slight angle under lighting, the counterfeit example's surface is much shinier than the authentic example. In comparison, the genuine Brian Shaw Tiffany card shows a flat, matte-like texture all the way through. At first glance, the Jordan card may look authentic, but these subtle surface texture differences become more pronounced when magnified and put under the right lighting, allowing CGC Cards' experts to identify the example as counterfeit.

Pinpointing the issues with this card helps make the hobby safer, weeding out counterfeits before collectors possibly purchase something that ultimately has no value. Now, the sports card collecting community has one less high-value, fake Jordan card floating around.

Education is the most important tool when collecting cards. The more collectors know about the printing and manufacturing process of cards, the fewer mistakes will be made when buying cards. This example also highlights the importance of certification for any high-value card.

CGC Cards authenticates, grades and encapsulates authentic examples of cards, making the hobby a safer place for collectors, traders and sellers. To do this, CGC Cards uses world-class expertise, advanced technology, innovation and operational excellence to provide sports card collectors and dealers with accurate and consistent certification services. CGC backs these determinations with the CGC Guarantee, which adds significant confidence, liquidity and value to the hobby. To learn more about CGC's industry-leading services, visit

Related Link:

More Counterfeit and Altered Card Alert columns

Stay Informed

Want news like this delivered to your inbox once a month? Subscribe to the free CGC eNewsletter today!


You've been subscribed to the CGC eNewsletter.

Unable to subscribe to our eNewsletter. Please try again later.

Articles List

Add CGC Card

Create a Set

Join CGC for free to add cards, track your collection and participate in the CGC Trading Cards Registry or CGC Sports Cards Registry.

Join CGC

Already a member? Sign In
Add to CGC Card Registry Example
Add to CGC Card Registry Example