Lots of people collect Michael Jordan’s shoes and jerseys.
His basketball cards and magazine covers are a hot commodity, too.
But as far as Andrew Goldberg knows, he’s the only person trying to collect a ticket stub to every regular season and playoff game that Jordan played as a member of the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards. Goldberg keeps a spreadsheet of all 1,264 contests and has already secured tickets to 870 of them.
A ticket to Jordan’s 55-point game against the Knicks in 1995? Goldberg has it.
A stub for all six championship clinchers? He has those, too.
A memento of the time in Orlando that Jordan’s No. 23 went missing and he was forced to wear No. 12? Well, funny you should ask …
A one-time collector of cards and comics, Goldberg is now fully enamored with tickets, specifically the ones that granted you a chance to watch Michael Jordan. Each one he obtains is a link to a long-past night where one of the greatest athletes ever put on a show for fans who treated those tickets like gold.
“You know that ticket was in that room,” the 46-year-old Miami-based marketing consultant told me earlier this week. “It’s almost like the ticket witnessed the event, they were in the same air as this incredible athlete.
“Sports cards are interesting. But they don’t have that physical history.”
Goldberg first got the idea to pursue this collection in 2015, just before the Warriors won a NBA-record 73 games. He originally thought he’d just collect every stub from the Bulls’ 72-win season in 1995-96. It was small, it could be easily stored and it might scratch the itch created by all the cards and comics he’d gotten rid of while downsizing.
But being a collector at heart, it soon got out of hand.
“I thought, what if I could collect them all?” he said.
He already had a good head start. Goldberg grew up in Highland Park, a couple streets over from one of the first houses that Jordan owned in the suburb. Though he never went over and knocked on the door like other kids in the neighborhood, he was a fan like anyone else. Goldberg dreamed that Jordan might one day see him shooting baskets, stop his car and say something.
It never happened.
Because his dad shared Bulls season tickets, Goldberg went to his fair share of Jordan’s games at the old Chicago Stadium. He’d save the ticket for each game he attended and asked his dad’s ticket partners to save theirs as well.
Goldberg estimates about 50 or 60 tickets survived into adulthood and his current collection. He regularly scours eBay for new listings and has earned a place in a network of ticket collectors who trade and look out for each other. There’s the guy who is trying to collect a ticket for every game that Carlton Fisk played. Another who’s trying to collect tickets for the rookie years of Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.
Goldberg likes to spend between $5 and $10 for “regular” Jordan games, but memorable games can run a lot more — as can games earlier in Jordan’s career.
People forget, but Chicago Stadium and other NBA venues didn’t immediately start selling out in Jordan’s first couple of years in the league. Throw in the fact that old arenas were smaller than current versions and the chances someone saved a ticket in 1985 because they thought Jordan would be the Babe Ruth of his day aren’t great.
That doesn’t deter Goldberg in his search. People empty junk drawers and ticket shoeboxes all the time. They place their contents on eBay, hoping to make money off the tickets they’ve saved for decades. Goldberg has noticed an uptick in listings since “The Last Dance” started airing, though nothing he hasn’t been able to buy before.
His white whale remains a ticket to Jordan’s NBA debut, the October 26, 1984 game at Chicago Stadium that drew 13,913 fans. I first learned of Goldberg’s quest because I wrote an article about that game last fall and he was on the lookout for information. For the piece, I spoke with a security guard from Aurora who sat a few rows from the floor for just $16.50. He saved his stub and sold it at auction in 2019 for $4,000.
Meanwhile, two higher-graded tickets printed at Chicago Stadium (as opposed to Ticketron outlets) have sold for $33,000 apiece. To put their rarity in perspective: PSA has graded over 17,000 1986 Fleer Michael Jordan rookies to just nine 10/26/84 ticket stubs.
“I’m going to need to save up to eventually get that one,” Goldberg said.
Goldberg is also searching for Jordan’s 63-point game against the Celtics in the 1986 NBA playoffs. He’s still kicking himself over missing a recent eBay auction in which the ticket sold for just $75.
“Sometimes you just miss things,” he said. “You can’t see everything.”
The complete set of 1991 NBA Finals tickets. Note the prices. (Andrew Goldberg)
Goldberg has gradually seen the market for tickets increase over the past five years. He thinks it will go higher. Jordan’s rookie season tickets have climbed into the triple digits since he started. A ticket to Jordan’s first game against Kobe Bryant that was going for $15-20 a year ago was going for $500 in the week after Bryant’s death.
“The general rule is that Jordan memorabilia never loses its value,” Goldberg said.
Plus, it’s a unique collection for a unique player who played at just the right time. Chances are slim you’d ever be able to track down every ticket for, say, Wilt Chamberlain or Bill Russell. Want to do the same thing for LeBron’s career? Have fun collecting PDF printouts with traditional tickets being made obsolete the past few years.
Including extras, Goldberg estimates he has amassed about 3,000 Jordan tickets and has picked up a few curiosities like the tickets for both of Jordan’s Olympic gold medal games and the 1982 NCAA Final. He’ll sometimes flip his extras at a profit so he can further fund his journey to a complete set, but says he has no plans to sell the set as a whole.
Olympic gold medal game tickets (Andrew Goldberg)
So what’s in store for the future?
Goldberg said he’d like to one day offer the Bulls a chance to display some of the milestone tickets at the United Center if they’re game so others can enjoy them.
He’s also allowed himself the dream of one day showing the collection to Jordan himself — if His Airness is so inclined.
“I’m not sure if he’d be interested,” Goldberg said. “But it’d be funny if I had to go through all of this to finally meet him after living so close to him for so long.”
Until then, Goldberg has fun showing off his collection to visitors at his home. He also had the recent opportunity to bring it to American Airlines Arena and show it to some Miami Heat staff members. They ate it up, Goldberg said.
A few hours after I speak with him, Goldberg emails me pictures of some of his favorite tickets, as well as an update. He’s located ticket #871 for $9.99 on eBay. This one isn’t one of the “key games,” but it’s a puzzle piece nonetheless — a March 29, 1998 victory over the Bucks at Milwaukee’s Bradley Center. Jordan scored 30 points.
Only 393 tickets to go.
This story originally ran in Midway Minute, a free daily newsletter about Chicago sports. To join the list, enter your email address below.