Michael Jordan’s Bulls debut game ticket sells for nearly half a million dollars

A ticket from Michael Jordan’s debut Chicago Bulls game sold for nearly half a million dollars at an auction Sunday morning.

Thirty-eight years ago, the ticket to the Oct. 26, 1984, game cost $8.50 — on Sunday, it made the seller, Michael Cole, $468,000.

Robert Wilonsky from Heritage Auctions, where the ticket sold, said the Jordan ticket nearly beat the record for the priciest ticket ever sold at auction. But, in the same morning, a ticket from Jackie Robinson’s Brooklyn Dodgers debut in 1947 sold for $480,000.

A then-Northwestern student, Cole attended the 1984 game alone after he couldn’t find a friend to join him. With two tickets waiting for him at will call, he used one and kept the other as a keepsake — making it the only known intact ticket from the game today, according to Heritage Auctions.

"I’m incredibly excited by the outcome and in some ways relieved that it’s over," Cole, 55, said.


He watched the virtual auction until 2:15 a.m. Sunday morning, celebrating with his family and friends.

Just a week before the auction ended, Cole said his 2012 Kia Sorrento died with 180,000 miles on it. He said he’ll spend some of his earnings to replace it — not with a flashy new sports car but "with a sensible, used car," Cole said.

Some might call Cole’s discovery of his ticket — stored away in a folder in his basement, untouched for 40 years — pretty lucky. Cole said it isn’t the first time people have pointed out his good fortune.

"If someone’s gonna be picked out of a crowd for something or get a ticket drawn for something, I feel like I’ve gotten more than my fair share," Cole said.

With virtual tickets rising in popularity, Wilonsky said the auction house has seen an increase in demand for physical tickets.

"People don’t know what a paper ticket feels like to hold in their hands, to keep in their wallets, to hold onto forever," Wilonsky said.

The magical thing about the little slips of paper, Wilonsky said, is that they were there — in Chicago Stadium as Jordan took the court for the first time, and in Ebbets Field during Robinson’s debut.

"People are forgetting the value and nostalgia they had for that sliver of paper," Wilonsky said.

Cole said he still tried to take the time to print out tickets, rather than having them on his phone.

"I don’t find it as enjoyable of that cool feeling of holding a paper ticket in your hand," Cole said.