I’ve been collecting jerseys for over twenty years. This article details the 10 hardest jerseys to find in my size (44 or Medium).
Part of the fun in being a jerseyhead or hoopster is finding something rare. You want to have a jersey that other people don’t because anyone can find a Joakim Noah #13 out on the streets of Chicago on any random day. Having a Michael Jordan #45, now that’s showing more originality. Originality makes that jersey special and it makes you stand out from the pack.
I would imagine everyone has that one jersey they hope to find. Even when you’re not searching for jerseys, in the back of your mind, you’re searching for that jersey. It’s like a never ending hunt for Moby Dick. For me it’s a late 1980s – early 1990s style Milwaukee Bucks jersey. For you, it could be anything from the defunct Hartford Whalers threads to a weird 1998 Turn Ahead the Clock look from Major League Baseball.
10 Hardest Jerseys To Find
The late 80s and early 90s were not kind to the Milwaukee Bucks. After winning the division every year between 1980 and 1986, the Bucks removed the red from their “Irish Rainbow” uniforms, changed the roster around, and began to lose. Sidney Moncrief, Paul Pressey, Terry Cummings, and Jack Sikma were replaced by Blue Edwards, Lee Mayberry, and Frank Brickowski (#randomathlete). Don Nelson handed the controls over to Del Harris and Mike Dunleavy, Sr. The Bucks became forgotten. For this reason, finding a jersey from that era is quite a daunting task. Without any real stars, Milwaukee jerseys rarely sold outside of the state of Wisconsin. Thus, few were produced and even fewer are still around today. If you do find one, it will typically be damaged, or it might be the wrong size. If anyone can find a jersey from this era in good condition, it won’t come cheap. I dare you to try (and let me know if you’re successful).
One of the reasons you won’t find this style is that it was a bit weird and produced in small numbers. Philadelphia was one of the teams to start the 90s trend of putting funky designs on the front of jerseys. The fan base didn’t appreciate it very much, although not to the level of vitriol spewed at the 1995 New York Islanders, and the jersey lasted just three seasons. Charles Barkley left to play for Phoenix during that time leaving Shawn Bradley as the main attraction to wear these threads. You’ll be lucky to find a red Jerry Stackhouse jersey, and black Allen Iversons are all over eBay. Only once have I seen someone with an early 90s Philadelphia 76ers jersey, so it ranks pretty high on the “Hardest Jerseys to Find” list.
I was once told only 2,000 of these were ever produced for sale. While I have no proof that statement is actually true, it wouldn’t surprise me based on its scarcity. The U.S. Men’s National Team wore this jersey only one time, during a May 28, 2006 pre-World Cup friendly against Latvia. Referred to as the “Don’t Tread On Me” kit, good luck getting your hands on it. The United States would go on to perform rather poorly during the ’06 World Cup, finishing in last place in Group E. Italy and Ghana would advance to the Round of 16, and your shot at picking up one of the better jerseys that the USA has ever donned went out the window as soccer teams frequently change their look.
Some of the same issues that plagued Milwaukee’s NBA team also plagued their baseball team. After switching from powder blue to grey, then finally moving to a button-down version, this road jersey was worn in the final years before the Brew Crew abandoned the “Ball-in-Glove” logo as a primary insignia. The last remnants of “Harvey’s Wallbangers” were getting ready to hang up their spikes, and Paul Molitor headed north to Toronto. Aside from an excellent 1992, the Crew found itself less than competitive, and being in a small market means lower than average merchandise sales to begin with. As a result, not many of these jerseys were produced, and those who have one are likely reluctant to give it up.
It isn’t that unusual to see a Gary Payton or Shawn Kemp jersey on someone, however, more often than not it will be of the late 90s variety. Granted, Seattle had two bona fide stars on its roster, and they even had a few solid role players like Detlef Schrempf and Kendall Gill (and now your mind is wandering back to NBA Jam). However, Champion replica jerseys, while produced in the early 90s, didn’t pick up steam until the mid 90s. As a result, you’ll find more jerseys from 1994-present than you will anything prior to that. If you can get your hands on a Sonics jersey from the early 90s, you deserve a high five, my friend. If it’s a Detlef Schrempf version, I owe you a beer.
The New York Jets have spent so many years in their current “throwback” look that many people forgot about the old green helmets with the JETS script. Between 1985-1997, the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets only made the playoffs three times. Only once did they advance past the Wild Card round. Bleeding through coaches like Bruce Coslet, Pete Carroll, and Rich Kotite, New York didn’t find much stability until Bill Parcells took over. By then the team had reverted back to the look previously worn by Joe Namath. Let’s be honest, back then who would have wanted to buy a Neil O’Donnell or Adrian Murrell jersey (#randomathlete)? If you can find one now, more power to you! Extra points if its Bubby Brister, Kyle Brady, or Hugh Douglas.
Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, Jim Leyland, Doug Drabek, Jay Bell. There really are a lot of great options here for an early 90s Pirates jersey. Extra points if you can find one with Don Slaught or Orlando Merced. I don’t know if there was still a hangover from Sid Bream in 1992, or the team just decided it was time for a change, but the Buccos added pinstripes and red to the color scheme starting in 1997. As a result, they muddied what was a beautiful look. I’m surprised you don’t find more of these early 90s Russell Athletic versions around, but for whatever reason, the home jersey is significantly more prevalent than the roads. My guess is most passionate Pirates fans who own one of these beauties have no plans to sell them anytime soon.
The Dodgers didn’t tinker with their look much between the 70s and the late 90s. Their consistency is a breath of fresh air when you consider how many uniform changes probably happened in those twenty-plus years. Unfortunately, for collectors, the Dodgers home jersey was always more popular than the roads. Thus, it’s hard to find a road jersey anywhere. I would love to see someone rock a Mike Piazza, Darryl Strawberry, Eric Karros, or even a Tommy Lasorda road jersey. It makes me think of Slim Fast and a Dodger Dog, although not necessarily all in the same meal.
There seems to be two trains of thought when it comes to the look of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Pro-robo penguin and anti-robo penguin (or pro-skating penguin if you want to go that route). Mario Lemieux hated it and that’s why he phased it out once he purchased the team. The two robo-penguin jerseys you’ll likely come across are the home jersey and the alternate, which eventually became the full-time road jersey. Personally, I’ve always favored the black road jersey with the diagonal PITTSBURGH across it. If it’s good enough for Snoop Dogg, it’s good enough for me. For some reason, I now have the strange urge to watch Jean Claude Van Damme fight Iceburgh in Sudden Death.
This might be my favorite version of the Pacers uniforms. It reminds me of Reggie Miller ruining the hopes and dreams of New York Knicks fans everywhere. Nicknamed the “FloJo Jersey” because track star Florence Griffith Joyner designed them, they really captured the speed and the aura of that era’s Indiana teams. Here’s an old commercial with Joyner advertising the new gear in the team store. These jerseys are tough to find, especially considering they typically get snubbed for these or these when the Pacers do a Hardwood Classics promotion. It’s unfortunate, but it makes you look that much cooler if you show up at Bankers Life Fieldhouse rocking a Mark Jackson or Rik Smits jersey in this style.
Runners Up: Ottawa Senators Road (1995-1997), Calgary Flames Home or Road (1994-2000), Cincinnati Reds Home (1993-1998), Seattle Mariners Alternate (1999-2000), Cincinnati Bengals Home or Road (1980-2003), Portland Trail Blazers Home or Road (1991-2002), Sacramento Kings Home or Road (1985-1990)
I would love to hear from you guys about what your hardest jerseys to find are. Send me a tweet with your jersey at @rmackman, comment below, or hit us up on Snapchat @baconsports.