To this day, the name Mickey Mantle conjures up images of baseball’s Golden Age. A switch-hitter that could crush the ball from both sides of the plate, “The Mick” was, and is, a symbol of America’s favorite pastime. And to this day, collectors still aspire to add his signed memorabilia to their collections. From his 1951 Major League Baseball debut to now, more than a six decades later and nearly 23 years after his death, Mantle remains one of the most collected and coveted athletes in history. Yes, he was a prolific signer in his later years, but that hasn’t diminished the sought-after nature of his pen strokes.
But collectors may not know that his signature wasn’t always the stylized “half moon M’s” that we commonly see today. Believe it or not, his signature started as almost a child-like scribble, then grew more and more refined as the years went by.
Here’s a look at three autograph stages of one of the one most widely collected athletes in history.
High School Ball and Minor Leagues (Late 1940s)
Before his big league career, the prodigious stats and acclaim, Mantle was a multi-sport high school athlete. He was still perfecting his swing and, by the look of it, his autograph.
The pictured autograph was from a time before Mantle’s legend even began, when the slugger played semi-pro summer ball for the Baxter Springs Whiz Kids during his high school days in Commerce, Oklahoma. Back then, his signature was marked by simplistic, almost chicken scratch-like pen strokes, a completely different image than the stylized signature it grew to be.
Entering the Big Leagues with a Splash (Early 1950s)
As Mantle’s star began to rise, his signature became more complex. Just look at the differences between his 1947 signed yearbook and this 1951 signed postcard. A cursive style is employed, resulting in more measured and aesthetically pleasing pen strokes. The evolution of his autograph mirrored his career — transitioning from simple beginnings to become one of the most distinctive and stylish signatures in the sport.
The next, and last, of Mantle’s autograph styles was one that he’d eventually settle on and perfect throughout the remainder of his playing days and throughout his retirement years.
The Mick Emerges (Mid 1950s-onward)
By this time, Mantle was in the pinnacle of his career, a true superstar. In 1956, around the time Mantle settled on the final form of his autograph, he had a career year, batting .353 with 52 home runs and 130 RBI, and winning the prestigious American League Triple Crown and MVP awards. Mantle had cemented himself as a household name and one of the best players the sport had ever seen.
Known as the “Half Moon” style, Mantle settled on and perfected these striking “M” curves throughout his life. His autograph would continue to slightly evolve for the remainder of his playing days and into retirement, but this “Half Moon” style remained a constant.
Always Make Sure Your Autograph is Certified
It’s been the case since he entered the league and remains true years after his death: countless collectors would love to add a Mantle autograph to their collection. But despite the fact that Mantle signed a prolific number of autographs during his playing days and retirement, it remains difficult to get a hold of one, and forgeries continue to be a significant issue. The timeless popularity and collectability of Mantle has made that certain, and he is considered to be among the most heavily forged athletes of all time. As such, always make sure the autograph is authenticated by a trusted authenticator, and take advantage of features like PSA/DNA QuickOpinion to get instant peace of mind before making an online purchase of an autograph.