Cardboard Treasure Still Exists if You Look Hard Enough
If you could pick from just two years in history in which you collected baseball cards, I’m willing to bet 1952 would be one of them. That was the year Topps released its 407-card baseball set that included card #311, the one featuring an up-and-coming slugger for the New York Yankees named Mickey Mantle. The Mantle card – which is not his rookie card, by the way – was issued in Series 6 of the ’52 Topps set. Based on his heroic exploits in leading the Bronx Bombers to 12 World Series appearances and seven championships during the course of his 18-year big league career, Mantle’s cherished ’52 Topps card is now the darling of the hobby collecting community. With apologies to Honus Wagner, the #311 Mantle is perhaps the most recognizable card in the industry.
Well, guess what? One lucky New Jerseyan, who collected cards only from 1951 to ’52, has just consigned his stable of cards to Heritage Auctions to be put up for bid in late June. Amongst the hundreds of cards were five of the iconic #311 Mantles. Unearthing one ‘52 Mantle is considered rare, but five? Extraordinary. What prompted him to bring the cards into the hobby spotlight was the fact that former NFL player Evan Mathis recently sold his Mantle #311 card at auction for $2.88 million. Graded PSA Mint 9, it set a new auction record for the coveted ’52 Mantle card and generated headlines across the country.
Thinking there could be ungodly riches within his old cards, he contacted Heritage Auctions and put the plan in motion. A pair of consignment reps from Heritage picked up the stash of cards in late May and hand-delivered them to PSA Headquarters in Santa Ana, California, for authentication and grading. Lo and behold, one of the cards came back with a grade of PSA Near Mint-Mint + 8.5, which translates to big bucks on the open market. The other four cards came back with impressive grades as well: PSA Near Mint + 7.5, PSA Near Mint 7, and a pair of PSA Excellent 5’s. All told, the five Mantle cards could fetch as much as $1.3 million, according to PSA President Joe Orlando.
“In my nearly 20 years at PSA, this single order represents the most 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle cards I can remember receiving from one source at one time,” he said, as he went on to discuss the importance of third-party grading.
“A certified collectible is more liquid than a non-certified one. In some cases, a card may be extremely rare in a specific grade, which can result in large premiums paid for that level of scarcity as you climb up the grading scale,” he said. “It varies from card to card, but the benefits of grading are clearly reflected by the market.”
According to PSA’s Population Report, only three of the ’52 Mantles have ever been graded in Gem Mint 10 condition, with just six registering as PSA Mint 9. For the record, the last public sale of a PSA Near Mint-Mint + 8.5 ’52 Mantle card sold in 2016 for $1,135,250 via Heritage Auctions. No doubt this latest hobby offering will garner even more headlines. Stay tuned for the upcoming results!