In this new, ongoing series, we explore various sets on the PSA Set Registry, featuring the trading cards of iconic athletes. Select cards will be highlighted and the requirements of each set will be included.
Mickey Mantle was 19 years young when he played his first game for the New York Yankees. Following a two-year stint in the minors for the Independence (KS) Yankees, Mantle was promoted to the big league club as a right fielder in 1951. Playing alongside Yankees center field icon Joe DiMaggio, Mantle played in 96 games that season and batted .267 with 13 home runs and 65 RBI. With Joe D.’s retirement announcement at year’s end, Mantle was moved to center field to start the ’52 campaign.
Despite suffering a torn ACL in his right knee during the ’51 World Series against the New York Giants – which marked the first of his seven team titles with the Yankees – Mickey battled through the pain and rehab to lead the Bronx Bombers back to the Fall Classic in ’52 where they defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers, four games to three. Mantle shined when it mattered most, batting .345 with 10 hits including two home runs in the series. His legend in pinstripes only grew from there.
Over the next 16 seasons, he led the Yankees to 10 more American League pennants and five more World Series championships. He collected three A.L. MVP awards along the way (’56, ’57 and ’62) and blasted a total of 536 home runs as he showed great power from both sides of the plate. Following his last season in 1968, Mantle announced his retirement on March 1, 1969. When he left, he was third on MLB’s all-time home run list and was the Yankees leader in games played with 2,401, a mark later broken by Derek Jeter in 2011. Mickey was enshrined in Cooperstown as a first-ballot inductee in 1974.
Mantle’s only recognized rookie card is found in the 1951 Bowman Baseball release. Card #253 marked his introduction on cardboard as the “Commerce Comet” is shown via a press photograph enhanced by painted color staring down yet another pitch. The ’51 Bowman set consisted of 324 cards measuring 2-1/16” by 3-1/8” with Mantle’s card front taking on a horizontal delivery. An incredibly important card, it is subject to numerous condition obstacles. As with most high-numbered cards in the set, this card often suffers from print lines, wax stains along the reverse, and poor centering. The card has a PSA population report of 1,678 of which just one (1) has ever been graded PSA Gem Mint 10. Nine other submissions have earned PSA Mint 9 status, while 53 others have been deemed PSA Near Mint-Mint 8.
In trying to complete Mantle’s basic set checklist on the PSA Set Registry, this is the second most heavily weighted card (9.00) of them all. Weights are determined by the card’s secondary market value using a scale from 1.00 to 10.00 with 10.00 being the most expensive. Using three varying PSA grades for the card, here are its current industry average auction prices:
PSA Good 2: $5,526.52
PSA Excellent 5: $12,553.00
PSA Near Mint-Mint 8: $111,000.00
This is Mantle’s very important second-year issue, and many hobby purists believe it is also one of his best looking cards. The 1952 Bowman Baseball set consists of 252 cards, each measuring 2-1/8″ wide by 3-1/8” wide. Card #101 shows a contemplative Mantle via a color reproduction of a photograph with his facsimile signature positioned across his chest. Though the set is without any known variations or scarcities, the low numbers (#s 1-21, including Mantle’s) are somewhat easier to secure than the high numbers (#s 218-252). The card has a PSA population report of 2,593 of which only two have been graded PSA Gem Mint 10. Thirteen more have earned the PSA Mint 9 grade, while 114 others have been determined to be in PSA Near Mint-Mint 8 condition.
This is the fourth most heavily weighted card (4.00) on PSA’s Mantle basic set checklist. Using three PSA grades for the card, here are its industry average auction prices:
PSA Good 2: $820.41
PSA Excellent 5: $2,300.95
PSA Near Mint-Mint 8: $13,610.82
The 1952 Topps Baseball set consists of 407 cards, each measuring 2-5/8″ by 3-3/4”. The set was issued in six distinct “Series” groups, and Series 6 reads like a “Who’s Who of Stardom” beginning with Mickey Mantle at #311, followed immediately by Jackie Robinson (#312), Bobby Thomson (#313) and Roy Campanella (#314). This set marks Mantle’s very first appearance on a Topps card and though it’s not his true rookie card, it is still his most coveted. Reasons as to why abound and now the card is considered a piece of Americana and even pop culture art. Mantle’s card front color portrait was recreated from a black-and-white photo taken of him during his first Spring Training with the New York Yankees in 1951. The card has a PSA population report of 1,374 of which only nine (6) have been graded PSA Mint 9 while another 35 have earned PSA Near Mint-Mint 8 status. To date, just three ’52 Mantle #311 cards have ever earned PSA Gem Mint 10 recognition.
Based on its scarcity as well as desirability, this card is Mantle’s most heavily weighted issue (10.00) on PSA’s basic set checklist. In fact, one PSA Mint 9 version of it sold at auction in August 2018 for $2.88 million! Using three varying PSA grades for the card, here are its industry average auction prices:
PSA Good 2: $16,958.71
PSA Excellent 5: $50,162.42
PSA Near Mint-Mint 8: $472,650.00
The 1953 Bowman Baseball set consists of 160 cards, each measuring 2-1/2″ by 3-3/4”. Noted for its domineering, vivid photographic images and considered one of the most beautiful modern-era sets ever produced, the collection offered facial details and uniform features never seen on any of its predecessors. Mantle’s card #59 shows the young slugger following through from the right side of the plate seemingly watching the baseball soar to right field. The card has a PSA population report of 2,068 of which 21 have been graded PSA Mint 9 while 110 have earned PSA Near Mint-Mint 8. Only one ’53 Bowman Color Mantle #59 card has ever earned the distinction of PSA Gem Mint 10.
This card is currently tied for fourth on PSA’s most heavily weighted list (4.00) for Mantle’s basic set checklist. Using three varying PSA grades for the card, here are its industry average auction prices:
PSA Good 2: $396.30
PSA Excellent 5: $1,276.89
PSA Near Mint-Mint 8: $7,614.57
The 1953 Topps Baseball set consists of 274 cards, each measuring 2-5/8″ by 3-3/4”. Considered one of Mickey’s most important early cards, this exceptional color enhanced Mantle issue shows a slightly squinting Mickey looking over his left shoulder with the Yankees spring training facility’s outfield wall in the background. Difficult to find in high-grade condition as its red-bottom border is highly subject to chipping, the card is also very tough to find well-centered. It has a PSA population report of 3,323 of which 10 have been graded PSA Mint 9 with 94 more earning PSA Near Mint-Mint 8 standing. So far in PSA’s Mantle basic set checklist, only two ’53 Topps #82 cards have ever been graded Gem Mint 10.
This is the third most heavily weighted card (5.00) in Mickey’s basic set checklist. Using three varying PSA grades for the card, here are its industry average auction prices:
PSA Good 2: $1,156.40
PSA Excellent 5: $3,943.18
PSA Near Mint-Mint 8: $35,713.80
Mickey Mantle Cards Required to Complete the Set
(including PSA ‘Weights’)
- 1951 BOWMAN MICKEY MANTLE #253 (9.00)
- 1952 BOWMAN MICKEY MANTLE #101 (4.00)
- 1952 TOPPS MICKEY MANTLE # 311 (10.00)
- 1953 BOWMAN COLOR MICKEY MANTLE #59 (4.00)
- 1953 TOPPS MICKEY MANTLE #62 (5.00)
- 1954 BOWMAN MICKEY MANTLE #65 (4.00)
- 1955 BOWMAN MICKEY MANTLE #202 (2.00)
- 1956 TOPPS MICKEY MANTLE #135 (2.50)
- 1957 TOPPS MICKEY MANTLE #95 (2.00)
- 1958 TOPPS MICKEY MANTLE #150 (3.00)
- 1959 TOPPS MICKEY MANTLE #10 (2.75)
- 1960 TOPPS MICKEY MANTLE #350 (1.50)
- 1961 TOPPS MICKEY MANTLE #300 (1.50)
- 1962 TOPPS MICKEY MANTLE #200 (2.00)
- 1963 TOPPS MICKEY MANTLE #200 (175)
- 1964 TOPPS MICKEY MANTLE #50 (1.50)
- 1965 TOPPS MICKEY MANTLE #350 (1.75)
- 1966 TOPPS MICKEY MANTLE #50 (1.25)
- 1967 TOPPS MICKEY MANTLE #150 (1.25)
- 1968 TOPPS MICKEY MANTLE #280 (1.25)
- 1969 TOPPS MICKEY MANTLE #500 (1.25)
When Mantle retired, his career batting average stood at .298. His record of hitting 18 World Series home runs still stands today. In addition to becoming just the fifth member of MLB’s exclusive 500 Home Run Club in May of 1967, Mickey went on to drive in a total of 1,509 runs off 2,415 hits. His larger-than-life persona carried off the field as well as his celebratory partying became legendary even after his playing days were over. Though he outlived his father, who died of Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 40, and his grandfather, who also died young from the same disease, Mickey’s number eventually came up on August 13, 1995. He died of liver cancer.
In 1992, Mantle inked a multi-million-dollar contract with Upper Deck to sign autographs for the trading card giant’s memorabilia division, Upper Deck Authenticated. It would be the most lucrative deal the Hall of Famer ever signed. Did you know that the most No. 7 ever made during his playing career was $100,000 per season, from 1963 to ’68? No doubt the figures his trading cards are fetching nowadays would bowl “The Mick” over. Whether or not you are a fan of the Bronx Bombers, trying to collect the basic set of a legend like Mickey Mantle would prove daunting. But go ahead and give it a try on the PSA Set Registry. Highly sought-after vintage cards are appreciating at rates greater than that of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. And today, for collectors and investors alike, that’s saying something!
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