1952 Topps Mickey Mantle: Looking to Own One?

Some believe the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle is the most popular baseball card of all-time. A picture-perfect presentation of a star being born in New York, the Mantle card is a favorite of those seeking to invest in sports memorabilia and also of those who understand its significance in the hobby.

Mantle, of course, was immensely popular as a player during the 1950s and 60s and his cards were flipped, traded, shown off, fought over and stuck in bike spokes by thousands of kids.

He won seven World Series rings during his career, all of which was spent playing for the Yankees.  He was a popular speaker and card show guest throughout the 1980s and early 1990s before his death. In fact, Mantle likely made more money just being himself after his career than he did from 1951-1968.

Mickey Mantle 1952 Topps baseball cardThe ’52 Topps Mantle is one of the top three or four  sports cards of all-time  for a virtually never-ending list of reasons, highlighted by a few key factors:

  • It’s Mantle– a living legend who enjoyed immense favor with the baby boomers now edging into retirement.
  • It’s his first Topps card
  • It’s not an easy card to find because Topps dumped many of the final series cards that year into the ocean just to get them out of the warehouse.
  • It’s part of an iconic set that continues to grow in popularity with collectors and investors.
  • It’s proven to be a solid investment.

It was double printed, so we know it’s not the rarest card in the high number series but those factors above outweigh the card’s price guide status as a “DP”.

Always wanted a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle but couldn’t take the plunge?  You’re not alone. It’s a great-looking card; one of those that even casual or non-collecting sports fans are aware of on some level because of the publicity that often accompanies the sale of a high grade copy.

If you’re ready to invest in a 1952 Topps Mantle, we’d recommend some comparison shopping, of course. Knowledge is power and if you know where the market is, you’ll get a better deal.But don’t expect to find one at bargain basement prices. Demand still far outweighs supply.

A NM/MT PSA 8 example broached the $100,000 plateau for the first time in 2009.

In May 2013, one of the two PSA 8.5 (NM/MT+) graded Mantle cards sold via Robert Edward Auctions for $272,500, more than $119,000 higher than the last example which had sold in 2010.  Clearly, it was a great investment.

The bar was raised even further in late 2014 when a PSA 8 Mantle card sold at auction for $268,664, more than twice what the last ‘8’ had sold for at public auction.  2015 will be known as the year the market began to explode.  Sales of four NM/MT PSA 8 examples over the last six months of the year made jaws drop.  The last auction, held on eBay, ended at $486,100, yet another new record price.  Collectors and investors have been chasing down 8s because 9s and 10s rarely come on the market (only three 10s exist–all in private collections).

It’s not hard to consider this card one of the stars of the baseball card investment world.  1952 Topps Mantles are almost always available.  That’s the good news, if you’re not kicking yourself for getting into the game even a year or two ago.

The theory that a ‘rising tide lifts all boats’ has been proven true in the high-grade market for Mantle, but there are enough in the low and mid-grade ranges that if you have the capital, they can be attained at far more pedestrian levels.  Even one grade can make a huge difference in price, assuming the graders to a consistent job, and sometimes a qualifier such as off-center or miscut can impact a grade significantly. Beauty, after all, is still in the eye of the beholder.

Mantle 1952 Topps AuthenticThe general rule on buying vintage baseball cards is to buy the best you can afford. The cards which see the biggest jump in value are almost always those in the highest grades but buying a “5” is usually better than buying a “2”.  Discriminating collectors will pay more for a higher grade and competition is more fierce.

1952 Topps Mantle cards are often found with condition issues, whether it’s poor centering or simply wear from being well-loved.  The good news is that you can own one without a lot of hunting, in virtually any condition and the bottom won’t be dropping out of the market anytime soon.  Look for lower grade examples that may look better than the technical grades.  “Buy the card, not the holder” is good advice when it comes to higher priced cards like this one.  It’s often possible to own a relatively nice looking Mantle that may have had a slight alteration or tiny piece of the back pulled off for less than $15,000. Many Mantle cards are off-center but most agree a centered example, even with flaws, is more attractive than one that’s heavily off-center.

We’d recommend buying only a graded 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle because of the issues with altered cards or those which have been counterfeited.  Even if the graders aren’t uniformly consistent, at least what you see is what you’ll get.  It will also be easier to sell down the road if you must.  Just don’t stick the slab in your bike spokes.

You can click here to see what’s available on eBay and there should be plenty of options.  Remember to buy from a reputable seller and don’t ever agree to a ‘wire transfer’ of funds.