You see the headlines. Probably read some of them right here. High grade Mickey Mantle cards selling for five and sometimes six figure prices. It can be enough to scare anyone off. Maybe you're interested in a lesser grade Mantle or two...but what to buy? Here are some ideas for building a collection of five of The Mick's best looking cards, in respectable condition, for less than $2500.
- 1952 Bowman (EX). You'll hear plenty about the 1952 Topps Mantle. His first Topps card. Part of the scarce series. Half of them probably wound up at the bottom of the Atlantic ocean when they didn't sell. It's the holy grail not named Wagner. The '51 Bowman? His true rookie card. Face it, Bowman was first to put Mantle on cardboard and sell him with gum. So what's wrong with Mantle's second year card--the one issued before the '52 Topps? Not a darn thing. Not when you can buy an early Mantle in "5" type condition--no creases--for $800-1,000. In our humble opinion, this card still has plenty of financial growth hidden in there somewhere, too. Terrific card at a terrific price.
- 1957 Topps (NM). Many believe Mantle's 1956 Topps card is his best. It's hard to argue. Great, smiling face shot with an action picture in the background and issued in his Triple Crown season. It's also a little overpriced. The 1957 Topps issue shows Mantle at 25, in his prime, taking a practice cut. It's the year Topps moved to standard sized cards. You can read all about his incredible '56 season on the back and see those amazing stats. For collectors, the '57 Topps set is like a '57 Chevy. It gets undying love from its fans. You can grab a near mint, graded example for between $750-850. Compared to the earlier Mantles, that's a pretty good price.
- 1960 Topps (NM). Topps went back to the horizontal format in '60 and captured Mantle, again with a grin on his face, against a classic Yankee Stadium backdrop. Pick this card up and you'll stare at it for a good couple of minutes. It launched the last decade of Mantle's career, but he was far from done. A nice near mint copy will cost you around $400-450.
- 1961 Topps MVP (NM). 1961 was the Maris-Mantle home run battle. The Yankees were in the midst of five straight World Series trips and Mantle was the guy who helped carry them on his back. It's not a regular issue card, but every Mantle collection should include one Topps card that just celebrates his achievements and this one has a reasonable price. A very nice near mint '61 Mantle MVP (celebrating his honors from a few years earlier) can be had for $150-200. Considering the classic look--a strong-looking veteran with the bat on the shoulder of his home white pinstripes--this card is a terrific deal.
- 1964 Topps Giants (NM-MT). Is it hard to find? No. There was a large stash of these that made its way into the hobby and has kept prices for what is a wonderful, gorgeous little set, very low. You can buy the Mantle from this set, graded nm-mt, for $75-100. Not only that, but the card represents the end of the Mantle era Yankee dynasty. Later Mantle cards will cost you more than any others, but that's just because, it's...well...Mantle. This card is the last link to the Mantle that millions of kids emulated.
There you have it. Five Mantle cards you can aspire to own without skipping mortgage payments. Tackle them one at a time and you'll appreciate a little slice of the guy who still drives the hobby forward to this day.