It is only fitting that a higher-grade 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card discovered in a Wisconsin home was enclosed in a box of cheese.
A man who prefers only to be known by his first name of Terry was reunited four years ago with the ’52 Topps card he bought that year. Now, he is putting it up for sale in Heritage Auctions’ Summer Sports Catalog Auction next month. The two-day sale will wrap up in mid-July, and the Mantle card Terry has consigned to the Dallas-based auction house has been graded a PSA 6. In addition, a Pee Wee Reese card from Terry’s group of cards was assigned a PSA 3 grade and will be part of the July auction.
Terry, who turns 82 on June 21, said he believed the Mantle card had been lost years earlier. His older brother was helping their mother clean out the family home after his father’s death in mid-1966 and went into the attic. Upon finding Terry’s collection of baseball cards and comic books, they were unceremoniously tossed.
“It was a team effort,” Terry said. “My brother did all the heavy lifting.”
At least, the Wisconsin resident thought they were all gone.
“I made a humorous comment to my brother, telling him that I was mad that he had thrown out my baseball card collection — including my Mickey Mantle — and comic books,” Terry said. “And he said, ‘Well, I’ve got a Mickey Mantle, is that yours?’”
It was. Terry did not think much about it until six months ago, when he called up his brother and said, in a lighthearted way, ‘That card is mine. Send it up here.”
The Mantle and Reese card, along with the other 10 cards that were preserved, had rested in a crawl space near the living room of the house for 50 years. It was kept safe from the elements in an empty box of Farmdale processed cheese. The product looks similar to a modern-day box of Velveeta.
“(Terry) referenced it when I first met him,” said Tony Giese of Heritage Auctions, who also hails from Wisconsin. “I told him that we definitely wanted to pedigree it, give it a name that would set it apart. Call it the cheese box card.”
Not a bad idea.
Farmdale processed cheese was sold in a two-pound box for 89 cents, according to grocery advertisements from 1952 newspapers. And in the auction listing, Heritage included a photograph of the cheese box, with its original “89” marking in pencil to designate the price.
Farmdale was a popular dairy brand produced by Red Owl Stores, a grocery store chain prominent in Minnesota, Wisconsin and other areas of the Upper Midwest during the 1950s when Terry was growing up.
Fun fact: Sharp-eyed viewers watching the opening sequence of the “Mary Tyler Moore” television show from 1973 to 1977 would notice the Red Owl logo while lead character Mary Richards is shopping at a grocery store (at the 25-second mark).
A lot of 10 cards, which excluded the Mantle and Reese, sold at a recent Heritage Auctions sale, Giese said.
The list included a high-number card of Bill Serena (No. 325) and the high-number rookie cards of Clem Labine (No. 342), Bobby Del Greco (No. 353) and Del Wilber (No. 383). Other cards in the lot included Earl Torgeson (No. 97), Cliff Mapes (No. 103), Peanuts Lowery (No. 111), Carl Scheib (No. 116), Fred Hutchinson (No. 126) and Sheldon Jones (No. 130).
As for the other cards Terry originally had in his collection?
“I talked to my brother today and he said they’re all gone,” Terry said.
Terry said he has always been a collector, even as a youth growing up in Wisconsin.
“I got the collector gene from my parents,” he said. “They collected old glass. We’d go out every Saturday.”
Terry definitely followed in his parents’ footsteps.
“I cannot get my car to go past a flea market or garage sale,” he said.
While Terry had baseball cards growing up, collecting coins was his passion — which he still enjoys. He became intrigued as a youth when he bought a ticket to his town’s municipal swimming pool and was handed a nearly uncirculated 1883 Liberty nickel in change. “And then I was off and running,” Terry said. “That’s how I got started, I got one of those blue Whitman folders.”
Terry knew a great deal about grading from his coin collecting years, so he knew he had a good specimen with the 1952 Mantle card. “The colors are still vibrant,” he said. “And the centering is about 60-40.
“It was never played with. My brother had it in a plastic folder.”
When not collecting, Terry was a star athlete at his small high school. He was a high jumper and won several tournaments, clearing 6 feet at one event.
“There might have been three people in the state who did that at the time,” Terry said.
In basketball, Terry was a 6-foot guard who once poured in 30 points in a December 1958 game, according to newspaper accounts.
After entering the Army in 1961, Terry played basketball overseas in Germany and was part of a U.S. military squad that won a European championship in 1964.
Returning stateside, Terry received his bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. But after graduation, Terry left biology behind and went into manufacturing. He certainly had no interest in dentistry, where his father, grandfather and brother had established practices.
“I did not have the concentration to study for that,” Terry said.
This is Terry, he pulled this Mantle from a pack in 1952. When he joined the Army his mom cleaned out the house and, like so many moms, threw out his comics and baseball cards. But his brother saved this one! 🙌 It’s currently at @PSAcard and will be part of our July Card Auction pic.twitter.com/gnDVRw9qMB
— Heritage Auctions Sports (@Heritage_Sport) June 6, 2023
While working for “three or four” manufacturing companies, Terry and his wife raised four children. They now have 16 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
“I’ve had a pretty normal life,” he said.
Life will become a little more interesting if the Mantle card fetches its projected six-figure price. Heritage Auctions estimates that the card could go as high as $300,000. A similarly graded card was sold by Heritage Auctions on May 13 for $144,000.
That’s a lot of jack — and we’re not talking Colby Jack. Or Monterey Jack, for that matter.
“It’s a fun story,” Giese said about the cheese box cards. “It’s different. It’s interesting. And he’s a nice guy.”
“It’s always been kind of the holy grail,” Terry said. “The market’s kind of on fire now, so I thought, ‘Let’s put it out there and see what happens.’”
And if the card sells, Terry will be more than happy to split the proceeds.
“I’ll call up my brother and share with him. No more than 50%,” Terry joked. “He kept them after all these years and didn’t use them as a dartboard.”