One of the six 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle cards graded PSA 9 (mint) has a new owner–at a new record price. Late Thursday night, the card offered through Heritage Auctions sold for $2.88 million including the buyer’s premium. It’s the most ever paid for a post-World War II trading card.
Owned for about two years by collector/dealer/former NFL lineman Evan Mathis, the card generated significant national publicity after it was revealed as a consignment in early March.
While it fell short of the $3.5 million pre-sale estimate, the card’s selling price again illustrates the remarkable and continuing increase in value for some of collecting’s most popular vintage cards. The last time a PSA 9 ’52 Mantle was offered in 2006, it sold for “only” $282,588 (the equivalent of $349,017 today). The previous record for a 1952 Topps Mantle card was $1.13 million in 2016, but that was for an example graded PSA Near Mint-Mint Plus 8.5. In 2016, a T206 Honus Wagner, considered the ‘holy grail’ of baseball cards sold for $3.12 million,which remains the highest price ever paid for a single card.
“The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card captures the attention of baseball fans, serious collectors, and investors alike and this auction made it one of the most valuable sports collectibles in existence,” said Chris Ivy, Director of Sports Auctions at Heritage. “It’s a phenomenal price, a world record, but it’s also the natural progression of a trend we’ve seen building for years.” Said Ivy, “More and more investors understand that elite collectibles are an asset with that rare tandem of low risk and high reward. As more investment capital has entered the market, record prices have self-perpetuated.”
“The fact that the last PSA Mint 9 example was auctioned for $282,588 in 2006 shows the tremendous gains that high-end, iconic sports collectibles have generated during the last 12 years,” stated PSA President Joe Orlando.
The card is also the fourth most expensive piece of sports memorabilia ever sold at auction, trailing only the $4.4 million paid for an early Babe Ruth Yankees jersey in 2012, the Wagner card and Mark McGwire’s 70th home run ball, which sold in 1999.
The card likely originated with a 1986 find by Alan “Mr. Mint” Rosen, who purchased several thousand 1952 Topps high numbers from a man in Massachusetts. At the time, several years before the advent of professional grading services, Rosen sold the highest quality Mantle cards for $3,500 each.
Mathis considered the card the best of his high-grade card collection. He sold it to finance a new home in Tennessee.
On Wednesday, Mathis talked with ESPN’s Bob Ley about the card, his passion for collecting and more.
A PSA 8 Mantle is currently being offered by Robert Edward Auctions and had a high bid of $216,000 including the 20% buyer’s premium as of Thursday afternoon.
The first Mantle card ever issued by Topps, it came out the same year that “The Mick” won his second of seven World Series rings with the Bronx Bombers. It was a season in which he clubbed 23 home runs, registered 87 RBI and batted .311 while patrolling center field at Yankee Stadium.
Mantle’s true rookie card, the 1951 Bowman, doesn’t carry quite the mystique. A PSA 9 example sold in the same Heritage Auction as the 1952 Topps card, netting $750,000. The third highest selling card in Friday’s portion of the two-day event was a 1916 Babe Ruth rookie card graded PSA 7 which sold for $384,000.
The auction continues with more lots scheduled to close Friday night at HA.com.