Forty-five years ago today, Mickey Mantle announced he was retiring from baseball.
His 1969 Topps card had already been printed and thus serves as a tidy summary of his remarkable career with each year’s stats printed on the back. However, when collectors talk to mainstream media members one card usually comes up in every discussion among cards to own: the 1952 Topps Mantle #311 high number (scarce series) second year card. Many refer to this card as a rookie card since that was his first Topps appearance. However, his true rookie card is the 1951 Bowman, another high number (scarce series) card printed during the late summer the previous year, not long after his arrival in the big leagues.
This card is in its own way almost as important as the 1952 Topps Mantle not only because the card was issued the year before but because Willie Mays also had a rookie card in the 1951 high number series. In the 1950’s, almost every New York City kid would argue who was better: Mantle or Mays? Well, the answer in today’s world is probably a draw. Mays was probably the better player but the Yankees won more pennants and thus Mantle would receive national publicity each October while playing in the World Series. Not only did Mantle play in 12 World Series, but he set a record for most World Series homers. Clutch, he was.
However, in 1951 for both Mantle and Mays the future was far away and the present was bringing both of them to the World Series as rookies. For New York fans who were lucky enough to be able to purchase those last series of Bowman cards, the next two decades of baseball excellence was staring them in their faces.
Thus, the 1951 Bowman Mantle Rookie Card (#253) which leads off the high number series is our eBay Card of the Day. While even non-collectors know about the 1952 Topps Mantle, the Bowman is almost as important and even has more of a coolness factor. One of my former mates at Beckett whose dad was born on the day of Mickey Mantle’s major league debut has this one high on his wish list. There are several on eBay, including this very nice PSA 3 that might be within your reach.
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Do you have a card you feel is the highlight of your collecting and wish to be featured in our EBay card of the day feature? If so, please let us know and include your name and hometown so we can feature your holy grail. I can be reached at [email protected].