He remains the gold standard when it comes to collector (and investor) popularity. For those who buy and sell the best of the best, the market for Mickey Mantle cards continues to sizzle. Armed with a list of Mantle’s base cards from 1951-1969 and our calculating friend Alexa (a highly underrated device in her own right), we crunched the numbers to make some observations. Because pricing can fluctuate so much from year to year, we’re focusing mostly on population comparisons here as percentages aren’t likely to change a great deal in the future.
We wanted to know the percentage of NM/MT, MT and Gem Mint Mantle cards as it relates to the total number of cards graded. Those numbers reveal more than a few interesting tidbits.
To keep it simple, we used only PSA’s Population Report for cards with no grade qualifiers, but we’d expect the numbers from SGC and Beckett to fall pretty much in line. We used the pop numbers for cards graded 8, 9 and 10 (very few 10s exist in any year and some years have none). The percentages have been rounded up or down slightly so they are more digestible.
The complete chart by year is below, but here are a few nuggets to chew on first:
- While high-grade examples are far from cheap, the 1951 Bowman Mantle rookie card still seems like a tremendous bargain compared to the much more publicized 1952 Topps. While PSA has graded only 1,524 1952 Topps Mantle cards in all as of right now, they’ve only graded 337 more ’51s. There are only 14 more ’51 Bowman Mantles in 8, 9 or 10 than there are ’52 Topps yet the price disparity remains overwhelmingly in favor of the ’52. Obviously, it’s got a great story behind it and the ’52 set is far more popular but the gap between the two still seems a bit illogical–especially considering the Bowman is Mantle’s true rookie card.
- The 1952 Topps, 1953 Topps, 1954 Bowman and 1955 Bowman have the lowest overall percentage of high-grade cards with each year showing 3.1 or 3.2% of the overall population in 8, 9 or 10.
- The 1956 Topps Mantle is considered by many to be his best looking card but it’s relatively plentiful compared to other 1950s Mantle cards, with over 6,600 cards on PSA’s report alone and 430 of them graded 8, 9 or 10 (6.5%).
- The number of graded cards would indicate that 1956 marked a huge increase in the number of cards produced compared to prior years. More than double and close to three times as many ’56 Mantles have been graded compared to most of the issues from 1951-55.
- For those wanting the oldest Mantle for the lowest price, look to the relatively high populations of 1956, 1961 and 1964.
- While there’s a sizeable percentage of ’65 Mantles (11.6%) graded 8-10, the total number of unqualified cards graded would seem to indicate ’65s in general are somewhat tough to find, especially compared to 1966 (4,198 ’65 Mantles compared to 7,809 ’66s on the pop report). When ’65s are found, however, they’ve generally been higher grade.
- 1961 Topps stands out for the sheer number of high-grade Mantles compared to surrounding years with 9.7% graded 8-10–more than double the number of ’62s (those wood grain borders!).
- There is a remarkably small number of 1958 and especially 1962 Topps Mantle cards compared to others in the last half of his career. PSA has graded only 190 ’62 Mantles at the highest levels and just 235 ’58s. For comparison, a 1958 Mantle should be worth at least 2-3 times what a ’61 should go for.
- 1968 Topps represents the best chance of finding a high-grade Mantle at a lower price with 15% of the nearly 9,000 graded Mantles in 8, 9 or 10.
- A PSA 9 1967 Topps Mantle sold late last week through Mile High Card Company for a whopping record price of $14,551.78. Considering that year actually represents the second highest percentage of high-grade Mantle base cards of any year, it could signal good things for ALL high-grade Mantle cards (or maybe the buyer just really wanted it).
- The number of high-grade Mantle cards takes a big jump from 1966 to ’67 and ’67 to ’68.
- Mantle’s last card–the 1969 Topps–is not as plentiful as you might think with fewer than half the number of 9s compared to the previous year and a less than 10% of all graded Mantle cards from that year rating 8-10. We calculated only the standard yellow letter version, by the way. The white letter Mantles are very tough to find in top-notch condition.
Percentage of Mickey Mantle cards graded PSA 8-10 by year
|1968 Topps||15.0 %|
You can check the current inventory of Mickey Mantle cards on eBay here.