It’s the post-War card every collector dreams of owning. Finding a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle for sale gets the mind quickly into calculation mode, wondering if it’s possible to actually one one. The card has been catalogued, scrutinized, fawned over and chased by collectors who want to own the one that put the Topps Company on the map and kept it there. Its value soared in the 1990s as publicity overshadowed the fact that it’s actually a double print.
The supply, even though it’s greater than most other high numbers in ’52, can’t meet the demand and that’s why prices have remained strong. Topps’ first Mantle card has often been discussed as an investment vehicle, too. If you can buy one at the right price, sometimes you can flip it for a profit. The staggering price increases that came as the hobby exploded, disappeared for awhile but have come back with a vengeance. Anyone who bought a quality 1952 Topps Mantle even a year or two ago, has seen exceptional returns–better than most stocks.
The greatest price fluctuations have come in the middle to higher grade cards, encapsulated by the grading companies.
Why prices dropped in the VG-EX to Near Mint range a few years ago is hard to say. Since those cards require a significant amount of disposable income, it’s possible those who bought them several years ago suddenly found themselves short of cash during a still wobbly economy and decided to cash in while collectors who didn’t have as much invested were able to hang on. Collectibles are hot and the philosophy of buying the ‘best of the best’ has never been more appropriate. Mantle’s first Topps card certainly falls into that category. It is the most iconic card Topps has ever produced–almost always among the ‘most watched’ vintage baseball cards on eBay.
Prices have been strong. In December 2014, a PSA 8 (NM/MT) example sold for $268,665, about 3 1/2 times what it had sold for just two years earlier. Sales of NM 7s have been somewhat volatile over the past few years but a sale in May of 2014 for $46,250 is likely the new ‘low’ bar.
The EX/MT 6 copies saw huge growth from the fall of 2012 to late 2013 with the most recent sale, in May 2015 at a whopping $52,580. In April, an SGC 80 (6) sold for $63,795. That may be a high water mark–or just a sign. Generally, cards rated ‘6’ had been available for $30,000-$35,000. Finding one a little above that price range may not be possible anymore but it’s worth a look. A ‘6’ is still an awfully nice example.
Since November 2014, the cheapest ‘5’ (EX) sold for $20,499 with two recent sales passing $30,000. Again, a nicely centered EX 1952 Mantle is still a solid investment if past trends are any indication.
With higher price points on higher grade examples, investors without deep pockets are focusing on the lower end, keeping a watch for cards that are well-centered with good eye appeal.
PSA 4’s have nearly doubled in price over the last three years, with most now hitting $20,000 and up. This might be another potential avenue toward ownership since most sales were still in the $12,000-$15,000 range in 2014 and finding one not far above that might still be possible with a motivated seller. Cards graded ‘3’ have also doubled in three years with $14,000-$15,000 now the going rate. PSA 2s, which were never more than $7,000 as late as mid-2013 are now $10,000 and up, with set collectors still hoping to land a decent looking card without taking out a second mortgage. In April, an SGC 30 (2) sold for $13,500.
Cards graded Poor and Authentic are also going up but not as fast. Still, they may soon be the only condition an average collector can even hope to afford.
Of course, the selling price for higher end cards always depends on the quality of that particular card. Not every ‘7’ is created equal. Still, the numbers are eye-opening enough to indicate prices will continue to climb. For those who have always wanted a 1952 Topps Mantle but were afraid to take the plunge or simply like a good investment, it’s hard to bet against Mickey. With mainstream exposure bringing more fresh money into the market, it’s certainly possible those prices will continue their upward climb.
Several 1952 Topps Mantle cards are usually available on eBay at any given time. See authentic, graded examples here.