There was once a time when autographs on valuable vintage sports cards was seen as a detriment. The object, some felt, was to collect the cards as they were when they came out of the pack. Sharp corners, good centering and no ink on the front; not even by a Hall of Famer’s own hand.
That’s not the case anymore.
Jaws dropped a little over a week ago when Memory Lane sold a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle, signed in blue Sharpie, for $97,200. An autographed ’53 Mantle went for $14,935.
Mantle did dozens of autograph sessions from the early 1980s through the early 90s so there isn’t a shortage of his autographs in the market, despite the fact that he died relatively young in 1995.
The dearth of authentic signed early Mantle baseball cards in the market harkens back to those old show days when collectors and dealers gravitated toward having him sign photos, magazine covers, bats or baseballs rather than cards. The advice some collectors got about devaluing their old cards by using them for autographs was sometimes ignored, though, and as David Seideman from Forbes.com writes, the folks who got them signed are now seeing them rise in value at a rapid pace.