The baseball strike of 1981 lasted two months, right in the heart of the season. It was the fifth such work stoppage since 1972 and by mid-June, with no resolution in sight, fans were steaming mad. Despite the arrival of two new players, Fleer and Donruss, the baseball card industry took some licks because of the anger.
We’re not quite sure how burning a 1952 Mickey Mantle card expressed the collective disgust of the modern day player’s efforts to uphold new victories in free agency, but it was the way one man did it.
David Cartier took a lighter and let loose on the hobby’s most valuable post-War card as a crowd of onlookers and photographers gathered around a big fire pit. Other collectors pitched their cards too and by the time the Mantle match was lit, there were supposedly over 64,000 cards in the bonfire.
The story generated a lot of buzz but the strike didn’t end until the end of July and players didn’t return to work until the 1981 All-Star Game, which was pushed back to August 9 in Cleveland.
Reports indicated the Mantle card was worth around $1,500 at the time. While the condition of the card isn’t known, it looks fairly respectable. A PSA 6 goes for about $20,000 these days.
Even adjusting for economic factors, that’s one expensive piece of kindling.