A remarkable childhood stash of baseball cards from the late 1940s and early 50s including a jaw-dropping hoard of five 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle cards will enter the hobby this summer. Heritage Auctions teased the collection via social media last week. Now, the fresh find is heading to auction, including one card that already ranks among the best single best known examples of Mantle’s iconic ’52 Topps issue.
In all, the collection held more than 3,000 cards highlighted by more than 100 higher grade 1952 Topps high numbers including four Jackie Robinsons. There was a Mantle rookie and three Willie Mays rookie from the 1951 Bowman set, two 1948-49 Leaf Robinson rookies and hundreds of other cards, all dating from the early days of post-War bubble gum sets. In all, the collection will turn the cards the retired gentleman’s mother didn’t throw out into a seven-figure windfall.
The consignor called Heritage after reading about the company’s $2.88 million auction of a PSA 9 Mantle last month. Hearing from people who think they have valuable cards is old hat for any auction house but much of the time consignors tend to be overly optimistic or simply don’t understand that not every Mantle card is vintage or that every vintage card isn’t worth a fortune.
“He called me and we talked about 30 minutes and it was a great conversation,” Heritage Consignment Director Lee Iskowitz told Sports Collectors Daily. The man revealed that he’d grown up a Yankee fan in West Hartford, CT, collecting cards every summer for a few years. “Based on what he told me, I became less skeptical about what he had and focused more on what condition they were in. We had spoken on a Wednesday, prior to going to the Boston show in April and made the appointment for the Monday I returned. While in Boston the subject of these cards were discussed many times with (Heritage colleague) Derek Grady and how I wished Monday was here.”
The consignor had decided to dig out his old collection even though at first he thought the $2.88 million price for a baseball card he’d known as a youth couldn’t possibly be right.
“He thought it was a misprint,” Iskowitz stated. “I think he had an idea that they were worth a good amount of money, but to this extent, I do not think so.”
Monday did eventually arrive and Iskowitz met the consignor, who told him he’d grown up in an area where both Yankee and Red Sox fans resided, happily trading his Red Sox cards for Yankees whenever possible. It turned out to be a shrewd move, especially with the triple-printed Mantle in 1952.
“He was never sure about how many Mantles he traded for, but even if it was one, he made out like a bandit,” Iskowitz joked. “When the 1952 season was over, his mother placed them in a box and they went away until now. He really liked the gum out of the packs and kept buying them, because of it. He had no idea that his chewing habit would turn into a windfall like this.”
For decades after his brief stint as a childhood collector, they remained untouched thanks to his mother, who unlike many others of the era, didn’t throw them out.
Even if mom wasn’t the tossing type, kids who collected cards in that era more often than not put rubber bands around them, flipped them, put them in bike spokes and carried them in their pockets. That wasn’t the case with this collection. Iskowitz and his crew wasted little time sorting through the fresh-to-the-hobby collection and pulling out the best of the best.
“Derek and I flew out to California to PSA to submit the five Mantles and a group of other cards to be graded. The Mantles came back a PSA 8.5, 7.5, 7, and 2 5’s. There were some other interesting grades, such as a 1952 Topps Campanella PSA 9, 1952 Topps High Number PSA 9’s and other less extraordinary examples like 1952 Topps Mays PSA 7, PSA 6, PSA 5.5, 1951 Bowman Mays PSA 6.5, PSA 5, 1952 Topps Robinson PSA 7.5, PSA 7, PSA 7, PSA 6.”
Heritage sold the last PSA 8.5 for $1,135,250 in 2016. PSA 7 Mantles have been selling for over $100,000. Beyond the five Mantles, the other cards in the collection could sell for $200,000-$300,000 when the auction wraps up this summer. Bidding will begin in late June.