California-based Memory Lane has three of the hobby’s greatest cards in its current auction. Two of them are already well into six figures.
Twenty years ago, famous sports card dealer Alan Rosen, now known as "Mr. Mint", received a phone call from a collector in Quincy, Mass., who had made a huge discovery and needed to know exactly what it was.
What it turned out to be was a rare, and now famous, cache of 5,500 cards from the 1952 Topps Baseball set, which included about 40 of the famous Mickey Mantle cards, in near-perfect shape. Those Mantle cards were worth a few thousand dollars then. Now, one of them graded by PSA as a 9 is proving to be a magnet for big pocket bidders as Memory Lane takes it to auction. Current high bid for the card as of Monday afternoon was $150,500.
Actually the Mantle card is only the second-most famous card in the auction. The most-famous ever – a T206 Honus Wagner – is also in the auction. Graded PSA 2, it ranks it as one of the top seven such cards ever graded by PSA. Bidding for the Wagner card had already topped $225,000.
"This has got to be one of the nicest eye appeal Wagners in the hobby," said J.P. Cohen, Memory Lane’s director of auction consignments. That sentiment was echoed by Roger Cameron, the company’s director of auction marketing. "This is an extremely high-end PSA 2," said Cameron about the card in an evaluation confirmed by a PSA Population Report that shows only a half-dozen Wagners in higher grade out of barely more than two dozen graded by PSA.
The trifecta offered by Memory Lane is completed by one of the most famous football cards in the hobby – a 1935 National Chicle Bronko Nagurski. This card is to football collectors what the Wagner card is to baseballers. Graded PSA 8,it’s tied for the best grade ever for a Nagurski rookie. This card has been in an East Coast collection and out of circulation since 1986, when it was uncovered by the hobby from a private collection. High bid as of Monday was at $18,717.
The 1952 Topps Mantle card from that 1986 find also boasts in its lineage a one-time stop in the famed John Branca Collection. Branca is an entertainment lawyer who has represented some of the great musical talent of the postwar era, including Michael Jackson, Carlos Santana, The Beach Boys, The Doors and The Rolling Stones. He has also established himself as one of the top collectors in the country. John Branca is the nephew and godson of legendary hurler Ralph Branca, who served up "The Shot Heard ‘Round the World" to Bobby Thomson in the 1951 World Series.
Bidding in Memory Lane’s current auction, which includes several hundred high grade cards from the early days of baseball to the modern era, closes December 14.