By Bert Lehman
The T206 Honus Wagner baseball card has long been known as the “Holy Grail” in the hobby. That card now has some company.
A 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card graded PSA NM-MT+ 8.5 recently sold for $1,135,250 in a Heritage Auctions auction that ended Nov. 17. The card is the first $1 million auction sale of a post-World War II baseball card.
Rob Rosen, VP, Sports Private Sales for Heritage Auctions, said the card received bids from 14 different bidders, which he said was a lot considering the card had a starting bid of $250,000. He added that there was plenty of speculation as to how much the card would fetch at auction. Heritage estimated that it would sell for $1 million-plus.
What made this particular card so special.
Rosen said obviously the grade of the card was the main attraction for collectors. He said the unbelievable condition of the card included the white borders, razor sharp edges and the color the card displayed.
There is also history behind this particular card as it was part of the famous “Rosen Find” of pristine 1952 cards that turned up in the 1980s.
Despite the advent of card grading this card went ungraded until the National Sports Collectors Convention this summer in Atlantic City. The card was graded on-site by PSA.
The owner of the card at the time had a bunch of 1952 Topps cards graded, with two of them grading out at 8.5, with the Mantle one of those.
“He (owner of the card) was thrilled,” Rosen said. “He knew the prices, but you never know when it comes to uncharted territory like an 8.5, which has not been auctioned for quite awhile.”
The auction description for the card stated that auctions for NM-MT 8 cards in previous Heritage auctions had surpassed the half-million dollar threshold. The description also indicated that at the time of the auction 44 examples of the 1952 Topps Mantle card had been graded PSA NM-MT 8 or better, but this NM-MT+ 8.5 was one of only 12 that high. Three had received an 8.5 grade, six had received a Mint 9 grade, and three had received a Gem Mint 10 grade.
Rosen said the winning bidder of the NM-MT+ 8.5 Mantle card wanted to remain anonymous.
Rosen said he feels this Mantle card in this grade will continue to increase in value.
“Supply is still way below demand, and I think that will always be the case with this card in a high grade,” he said.
He added that the 1952 Topps Mantle card has surpassed the hobby.
“You don’t have to collect sports memorabilia or baseball cards to want to own that card in high grade,” Rosen said. “It goes past the hobby. As the prices have increased, its drawn the attention of people outside the hobby who aren’t card collectors but they see something special.”
Other graded Mantle cards
With the PSA NM-MT+ 8.5 1952 Topps Mantle card selling for a record amount, Mantles from the same set in lesser grades also sold well. There were 10 other 1952 Topps Mantle cards in the auction. They are listed below, including the final selling price.
- PSA 7: $155,350
- PSA 6: $89,625
- SGC 80: $35,850
- PSA 4.5: $33,460
- PSA 3: $21,510
- SGC Authentic: $20,315
- SGC 3.5: $19,120
- SGC 4: $17,925
- PSA 2: $11,950
- BVG 2: $9,746
Rosen also feels the value of lesser graded examples of the 1952 Topps Mantle card will also continue to rise.
“They’re not growing at the same rates as the 8s and 8.5s and 9s, but they are still increasing in value and I believe will continue to,” Rosen said.