When you spot a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card in “7” condition at a starting bid of less than a dollar, you can expect — if we may make an extreme understatement — at least a few bids. In reality, there’s virtually no chance that such a treasure will slip buy the zillions of Mantle fans out there and fall to you for a few bucks. But why not try? Lots of collectors had that exact thought last month. Here’s what happened.
On Dec. 18, eBay seller Probstein123 put up a ’52 Mantle graded GAI 7 with a tantalizingly low opening bid: 99 cents. Alas, it took just two hours for the prized card to hit four figures — and less than one day for it to hit five figures. From there, it took off like a team of reindeer. On Christmas night, bidding hit $47,000, and on the last day of the listing, Dec. 26, a flurry of bids pushed it past $50,000… past $55,000… past $60,000… and past $65,000.
Finally, after 196 bids, the virtual hammer dropped and the card stood at $68,100. No, it’s not a record for the card, not by a long shot (in November 2016, Heritage Auctions sold a PSA 8.5 version of the card for $1.1 million). But this eBay auction nevertheless was an impressive sale.
MORE MICK: THAT ’65 BEAUTY
The big attractions within the Mickey Mantle card catalog are the aforementioned 1952 Topps issue and his 1951 Bowman. But there are so many other gems among the Mantle baseball cards issued during his stellar career…. There’s his short-print 1953 Topps issue, for example, and his 1957 card (with that ghosted image in the background), and there’s his final player card — the majestic 1969 Topps classic bearing his full career stats plus the announcement of his retirement on the reverse.
For pure aesthetics, though, how about Mantle’s 1965 Topps issue? That one has the look of a prototypical 1960s baseball card, thanks to its bright colors; pure baseball design (complete with a yellow Yankees pennant extending from the lower left corner); and perfect photograph. The image captures The Magnificent Yankee in a muscular post-swing pose where he might just be gripping the sawdust out of his bat.
Just before Christmas, a collector bought himself a Mint-condition example of the ’65 Mantle, winning an eBay war that elicited 120 bids. Winning price: $17,100. With its PSA 9 grade, this example is as good as you’ll find in terms of condition; PSA has reported no 10-grade examples among the untold numbers of cards it has authenticated.
WHERE HAVE YOU GONE, JERRY RICE?
It’s hard to believe Jerry Rice has been retired from football for 12 years now. The legendary receiver left his mark all over the NFL record book, and still ranks as the game’s all-time leader in receptions (1,549), receiving yards (22,895), touchdowns (208), receiving touchdowns (197), all-purpose yards (23,546) and yards from scrimmage (23,540).
We’re reminded of Rice because of an eBay listing that closed on Dec. 19 after 67 bids: an autographed 49ers game-used home jersey that sold for $11,350. The distinctive No. 80 jersey, a size 46 NFL Pro Line Reebok, had been authenticated by JSA and Grey Flannel.
According to provenance, the jersey ended up with Rice’s teammate, Merton Hanks, who carried it out of the locker room after a well-celebrated win in 1998. In fact, one of the jersey’s defining (and fun) characteristics is the heavy staining it bears from being doused with champagne during the team’s celebration.
BRYCE: BIG AGAIN IN ’17?
Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals won the National League MVP award in 2015 by hitting .330 with 42 HRs, 118 runs and 99 RBI. He followed it up with a comparatively dismal season in 2016; his average dropped to .243, his HR total to 24, his RBI total to 86 and his runs total to 84.
Don’t be surprised, however, if the lefty-hitting slugger bounces back in 2017. It may seem like he’s been around for many years (in fact, he’ll be entering his sixth Major League Baseball season this spring), but remember that he’s only 24 years old — and he won’t turn 25 until around World Series time next season. (And who knows? Maybe he’ll be playing in the Fall Classic.)
Collectors certainly haven’t given up on Harper. A week before Christmas, a collector outlasted 26 other bids to win a 2011 Bowman Chrome autographed Gold Refractor Harper card for $3,250. Also in December, a 2011 Bowman Chrome autographed Blue Refractor card sold for $2,850. Both cards had drawn BGS grades of 10, with a 9.5 for the signatures.
Also, a good-looking 2016 Topps Dynasty card of Harper — a signed 1-of-1 card bearing an MLB patch — sold for $1,348 on 42 bids.
SEALED AND SWEET
If unopened vintage wax gets you excited, you’ll love this one: a full box of 1968 Topps football cards. On eBay, just such a treasure turned up recently, selling for $12,796. The box, containing 24 packs of Series 2 cards, had been authenticated and sealed by Baseball Card Exchange.
Series 2 of Topps’ classic and colorful 1968 set includes such gems as Bob Griese’s rookie card (which by itself can sell for $1,000 to $1,300 if in Mint condition) and Floyd Little’s rookie card. It also includes a who’s-who selection of NFL stars of the day, among them Hall of Famers Fran Tarkenton, Mike Ditka, Ray Nitschke, Jim Taylor, Larry Wilson, Buck Buchanan, Len Dawson and Mike Ditka, plus some of the great wide receivers of all time: Don Maynard, Lance Alworth, Fred Biletnikoff and Charley Taylor.
Quarterback Jack Kemp also appears in the series; at the time a QB for Buffalo, Kemp was also a future Congressman who ran for President in 1988; served on President George H.W. Bush’s cabinet from 1989–1993; and was Bob Dole’s Vice-Presidential running mate in 1996.
Series 2 also included a popular stand-up insert card. Each one, when un-perforated, unfolded into a die-cut image that stood up on a base. They’re not easy to find in Mint condition, but the box mentioned here includes 24 untouched examples. The set of stand-ups includes 22 different players, among them Namath, Little, Sonny Jurgensen and Dandy Don Meredith. Stand-ups typically sell for $25 to $100, depending on the player (with Namath at the high end).