Heritage Auctions shocked the trading card world on July 26, when it listed a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card for sale. The card, which was given a grade of 9.5 from grader SGC and dubbed the “finest known example” of a 1952 Mantle, quickly became the thing of legend among collectors everywhere -- all of whom began to wonder how high the bidding would go for such an illustrious card.
They got their answer on Saturday, when Heritage Auctions sold the card for $12.6 million -- making it the most anyone has ever paid for any sports item, card or memorabilia. The transaction topped the $7.25 million sale of a T206 Honus Wagner card from earlier this month.
"This card is arguably the finest-condition example of the most iconic post-war card in the world," Chris Ivy, Heritage's director of sports auctions, said in a statement. "That grade, plus the fact it has documented provenance from the most storied find in hobby history, puts this card in a category of its own."
While a 1952 Mickey Mantle has always been one of the most sought-after baseball cards, this specific card comes with additional fanfare because it’s from the collection of Alan “Mr. Mint” Rosen -- a New Jersey collector who has become a legend in card collecting circles due to his collection of 1952 Topps cards.
Rosen’s journey with the Mantle card started in the 1980s, when he received a call from a local man who claimed to have a collection of mint 1952 Topps cards that came from his dad. While Rosen didn’t believe the caller, he figured he’d do his due diligence and check. When Rosen arrived, he quickly realized the caller hadn’t been lying and paid $125,000 for 5,500 cards -- with this Mickey Mantle card being among the haul.
After almost immediately selling the Mantle for $1,000, Rosen bought it back in 1991 and flipped it again for $50,000 to Anthony Giordano. Now, some 30 years later, Giordano and his sons put the card up for auction, where it sold for $12.55 million more than they bought it for.
In 1952, Mantle earned his first career All-Star berth, when he hit .311 with 23 home runs and had 87 RBIs to go with an AL-leading 111 walks and an OPS+ of 162 on a World Series champion Yankees squad.
Mantle went on to play for 16 more years, where he tallied three MVPs, five more World Series rings and a Triple Crown, among other accolades.
Another 1952 Mantle (albeit one graded a PSA 9) sold for $5.2 million in January 2021, which set a record at the time.