The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle PSA 9 card in Heritage’s recent auction sold last week. The card, as expected, broke all kinds of records and sold for $2.88 million. It was the headliner in the auction and that amount was a record for a post-war card.
In fact, it was the second highest amount a card has ever sold for at all. It’s an astonishing price for a post-war card and one that a different could would find challenging to top. The one thing the Mantle couldn’t do, however, was top the $3.12 million a Honus Wagner T206 graded a PSA 5 (MC) back in 2016.
As I wrote before, while the Mantle 1952 Topps card is heavily desirable, pound for pound, it’s nowhere near the Wagner in terms of prestige. That’s no knock on the Mantle card, but it’s just far more plentiful (likely by about 15 or 20 times) and the Wagner is about 40 years older. Realistically, all things being equal, the Mantle now 20 years from now, or likely ever, won’t be able to catch Wagner.
The Wagner has long held the title of the world’s most expensive baseball card and I’m sort of happy to see that continue. Had the Mantle broke Wagner’s record, it would have been seen by most in the non-collecting community as the ‘top’ baseball card and that would be pretty far off the mark. Consider that this Mantle is a nearly perfect PSA 9 while the Wagner that sold for more than $3 million is a heavily flawed card the equivalent of about a PSA 3 due to the miscut designation. Match up a Mantle card in a similar grade and you’re talking somewhere in the ballpark of $10,000 or $20,000 (a PSA 4(MK) sold last year for about $9,356 while straight PSA 3s have mostly been in the $15,000 – $20,000 range).
However, while I didn’t necessarily want to see the Wagner top Honus, I am extremely glad to see it sell for a large amount. That’d be true if it was any card – an 1800s Old Judge card, a 2018 Lebron James card, or a Pokemon card, for that matter.
I don’t personally collect newer cards but as I’ve said before, stuff like that is great for the hobby in general and hopefully leads to more collectors. Any collectors, whether they chase 19th Century cards or 2018 Topps, are good for the hobby. I know that some collectors hate the idea of flippers coming into the industry or collectors pursuing off-the-wall stuff. But more collectors in the hobby always means more demand and more demand equates to more value of cards in general. I’ll take any collector in the hobby, regardless of what they personally collect or don’t collect.
Back to the Mantle, PSA has graded three of his 1952 Topps cards as gem mint PSA 10s. Should one of those hit the market anytime in the near future, it would likely topple Wagner. I’m really interested to see if that draws any of those out now with prices at an all-time high. New Mantles are still being discovered and with a whopping 1,600 examples that have been graded alone, I’ve always wondered if the card was due for a bit of a fall. Time will tell, I suppose.