Record smasher: 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card sets sports memorabilia mark at $12.6M

Mickey Mantle was known for hitting one of the longest home runs in MLB history, a 565-foot smash in 1953. Early Sunday, the Mick connected for a record-breaker among sports memorabilia collectors.

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The mint 1952 Topps baseball card of Mantle, which was graded 9.5 out of 10 by Sportscard Guaranty Corp. (SGC), set the record for the most ever paid for any sports card, item or piece of memorabilia, ESPN reported. The card sold during the first session of Heritage Auctions’ Summer Platinum Night Sports Auction.

The old mark for a sports memorabilia sale was set less than four months ago when Sotheby’s sold the 1986 World Cup jersey worn by Diego Maradona during his “Hand of God” and “Goal of the Century” performances, Sports Collectors Daily reported. The Mantle card also took back the record for a baseball card, which was set three weeks ago when a Honus Wagner T206 baseball card from 1909-11 sold for $7.25 million in a private sale brokered by Goldin Auctions.

“This card is arguably the finest-condition example of the most iconic post-war card in the world,” Chris Ivy, Heritage Auctions’ 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.”

According to Heritage Auctions, the card was purchased by an anonymous baseball fan from Rye, New York, The New York Times reported.

Mantle, who hit 536 home runs for the Yankees and appeared in 12 World Series, died in 1995.

It is the third time in 12 months that the record for a sports card has been broken. The Wagner card that sold for $7.25 million earlier this month broke a mark set by a different Wagner T206 card, which sold for $6.606 million in August 2021 by Robert Edward Auctions.

A different 1952 Topps Mantle card sold for $5.2 million in January 2021 by PWCC Marketplace to actor Rob Gough.

Originally sold by famed sports memorabilia dealer Alan “Mr. Mint” Rosen to collector Anthony Giordano for $50,000 at a card show in 1991, this 1952 Mantle card was being offered at auction for the first time, according to Sports Collectors Daily. It had remained ungraded since Giordano, the president of a recycling and solid waste business in New Jersey bought it, but earlier this year it went to SGC after Heritage took over the consignment.

A forklift operator told Rosen in 1986 that a truck driver friend had 1952 Topps cards for sale, ESPN reported. Ted Lodge had inherited a home from his late father and stumbled upon a fortune in pristine condition.

The cards bought by Rosen were still in the original case, Sports Collectors Daily reported. They had been put away by Lodge’s family; the man had worked for Grayco, a toy distributor, in the 1950s. After learning the man had several thousand 1952 Topps cards, Rosen borrowed $25,000 from another dealer, hired a security officer and drove to Massachusetts with $150,000 in cash.

Rosen said he counted 75 Mantle cards among the huge stacks of cards.

“My hands were shaking. It was like going on a pirate ship and discovering boxes of gold,” Rosen said in a 2007 interview. “I took the cards outside and sniffed them. I was just so unsure of spending all that money. I didn’t know if they were real or not. I go in the kitchen and there’s the original case. Couldn’t believe it.”

Rosen, who died in 2017, sold Giordano the card at a New York City card show in 1991 for $50,000, according to Sports Collectors Daily.

“An eight-figure auction result in the sports market was the stuff of fantasy just a decade ago,” Ivy said in a statement. “We always knew this card would shatter records and expectations. But that doesn’t make it any less of a thrill to be part of an auction during which a single item breaks the eight-figure threshold for the first time. It’s an extraordinary accomplishment for our wonderful team of sports experts at Heritage Auctions. And, of course, we could not have done it without our consignor, Anthony Giordano, who put his trust in Heritage to bring this amazing card to market.”