Long before the days of the internet, sports cards were one of the only ways for the public to have access to their favorite athletes’ images, statistics, and biography. For rookies, these cards often introduced hot new players to the masses. Once the internet was in every home in the ‘90s, card companies focused less on player information and more on exclusivity. Yet, with stats now at the fingertips of fans, old cards still held a particular cachet, for both their history and rareness. Not only were many childhood collections thrown away by rummaging mothers who didn’t understand, but the printed cardboard was released at a time when archiving wasn’t really on the minds of the 10-year-old collectors who threw them in shoeboxes or bicycle spokes.
In 1952, Topps released a set of baseball cards, considered the first modern-day set, establishing the standard for the hobby for decades. The crown jewel of that set was one that held the visage of New York Yankees legend Mickey Mantle — erroneously, albeit colloquially, referred to as his rookie card. Nonetheless, it’s arguably the most coveted piece of cardboard ever, regardless of its condition. This month, a beautiful example is being auctioned off on Heritage Auctions, with bidding already at a record-breaking $7,440,000 (including buyer’s premium) with over two weeks left. The previous record for any sports card was a Honus Wagner circa 1910 that went for $6.6 million back in 2021, whereas the highest ‘52 Mantle ever sold was for $5.2 million during that same year.
The current Heritage Auction example already broke a sports card record of its own back in 1991 when its current consignor bought it for…$49,500. He purchased it off of Alan Rosen, who originally acquired it amongst a large lot of 5,500 Topps cards in the ‘80s — 75 of which were ‘52 Mantles in mint condition. The one up for auction today is the finest of the lot according to Rosen, who was arguably the leading expert in old sports cards during his lifetime. This specific card in question wasn’t officially graded until this summer when it garnered a pristine 9.5 via SGC.
If you would like to own the most expensive sports card of all time, you have until August 24 to make a bid on this 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle rookie card via Heritage Auctions, where it’s estimated to finish upwards of $10 million.