April 2016 Exclusive 200-Lot "Black Magic" Premium Auction
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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 4/30/2016

Leading off our Spring Premium "Black Magic" auction is a card that requires no introduction. (We here at Small Traditions, however, will provide it with one anyway—it's what we do!) The 1951 Bowman baseball set is the stuff hobby legends are made of. With its 324 cards, not only was the set the largest mainstream offering since the days of T206, but it contained the rookie cards of future Cooperstown inductees Whitey Ford, Nellie Fox, Monte Irvin, and—most importantly—Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle.

It is the Mick, however, who stands alone as king of the post-war sports card world. "Mickey Mantle is, quite simply, the most widely collected figure in the hobby," notes Professional Sports Authenticator's website. The muscular, blonde-haired kid from Oklahoma came to New York in 1951 to play baseball. He became the boyhood hero for the entire Baby Boomer generation. Those kids, of course, grew up to become the doctors, lawyers, and CEOs who have been the driving force behind the exponential growth of the Mantle cardboard market. In recent years, the prices for high-grade specimens of these precious relics of mid-century nostalgia have been absolutely skyrocketing, especially for the Mick's two key cards: his iconic 1952 Topps card and his 1951 Bowman rookie.

These dramatic value increases, while most eye-popping at the high end, have trickled down to mid-grade Mantles. The price data at Vintage Card Prices, the hobby's go-to compendium for sales figures, confirms this trend, with average prices for mid-grade PSA 5 EX examples increasing, as follows:

2012: $3,810
2013: $4,670
2014: $4,744
2015: $5,920
2016: $7,523

That is nearly a $4,000 average increase for an unqualified PSA 5 Mantle RC in a four-year span, confirming what most hobbyists already know: ball cards are back! Enter the important card up for bids in this lot: a mid-grade Mantle masterpiece that exhibits many of the attributes of some of the hobby's top examples and may very well double the average prices paid for the same card in the same grade in recent years. The image, a classic shot of the young switch hitter batting in front of a blue sky backdrop, is bold and colorful with minimal toning. Importantly, it is very well-centered, 35/65 top-to-bottom and a perfect 50/50 left-to-right. One corner, the top right from a horizontal perspective, shows wear consistent with the PSA EX 5 grade, while the other points qualify for near mint or even higher. In fact, if not for this single corner, the card would very likely have graded PSA 7 NM overall. The reverse is free of gum or wax stains and is nearly as remarkable for its overall resplendence as is the front. Indeed, the crispness and cleanliness of the obverse image is the card's most striking feature. We are of the opinion that there is not a more finely registered likeness of the Mick on a '51 Bowman than that of this card, anywhere, in any grade. (Check out our supersized scans and see for yourself—simply click the magnifying glass icon on the image.)

If you can't afford the five- and six-figure price tags of the #1 card on your Mantle want list—Mickey's 1952 Topps high-number—then we strongly recommend you invest in what is essentially Mantle card #1A. Not only is this 1951 Bowman pasteboard the Commerce Comet's only true rookie, but the reality is that the Bowman rookie card is nearly just as scarce as the world famous 1952 Topps #311 card produced the following year. Compare 1,312 copies of the Bowman rookie with 1,149 of the infamous Topps card, or in the EX 5 grade from PSA, 229 of the former versus 162 of the latter. Despite these comparable numbers, far fewer mid-grade specimens of the '51 Bowman rookie card have changed hands in recent years than did the '52 Topps. The reason for this is indisputable: card collectors value rookie cards more than any others. Another reason: the '52 Topps card in the same grade of PSA 5 EX now sells for between $30,000 and $60,000. It's only a matter of time, however, before the similarly scarce and desirable 1951 Bowman rookie card catches up. Perhaps all that's needed are a few more presentable specimens like the one offered here to make it to market. We know you cherish the pasteboards you already own, but you never forget the cards you pass up. Don't miss out on this gorgeous mid-grade example of the Mick's first major league card. For decades to come, your personal collection will thank you for your purchase, that much we guarantee.

Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $2,500
Final prices include buyers premium: $11,215
Number Bids: 45
Auction closed on Sunday, May 1, 2016.
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