August 2018 Summer Classic Auction
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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 9/1/2018
Mickey Mantle is the undisputed baseball card king of the modern, post-war era. His 1952 Topps #311 card, available only in the more limited quantity high-number series, is a piece of postwar Americana as recognizable as Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup Cans or a photo still from Marilyn Monroe's windblown white dress scene in the film The Seven Year Itch. Yet even novice collectors know that despite its status as the hobby's most famous piece of cardboard this side of Honus Wagner, the '52 Topps is not the Mick's rookie card. That sole distinction belongs to Mantle's 1951 Bowman #253 pasteboard. Although Topps ultimately emerged after 1955 as the sole licensee of Major League Baseball bubble gum cards, it was Philadelphia-based Bowman Gum that pioneered the high-volume, high-quality color sets in 1951. Measuring 2 1/16" x 3 1/8" and based on artistically enhanced photographs of each featured ballplayer, kids had to chase down 324 cards to complete the set—this would be Bowman's most expansive issue ever and the biggest for collectors since American Tobacco Company's T206, which began its run five decades earlier. You can imagine the joy of kids throughout the nation who, upon receiving their allowance money, would scurry down to the local store to purchase one-cent or six-cent packs filled with rectangular images of their hardball heroes and a slab of gum!

Not only did Bowman score with its clean, virtually flawless design (copied from its 1950 release), but it hit a grand slam with its superior player selection. A total of 30 Hall of Famers have their own pasteboards in the '51 Bowman set, including seven New York Yankees. The Bronx Bombers were to win their third of five straight World Series championships following the 1951 season, a record yet to be bested. That Yankee team, however, was transitioning from one iconic centerfielder to another. The great Joe DiMaggio was retiring after 13 years in roaming the Yankee Stadium outfield, giving way to a 19-year-old kid from Commerce, Oklahoma: Mickey Charles Mantle. The heralded young slugger hit 13 homers playing right field his rookie season, providing fans with a sneak preview of the prolific power that would soon rank him among the game's all-time greats. Mickey's Bowman rookie card, one of a small number in the set orientated horizontally, depicts the teenaged switch hitter batting in front of a blue sky backdrop. This card, today one of the hobby's quintessential collectibles, is the capstone for most collections regardless of its condition. Over the last few years, we've auctioned a dozen of these treasured Mantles in various grades. One of those was a PSA 5 example in our April 2016 "Black Magic" auction, which sold for $11,215, a sum well above its Sports Market Report (SMR) evaluation.

With all due respect to the other Mantle rookies we've sold, the offered card, a gorgeous PSA EX-MT 6 specimen, is by comparison in a class of its own. Possessing absolutely perfect picture registration and stunning pack fresh color, it also sports pack-fresh corners and edges consistent with the NM-MT 8 grade or even better. Indeed, were it centered just a hair further towards the bottom, it would unquestionably have graded PSA 7 NM, and were it centered yet a few more hairs to the south, it would be a shoe-in for PSA 8 NM-MT, the most recent example of which to sell fetched $132,000 at auction last year. PSA's current Sports Market Report (SMR) price guide pegs this PSA 6's value at $15,000, but over the years the SMR has typically been very conservative in its valuation of high-dollar material. There is no more sure investment in the hobby today than high-grade vintage rookie cards of the game's elite Hall of Famers. While we are not in the business of guaranteeing returns, we can say that the recent sales figures of items like this rock-solid PSA 6 Mantle RC have made their owners more than satisfied, indeed. Get your bids in today to secure for yourself this truly iconic piece of American history.

Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $5,000
Final prices include buyers premium: $14,410
Number Bids: 7
Auction closed on Saturday, September 1, 2018.
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