There exist a handful of baseball cards that are symbolic within the hobby. Those cards are widely recognized both in-and-outside of the collecting world as the epitome of success…the top of the mountain…the Mount Rushmore of baseball cards, if you will.
One of those iconic pieces of cardboard is undoubtedly the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle #311.
While this is “The Mick’s” first Topps card and arguably most popular card, it’s not his rookie card. That designation belongs to his 1951 Bowman #253.
So, why is the 1952 Topps card so special?
The first and most obvious reason is that it’s Mickey Mantle. The second reason is he’s a legendary member of a legendary franchise, the New York Yankees.
The other reasons are business-related.
The 1952 Topps set was issued in multiple series with the first installment hitting shelves in April of that year. Perfect timing for a new release with early season anticipation filling fans and card collectors, especially kids, with excitement! However, the release of the final series, cards #311-407 (the high-numbers), was mistimed as it released too late into the summer when the baseball season was becoming an afterthought to many whose favorite baseball team(s) may have been out of contention. The sales of the high-number 1952 Topps release was so poor that Topps was left with an abundance of unsold product.
Fast forward to 1960, after several years of struggling to find an avenue to rid themselves of the overstock which included reaching out to carnivals and toy companies, the founders of Topps finally had a solution.
Dump ’em in the river!
Well, sort of. They dumped them onto a trash barge in the river. But, it’s close enough. According to an article written by Rich Mueller in 2013, between 300-500 cases of the 1952 Topps high series cards were dumped onto the barge and taken away. But, what many people overlook is the fact that not only were cards of Mickey Mantle being dumped onto that barge, so were those of Jackie Robinson, Eddie Mathews, Roy Campanella, and Hoyt Wilhelm. Thus, creating a limited supply of these key cards although that wasn’t the intention.
No collector can argue that this Mickey Mantle card is a piece of hobby and sports history. And the auction sales prove it. Former NFL linebacker Evan Mathis sold his copy of the Mantle card, graded a Mint 9 by PSA, for $2.88 million in April of this year.
This card, in any condition, will only continue to rise in value as it continues to age. If you’ve ever considered adding one to your collection, the longer you wait, the more you’ll (probably) pay.
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