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It was approaching 2 a.m. on the East Coast and Anthony Giordano was fading.

He’d had a long day on his farm where his two adult sons hosted a fantasy football draft.

Giordano was also having a watch party. The clock on his 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle SGC 9.5, the showstopper of Heritage Auctions’ Summer Platinum Night Sports Auction, was winding down on Saturday night into Sunday morning.

“I couldn’t keep my eyes open,” said the 76-year-old Giordano. “I was joking around. I said, ‘The last time I was up that late was on my wedding night.’”

Before he fell asleep, Giordano checked on the price of his card.

“I went to bed at $10 million,” Giordano said. “Then my boys called me this morning and told me exactly what it hit.”

The final price with the buyer’s premium was a record $12.6 million.

Collector Anthony Giordano poses with his Topps 1952 Mickey Mantle card that is expected to set the sports card record.

Collector Anthony Giordano poses with his Topps 1952 Mickey Mantle card at The National. 

Also See: The background on historic 1952 Mantle card 

The Mick is the card king once again.

“I’m excited over the card because we broke three records with this card: the first one back in 1991 when I purchased it it was the first Mickey rookie card to break $50,000; then, of course, when we broke the record on being the most expensive baseball card ever sold; and then once we went over that $9.4 million, the most expensive piece of memorabilia ever sold,” Giordano said.

A beautiful example of Mantle’s first ever Topps card, it was discovered during the famous Al Rosen Find in 1985. Rosen, a well-known card dealer, purchased 75 1952 Topps Mantles from a collection. He bought the “Finest Known Example” from the find for a mere $1,000. Six years later, Giordano bought the card for $50,000.

The Topps 1952 Mickey Mantle card that sold for $12.6 million to set a sports card and sports memorabilia record.

The Topps 1952 Mickey Mantle card that sold for $12.6 million to set a sports card and sports memorabilia record.

With the $12.6 million price tag 31 years later, it’s the first sports collectible to sell at auction for eight figures in the industry’s storied history.

“I knew it was an eight-figure card, and I wanted it to hit $10 million,” said Derek Grady, vice president of sports auctions at Heritage Auctions. “When it hit that, I felt relief. Then, my ultimate goal was $10 million hammer, which is $12 million with buyer’s premium, and with that I was completely satisfied.

“I think Anthony, he was pretty cool the whole time with our efforts in getting it graded and the press and the national convention and our marketing and the cover of the programs for the national convention and the cover of our catalog. He realized how much attention he got.”

Also See: Top 10 highest-selling sports cards of all time 

Longtime collector and former Collectors Universe CEO Joe Orlando applauded the sale.

“When this card broke through the eight-figure barrier and became the highest price recorded at auction for any sports collectible, it wasn’t just an incredible moment for Heritage Auctions and the consignor; it gave all hobbyists a reason to celebrate,” said Orlando, who recently joined Heritage Auctions as executive vice president of sports. “The unprecedented price shows the continued growth and strength of the sports collectibles market, especially for blue-chip quality items.”

Prior to the Mantle sale, the highest sale for any piece of sports memorabilia was $9.3 million for the jersey worn by Diego Maradona during the 1986 World Cup “Hand of God” goal game.

The top-selling card previously was a 1909-11 T206 Honus Wagner that went for $7.25 in a private sale by Goldin Co. earlier this month.

The highest selling ’52 Mantle card was a PSA 9 that went for $5.2 million last year. Rob Gough, an actor and entrepreneur who started the DOPE clothing line, bought it in a private sale in January 2021.

PRICE SKYROCKETS IN EXTENDED BIDDING

The Mantle card went into extended bidding on Saturday night at 11 p.m. EST at about $8.1 million with the buyer’s premium. Grady was a little nervous because he had told Giordano prior to the auction the card should garner $10 million.

It only took about an hour and a half of extending bidding for the price to soar over $11 million.

“I don’t know how rare that is, but I just thought that was phenomenal,” said Giordano, who since The National has been followed around by Dan Klein Films, which is shooting a documentary about the hobby and the Mantle card. “The extended bidding, that’s when everybody kept pouring it on. We got a couple hits right before the auction ended, but once we went into extended bidding, I guess there were a couple people chasing each other that just drove the price up and up.”

Grady said there were “several” people bidding over $10 million, which just shows the strength of the industry. He was extremely happy with bidder participation.

The identity of the winning bidder? Well, he’s choosing to remain anonymous for the time being. However, Grady thinks that will change.

It was a historic sale that will go down in industry lore.

“It’s great pieces like this, especially pieces that have become famous, this will always be the SGC 9.5 Rosen Find Mantle,” Grady said. “I don’t think there will be another one. I think this card is famous on its own, just like the Gretzky/McNall Wagner card in a PSA holder. I think there are certain cards that are just so much more than the card itself, it’s the branding of it.

Derek Grady of Heritage Auctions shows off the 1952 Mickey Mantle with a 9.5 grade that is expected to set the all-time sports card record.

Derek Grady of Heritage Auctions shows off the 1952 Mickey Mantle with a 9.5 grade at The National.

“I believe the owner of this card will receive offers for more money, whether it’s in months or a year or a week. I truly believe Heritage will be fielding a phone call, saying, will this owner consider selling and at what price? It’s really a one-of-a-kind item. You see this at auction, because when you’re sitting there up late and you’ve got 30 minutes to think about taking the next bid, that’s not for everybody. I’ve had that happen at auction. It just doesn’t shock me that great items are worth more the next day.”

Any big plans for Giordano with the money?

“I’m going to buy a new pair of sneakers, I think,” Giordano joked. “Maybe it will be a pair of Jordans, we’ll see.”

HOBBY COMMUNITY REACTS

When the hammer hit at $12.6 million, it cemented the record in stone.

The final price created plenty of reaction throughout the hobby community.

“It’s kind of right where I thought it would end up, honestly — $10 to 15 million was kind of my expectation,” said baseball and vintage card collector Mike Moynihan, who hosts the podcast Golden Age of Cardboard. “Not that I have any insider knowledge; it wasn’t me bidding on it, I promise you that.

“I think that this is such a unique card, a unique story, it’s not surprising to me that it’s the highest sold card ever now. I would think this is going to help all ’52 Mantles. To me, one of the most underrated cards in the hobby is the ’51 Bowman Mantle. It is his true rookie card, and it’s a beautiful card in and of itself. I just think it’s the poor man’s ’52 Topps. The fact that that card is still so undervalued relative to the ’52 Topps just bewilders me.”

Renowned collector Marshall Fogel, who owns one of only three PSA 10 versions of the ’52 Mantle in existence, was interested in seeing what the final price would be for the SGC 9.5.

“I think what’s great about the industry is there’s something in it for everyone — I want to make that clear — whether you’ve got $500 or $50 or $50 million,” Fogel said. “I think it certainly makes it a stock portfolio asset.”

Also See: How Marshall Fogel amassed one of top collections in hobby 

Collectable CEO Ezra Levine was up until the wee hours of the morning tracking the card’s continually rising price.

“I think it’s an extraordinary sign for the market,” Levine said. “You’re seeing sports collectibles rerate similar to prices of fine art. I think it was an amazing result, though what’s most exciting is that it isn’t the nicest card in existence. You have unquestionably Fogel’s 10 is the nicest Mantle 10, and I look forward to the day where we see what the true price of a true Mantle 10 will be.”

IMPACT ON HOBBY

Since the pandemic, prices of sports cards and memorabilia have for the most part skyrocketed.

Record prices are continually being set, but the sale of the Mantle card could set a new precedent. Its overall impact will be felt throughout the entire industry.

“I think it’s great for the hobby,” Grady said. “I think it’s great to show art buyers and classic car buyers and coin buyers that sports collectibles are not just for kids and not just for adults that act like kids and love opening packs. It’s really a great alternative investment, proven now over and over and over again that there’s quality investment pieces here.”

The 1952 Mickey Mantle card, graded 9.5, with the letter of provenance from Mr. Mint Al Rosen.

The 1952 Mickey Mantle card, graded 9.5, with the letter of provenance from Mr. Mint Al Rosen.

Also See: Ken Kendrick's ’52 Mantle and $100M collection 

Grady thinks this high price tag for the SGC 9.5 Mantle will set the bar for all 1952 Topps Mantles. Its impact was already evident on the final day of Heritage Auctions Summer Platinum Night Auction where Mantle prices went through the roof.

“You’re starting to see … a 7.5 did 50 percent more than estimate — the 3s, the 2s, everything, the 5s,” Grady said. “Every ’52 Mantle is now, high tides raise all ships, and that’s what’s happening across the hobby now with ’52 Mantles.”

Said Moynihan: “I think anything that brings attention to the hobby’s good. In a month, we’ll have another super high-end card that’s talked about and pumped up. Any effect would be temporary. I’ve been doing this 40 years and these big cards come and go, and it’s cool in the moment, but it’s not something that has a lasting impact, in my humble opinion.”

Giordano believes the Mantle sale is great for the hobby, especially after the pandemic and what everyone had to deal with in their lives.

Giordano and his family attended the National Sports Collectors Convention in Atlantic City, where the card was on display for five days.

“The National itself showed the hobby, the interest and the people that are in it is hot,” Giordano said. “I think it’s great. The journey was phenomenal. The money part of it is I’m sure great, but I think the best part about it was going through the journey with my family, my boys.

“I have a picture of my youngest grandson, 8 years old, standing at The National with his back towards me and he’s looking at those gigantic pictures of Ty Cobb and whatever. You can’t see his face, but all you can see is the back of his jersey that says, ‘number 7 Mantle.’ To me, that made the whole journey worthwhile.”

BEST OF THE BEST

The SGC 9.5 Mantle certainly rates up there as one of the best ’52 Mantles in existence.

But, according to industry leaders, there’s still one that stands alone at the top.

“While some stellar examples of the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle exist, it is universally accepted by those familiar with each of them that the one owned by Marshall Fogel is the finest specimen of them all,” Orlando said.

Marshall Fogel’s Topps 1952 Mickey Mantle card was displayed at the MLB Hall of Legends exhibit at the 2021 All-Star Game in Denver.

Marshall Fogel's PSA 10 1952 Mickey Mantle. 

Levine agreed, especially with the SGC 9.5 going for $12.6 million.

“An incredible, incredible result, but I also think that the market spoke for itself and said that that wasn’t the best [Mantle],” Levine said. “We know Marshall’s turned down offers that were over double what that sold for. It will be interesting what the kind of readthrough will be, but I think anytime you’re getting eight-figure results in sports collectibles, the fact that we’re even having that conversation — I think eight-figure results will become rather commonplace in a couple years. I think if you asked people a couple years ago, will we see an eight-figure result? I think the majority would say, no way. But what we’re seeing now is, I think eight figures is here to stay.

“I do expect that this is the start of what’s going to be a tremendously exciting run for the industry for a long time to come.” 

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