The T206 Honus Wagner card is arguably the most recognizable baseball card to both collectors and non-collectors. The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card has been infringing on that territory as of late.
The Spring Sports Card Auction hosted by Heritage Auctions might push the 1952 Mantle card even closer to replacing the Wagner card as the most recognizable, as well as the highest selling baseball card ever.
Included in the Heritage Auction is a PSA 9 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card that is estimated to sell for around $3.5 million.
“I think it has a legit opportunity to be the highest selling card of all time, especially with the trajectory we’ve seen with high-grade ’52 Topps Mantles,” said Chris Ivy, director of Sports Auctions for Heritage Auctions.
Ivy said when the hammer falls for the final bid on the card, he is confident it will be the highest selling piece for the Sports Department at Heritage.
The fact that it has been more than 10 years since a 9 or 10 specimen has been offered also helps increase the anticipation for this auction.
“Obviously the market has changed considerably in that time,” Ivy said. “It will be interesting to see how it plays out.”
Ivy said the card is currently owned by Evan Mathis, who was a member of the 2016 Denver Broncos team that won the Super Bowl. Prior to that it was owned by an unnamed well-known dealer.
“He (the dealer) let us know that he purchased it about 25-30 years ago as part of a high-grade raw collection,” Ivy said. “The dealer is still active. The funny thing is, this card stayed in his inventory/personal collection for a long time.”
Ivy said he remembers seeing the card on display at a show around 15 years ago, and thought the dealer was “nuts” for what he was trying to sell the card for.
“I think it was high six figures at the time, when these cards had never approached that value,” Ivy said. “But it looks like he was pretty smart to put that price on it because the market did catch up to that and well beyond.”
Ivy also believes that the track record Heritage has established in selling 1952 Topps Mantle cards played a role in Mathis choosing to consign with Heritage.
“He understood that we’ve got the broadest reach and the largest client base, and the best ability to market this type of item.”
Heritage has recorded two world records for high-grade specimens in the past 12 months. A NM-MT 8 example sold for $660,000, and a NM-MT+ 8.5 sold for $1.35 million.
Ivy said he feels the rising interest and value of the 1952 Topps Mantle card is due to it becoming the “face of card collecting.”
“It’s always been, when we were younger, everybody knew about the T206 Wagner,” Ivy said. “That was always the face, and it still is, but I think the ’52 Topps Mantle, for post-war cards, is the face for collecting. It’s an iconic image.”
He added, “Sports card collecting is really finally getting its due as far as investment grade collectibles. Coins has been that way for a long time. People are diversifying their investment portfolios and their assets.
“If you ask a lot of people that are buying them they think it was undervalued four, five, six years ago, and now it’s hitting its true value. We know how many there are. We know what the population reports are. The likelihood of other high-grade examples coming out is very slim, so we know it’s really the ultimate supply and demand.”
According to the auction lot description of the more than 1,500 submissions for PSA grading, only six 1952 Topps Mantle cards have earned a Mint 9 rating, with just three achieving a perfect Gem Mint 10 grade.
In addition to the ‘52 Topps Mantle card, there are plenty of other sports cards available in the auction. In fact, the auction contains only sports cards. It’s the first time Heritage has split its Spring Auction into two auctions, one for sports cards, the other for sports memorabilia. The memorabilia auction will be in May.
Ivy said there is a fresh find of Old Judge cards that should attract the attention of collectors of 19th century cards.
Bidding ends April 19-20. For a complete listing of the auction items or to bid, visit www.ha.com.