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The evolution of Mickey Mantle's signature

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As an author and website owner who specializes in Mickey Mantle memorabilia, the single most asked question that I receive usually centers around the legitimacy of Mickey Mantle's signature.

As an individual who has collected Mickey Mantle autographs and memorabilia for close to 50 years, I feel fairly competent in this area, but by no means am I an expert. Yes, I can spot a phony Mickey Mantle from 15 yards away, but the truth is, I too have been duped on several occasions.

Mickey’s signature is magical. His autograph is one of the most coveted signatures in the hobby. In fact, the demand is so great, that Mantle’s signature is one of the most counterfeited signatures in the world of sports memorabilia collecting. It has been said that 60 to 80 percent of the Mantle signatures on the internet are fakes. That may sound a little high to me, but I agree that the fakes are very plentiful.

Many times, I will surf eBay looking for Mantle items to purchase when I come across an item that was "supposedly" signed by Mickey. The signature is so bad it is almost comical. And what makes the situation worse is the fact that there might be as many as 10 people bidding on the item. I would love to be able to tell them to steer clear, but I know it is not my place, or is it?

A few years ago, I got an auction catalog from a small town, Pennsylvania-based company that ran auctions on a regular basis. Inside the catalog, one particular Mantle item caught my attention. It was a single, signed official American League baseball that was supposedly signed by Mickey and possessed the inscription, “The Commerce Comet.” It even came with a letter of authenticity.

There were two problems. First of all, the signature was bad, and secondly, the word “Commerce” was misspelled. Now granted, Mickey may not have been an Albert Einstein, but he certainly knew how to spell the name of his hometown correctly.

It was this blunder that made me call the seller and ask why his company would risk ruining their already tarnished reputation. As soon as the intent of my call was stated, it became clearly obvious that he didn’t want to hear anything about it. The individual on the phone started to get “rude” with me for even suggesting that his company was selling tainted goods.

It was this terse response that started me to think about what just happened. It infuriated me. One would think that a company would want to be advised if something bogus appeared in its catalog, but this was not the case.

Then a few weeks later, I received a complimentary letter from Kevin Nelson, SCD columnist and author of “OPERATION BULLPEN.”

Nelson had nothing but high praise for me on my Mantle series and suggested that I include a section on Mickey’s signature and how it has changed over the years. The more I thought about it, I decided that it would be a great idea. Since my goal has been to inform the public since day one, this will cut to the chase and educate the collecting public, and hopefully eliminate the risk of collectors unknowingly buying fake Mickey Mantle autographs.

And so I begin.

THE COMMON MISCONCEPTION

Recently when watching a rerun episode of “Pawn Stars” on the History network, a guy brought in an autographed 1951 New York Yankees team ball and wanted to sell it. With the old man, the late Richard Harrison, behind the counter and looking to purchase the ball, he first wanted to call in an expert to verify its authenticity.

Through the miracle of video editing, it was only a few moments later when a Las Vegas graphologist came through the doors and deemed it to be real. She immediately looked at both the DiMaggio and Mantle signatures and stated, “Mickey had two different signatures during his career.”

As it turns out, she got it partly right. The ball was authentic, but Mickey actually had more than two different signatures throughout his career. In fact, he had many.

The problem today is that most of the collecting public isn’t aware of Mickey’s many different styles. Most hobbyists who don’t specialize in Mantle think his large, flamboyant style with his half-moon M’s was his only signature. The truth is, that before-mentioned style of signing wasn’t penned until the late 1960s or early ‘70s.

As is the case with his early script signatures, these exemplars are very rare to find. It’s like a coin collector finding a Mercury dime in circulation. They’re out there, but they are scarce and truly a rarity.

The best place to find examples of early Mantle autographs would be in old New York Yankee yearbooks and game programs. Signed vintage advertising contracts are another possibilities. And for those hobbyists who enjoy collecting personal checks of ballplayers, early Mantle checks are virtually non-existent. Even Mantle checks from the 1970s through the 1990s are difficult to obtain. Most were probably shredded, burned, or destroyed by the bank. If one is found, it’s probably going to set you back about $2,000 to $3,000 or more. (Photo 1)

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Photo 1

GETTING MICKEY’S AUTOGRAPH, NOT AN EASY TASK

Throughout his playing career, getting an authentic Mickey Mantle autograph was the dream of just about every kid in America. In the early 1950s, Mickey would occasionally sign at the ballpark and was even known to respond by mail. As his popularity soared, the demands became overwhelming. It was now necessary for the Yankees Publicity Department to handle these requests with machine penned letters and facsimile autographed photos. Eventually these requests would go unanswered, as postal costs would begin to escalate to unfathomable levels. Even team balls that usually contained signatures of the entire team couldn’t be trusted, as clubhouse personnel were employed to sign Mick’s name.

Obtaining Mantle’s signature at a public appearance was another possibility, but those events were usually mobbed and many a youngster would come home disappointed.

In the 1960s, the best bet was to get him to sign at the ballpark or at the hotel, if the Yanks were on the road. All in all, getting a Mickey Mantle autograph was no easy task.

It wouldn’t be until after his playing days were over that Mickey became accessible through the mail. His employment with the Reserve Life Insurance Company of Dallas, Texas, would usually guarantee success. I’ll never forget the day when I received an envelope in the mail with a return address from Dallas, Texas, and the letterhead address of RSL in the upper left corner. As I ripped open the envelope, there it was. It was a personally autographed public relations card signed in black ink by Mickey Mantle. It is a card that I still have today. (Photo 2)

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I can also remember a time shortly after Mickey’s induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame when I sent a SASE Hall of Fame plaque card of Mickey to him in care of Reserve Life Insurance, and sure enough, it came back signed and personalized to me with Mick’s signature at the top of the card. That, too, is a relic that I will treasure for the rest of my days.

Mantle autographs could also be obtained at his Country Cookin’ restaurants. In the early 1970s, Mickey spent a lot of time trying to franchise the respective Country Kitchen and Country Cookin’ eating establishments. If Mickey were in attendance, he’d be more than happy to sign his name upon request.

As autograph collecting became more and more in vogue in the 1970s, Mickey’s home address leaked its way into the collecting public. These requests usually were sent in vain as most, if not all, went unanswered and any cards, photos, or memorabilia sent became the property of The Mantles. It was a waste of time and postage.

In closing this passage, I’d like to point out that there’s a bit of irony when it comes to autographs and Mickey Mantle. It’s kind of humorous that a man who found signing autographs to be a nuisance—while he wasn’t getting paid to do so—would eventually end up signing more autographs during his lifetime than any other baseball player in the history of the game.

THE BEGINNING OF THE CARD SHOW CIRCUIT

In 1978, entrepreneur Tom Catal had an idea. His goal was to get Mickey Mantle to appear at a card show to sign autographs in New York City. The idea seemed simple enough, but a lot of hard work would have to be done in order to get it accomplished. Obstacles like contacting Mantle, finding a large enough location, getting workers and security, printing tickets, and the list goes on and on.

With the idea fresh in mind, Catal contacted the New York Yankees, who then in turn directed him to Mickey’s lawyer and agent, Roy True. After working out the details, Mickey agreed and signed a contract with Catal to do a show on Saturday, Sept. 9, 1978, at Hofstra University in New York City.

Pictured is the first advertisement that promoted Mickey’s appearance at the Hofstra show. The ad appeared in the March 15, 1978 issue of SCD. Also shown is an original admission/autograph ticket from Sept. 9, 1978. (Photos 3,4)

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Prior to this date, Mickey had never done a major show, nor did any of his contemporaries. It was a landmark show that would pave the way for extra, much-needed income for many of yesterday’s all-time greats. It would also bring an end to the free autograph. Many ballplayers, who in the past would sign for free in the mail, Mantle included, would now discontinue this practice because they knew where “their bread was buttered.”

With the agreement set, it called for Mickey to receive $2,500 plus $500 expenses. Yes, $2,500 plus $500 expenses. Keep in mind it was 1978. Catal told me that admittance to the show cost $3 and that would entitle the individual to one free autograph. If a person wanted another Mantle autograph, the fee would be another $3.00.

There were no limousine rides and hotel accommodations; that would come later.

I asked Catal, if he had to pick Mickey up at the airport. He said, “No. Mickey flew into New York from Dallas, Texas, rented a car, and drove himself to the show. He even showed up wearing a coat and tie.”

As it would turn out, Mickey enjoyed himself and loved conversing with his fans. It was Catal’s down-to-earth, magnetic personality that led him to do about 15 more shows with The Mick, including the first reunion of Willie, Mickey, and The Duke in Atlantic City. The card-show circuit owes a lot to the humble Tom Catal and, of course, Mickey Mantle.

It was these shows that would give Mickey’s fans a chance to meet their hero, as well as secure an in-person autograph on their most prized memorabilia possessions. With Mantle doing shows throughout the country, one would think that the market would have become flooded with signed Mantle memorabilia, but it was quite the contrary. Supply had a tough time keeping up with demand.

The public’s love for Mickey was insatiable. Collectors and dealers alike would get multiple items signed at shows. It was quite common for people to get 10, 15, 20 items signed at one time. And why not…. it was money in the bank. The value of a Mantle signature has only appreciated in value over time.

Mickey’s wallet was also getting thicker. In 1989, it has been documented that Mantle made as much as $150,000 for three days of work at a 1961 Yankees reunion show in Atlantic City. Gone were the days of $3 autographs. Mickey was the King of the Baseball Card Circuit and would remain so, not only until his death in 1995, but even today his cards and memorabilia remain some of the most valuable in the hobby.

With Mantle signatures becoming common and readily available, a large number of fakes would also start to surface. It was the high volume of fake signatures that would open the doors to much needed signature authentication services.

THE EVOLUTION OF MICKEY’S SIGNATURE

Collecting signatures of Mickey Mantle can be a challenge, especially if it is one’s goal to get a signature from every year of his playing career. Mickey had many different variations throughout his playing career. The most common signature of Mantle’s is the one with the flamboyant looping “M’s” or “Half Moons,” as Kevin Nelson refers to them. It wasn’t always that way. In fact, the “half moons” didn’t start until about 1959-1960. Although his “M’s” weren’t exactly as most of us are used to seeing, it was the start of what was to come.

Even since Day 1, what set Mickey apart from many of his contemporaries was the fact that he took a lot of time and pride while signing his name. His script wasn’t always flamboyant, but it was always legible. He never scribbled “chicken scratch,” as a lot of players do now days.

Once he became a regular on the card circuit, his belief or motto quickly became one of perfection. “If a person is paying for my autograph, I owe it to that person to give them the very best.”

There were even cases where if his signature wasn’t up to snuff, he would replace it with a better one. We all know that replacing a bad or less than perfect signature is not going to work in all cases, especially when signing a one of a kind, vintage piece of memorabilia, but that was the kind of guy Mickey was.

Mickey also knew where to place his autograph. He would never place his name over a dark area where his signature could get lost in the background. He would also add inscriptions like “#7” or “MVP 1956, 1957, 1962,” or “536 HR’s” upon request. He'd even add his middle name "Charles" if desired. It was these little extras that has raised the value of his autograph an extra $200 to $300 or more.

THE EARLY YEARS

One of the earliest signatures of Mick’s that I have ever seen was a grade-school class photo where all of his classmates had signed their names on the reverse side. The photo and autograph date to around 1937 when Mickey was in first or second grade. In the photo a young Mickey can be seen standing at the end of the first row. His earliest known signature shows a hook in both “M’s” with a very pronounced “k” that shows two openings. The “a” in Mantle has a very small opening that will remain in his “Half Moon” styled signature and the “l” is much larger than the letter “t.” (Photos 5, 6)

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While in high school, Mickey did not sign his name that frequently. In fact, while in his senior year Mickey printed his name more frequently than writing in cursive. He used both “Mick Chas” and “Mick Mantle” while “signing” fellow classmates’ yearbooks. Pictured are two exemplars from his 1949 Commerce High School Yearbook, Bengal Tales. Shown are his senior high school portrait and a photo of Mickey on the Commerce High School basketball team. (Photos 7, 8)

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FIRST PROFESSIONAL SIGNATURE, 1949

Immediately after high school graduation, Mickey became the property of the New York Yankees. Assigned to Independence, Kan., in 1949, Mickey signed his first professional contract and check. The check, which was dated July 11, 1949, was in the amount of $1,150 and was signed by Mantle on the reverse. His signature had two breaks, which were between the “M” and the “i” in Mickey and the “M” and the “a” in Mantle. The “k” in Mickey contains two openings and the “y” is straight up and down. In Mantle, a break occurs between the “M” and the “a.” The “t” and the “l” are pretty much the same size. Mantle’s signature is level with an ever so slight slant of the letters. (Photo 9)

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Photo 9

Also shown is another 1949 signature that was taken from his 1949 Class D minor league contract that guaranteed him the above stated salary. The check signature and contract signature are identical with the only exception being that Mickey’s middle name, Charles, has been added to the contract. (Photo 10)

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Photo 10

1950 EXEMPLARS

After playing his first season in Independence, Kan., Mickey was promoted to Class “C” ball with the Joplin Miners Baseball Club. In this Joplin team photo, Mantle’s signature has changed from the previous year. Two different types of “M’s” were used throughout 1950. In a Joplin team photo, a more flamboyant “M’” was used in both Mickey and Mantle. The “M’s” showed an upward hook with a break from the “i” in Mickey.

The letter “k” has completely changed. Gone are the open loops that were a part of Mickey’s signature in the 1940s. The letter “k” in Mickey is a key focal point in determining the difference between 1949 and 1950 signatures. Also of note is the letter “y” in Mickey. It is still straight up and down but contains an open loop at the bottom.

The “l” in Mantle is still slightly larger than the “t.” (Photo 11)

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Photo 11 

A second exemplar shows a Mantle signed Official Texas League baseball where his signature is consistent with the aforementioned team photo with the only exception being a minute change in the letter “e” in Mickey. When comparing the two, it seems like a capitalized scripted “E” was used when the team photo was signed compared to the team ball that features a lower case scripted “e.” (Photo 12)

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Photo 12 

1951 EXEMPLARS

In 1951, Mickey made it to the big time. He was not quite 20 years old and a member of the World Champion New York Yankees. Making his debut on April 17, 1951, the Mick’s surroundings were new, as was his signature.

The first exemplar shows a very rare, autographed Mickey Mantle Fan Club postcard dated May 18, 1951. The signature possesses a more ostentatious style with many changes from 1950. The letter “M” in Mickey starts with an upward hook and then forms a small loop at the base of the letter. The letter “i” connects in the middle of the “M” and leads directly into the “c.” The “k” usually has a break with the “c,” and is the same “k” that Mickey started using in 1950. The “e” is in lower case and leads directly into the long looping “y” in Mickey.

The “M” in Mantle is almost identical to the “M” in Mickey with the above-described hook and loops. It kind of resembles the “Golden Arch M” in the McDonald’s logo.

The letter “a” sometimes connects with the ‘M” in Mantle and sometimes it does not. The letters “a” and “n” have remained unchanged.

The letter “t” in Mantle is sometimes made with a loop and at other times the loop is minimal or non-existent. The height of the “t” usually matches the top of the “M” in Mantle. The letter “l” in Mantle is wider than the “t” and rarely is the “l” crossed or intersected when the “t” is crossed. The letter “e” is usually half the size of the letter “l” and finishes with an upward flair. (Photo 13)

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A second exemplar is Mickey’s 1951 New York Yankees contract. The signature matches the above-described Mantle Fan Club postcard and was signed and dated on April 15, 1951 and approved by American League President William Harridge on April 16, 1951. (Photo 14)

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Photo 14

1952 EXEMPLARS

When comparing Mantle’s signatures of 1951 and 1952, very little, if anything, has changed. The two exemplars are almost identical. The only subtle difference of note is the fact that the “M” in Mickey had a more pronounced loop and the “M” in Mantle does not. A right slant is noticeable in his 1951 and 1952 signatures. Another focal point is the “i” in Mickey. In some examples, it has been dotted with a circle and in others it is not.

The 1952 exemplar is Mickey’s 1952 Topps contract. His signature varies in the fact that there is no looping “M” in Mickey. Also of note is the “t” in Mantle. Some examples show an intersection with the large looping “l,” while most others do not. Since his signature was signed on a dotted line, there is little or no slant. (Photo 15)

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Photo 15

Also shown is Mickey’s first contract with Topps. His signature lacks any loops once again and is dated July 14, 1952. A final exemplar is a PSA/DNA certified autograph from a page of an autograph book. This signature has the looping “M” in Mickey, but doesn’t in Mantle. (Photo 16)

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Photo 16

1953 EXEMPLARS

Exemplar signatures from 1953 show little change from the previous two years. Still present are the hook and occasional small looping “M” in Mickey. The “i” interlocks with the ‘M” and there is a slight change in the “y.” It shows a laziness and less pronounced look to it. The “M” in Mantle is slightly different than the “M” in Mickey as it is devoid of any loop at the bottom of the first and second posts. Examples are a 1953 government postcard and his 1953 New York Yankee contract. (Photos 17, 18)

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1954 EXEMPLARS

In 1954, there was a distinct change in Mickey’s signature. The first thing to change was the letter “M” in Mickey. Gone is the upward hook that was present in previous years. A larger inside loop with an inside hook is now present. The “i” still intersects at the base of the “M” and leads directly into the “c.” The “k” and “e” are consistent with other examples from the early 1950s. The “y” in Mickey has undergone a huge change. The looping “y” is gone and has been replaced with a “y” that doesn’t descend as low as the earlier exemplars. The “M” in Mantle is now almost identical to the “M” in Mickey. It contains a hook, which actually starts outside the first post of the “M” and contains a similar sized loop as the “M” in Mickey. The “antle” has remained the same with the “t” and “l” higher in elevation than the “M” in Mantle.

Examples of Mickey's signature from 1954 include Mickey’s 1954 New York Yankees contract, and a torn-out page from a baseball program that Mickey signed at the Emerson Hotel in Baltimore. (Photos 19, 20)

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1955 EXEMPLARS

With different styles of the letter “M” in both Mickey and Mantle, it becomes very difficult to pinpoint an exact year for a lot of Mantle signatures between 1953 and 1954. It is documented that Mickey’s “M” with loops and without have been used interchangeably during this time period. This practice continued in 1955, as well. In 1955 exemplars, Mickey's signature had minimal loops with the outward and upward hook. This can be seen on in his 1955 Yankees contract and a government postcard dated June 23,1955. (Photos 21, 22)

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An exemplar from Mickey’s 1955 passport shows a different styled letter “M” in Mickey and Mantle. These “M’s” revert back to his 1954 examples that featured an inside loop. (Photo 23)

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Photo 23 

1956 EXEMPLARS

At the beginning of the 1956 season, Mickey’s signature changed once again. Although the “M’s” in Mickey and Mantle weren’t signed the same way, as they were in the 1970s, this was a turning point that started a strong resemblance to the half-moon “M’s” that we all know and love. Another change was the letter “y” in Mickey. The “y” was directly tied into by the “e” and was smaller in size than other years.

With a more pronounced loop in both “M’s” his signature was now wider, more flamboyant, and more eye appealing. Exemplars from 1956 include Mickey’s New York Yankees contract, a contract signed with author Ben Epstein that addressed royalties received from The Mickey Mantle Story. (Photos 24, 25)

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1957 EXEMPLAR

The lone example of Mickey’s 1957 signature from his New York Yankees contract shows a large looped “M” in Mickey that intersects with the ‘i.” The “c” and the “k” are identical to exemplars from 1953 to 1955. The “e” in Mickey remains very small and goes directly into the “y” that isn’t fully developed. The lower portion of the “y” extends below the base of the “M” in Mickey.

In “Mantle,” the “M’s” loop is smaller than the “M” in Mickey and is formed at the base of the letter. The “a” remains open at the top, as is customary in some of his signatures. The remaining letters are consistent with previous signatures, but a downward slope is present. (Photo 26)

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Photo 26

1958 EXEMPLARS

Minimal differences can be found in the two exemplars from 1958. Taken from Mantle’s 1958 New York Yankees contract and his 1958 Topps baseball card contract, the two signatures are basically the same as the previous year and the loops in both “M’s” remain open, as in exemplars from 1955, 1956, and 1957. (Photos 27, 28)

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1959 EXEMPLARS

Distinct changes in Mickey’s signature occurred once again in 1959. Larger looping “M’s” that would connect with the inside post of the “M” in Mickey are done for a first time. The loop in “Mickey” is the start of what will be his “half moon” “M” in the 1970s. The “M” in Mantle is notably different, as it did not usually come in contact with the middle post of the “M.” It also had a rounded look to it, unlike the “M” in Mickey. The “i” in Mickey usually connected with “M.” The “y” in Mickey was a little more pronounced and finished with an upward flair. A right-handed downward slant was present in “Mantle.”

The lone exemplar is a personal check dated July 14, 1959. (Photo 29)

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Photo 29

1960 EXEMPLARS

The years 1959 and 1960 bring forth a look in Mickey’s signature that strongly resembles his recognizable signature of the 1970s through 1995 with a few minor differences. The focal points once again are the “M’s” in his name. In the first exemplar from his 1960 New York Yankees contract, the “M’s” are almost identical to one another and possess the look of the half moon. Both “M’s” now intersect with the middle post of the letter and have an “11 to 5” curl in the making of the half moon. The “i” still intersects with the ‘M” and the “ckey” has not changed from the previous year. In the two exemplars from this year the “a” in Mantle remains free from contact with the “M.” Variations will show an occasional intersecting “a” but usually not. Also of note is the sloping downward slant of the “le” in Mantle. The second exemplar from 1960 is a singed note card that matches Mickey’s contract signature. (Photos 30, 31)

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1961 EXEMPLARS

Mickey’s 1961 signature didn’t change that much from 1960. It basically remained the same with one minor exception. That exception would be an upward swing in the letter “e” in Mickey that will lead directly into the “y.” The “y” now has a checkmark look to it and usually extends lower than the “M” in Mickey. It is this upward swing of the “e,” the checkmark look of the letter “y”, and the “M’s” in both Mickey and Mantle that are the keys in determining an authentic signature of Mantle.

Two exemplars are shown from 1961. The first is from Mickey’s 1961 New York Yankees contract and the second is from a legal advertising contract that is dated August 14, 1961, with the Reliance Manufacturing Company of New York, New York. (Photo 32, 33)

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1962 EXEMPLARS

When comparing Mantle’s 1961 signature with his 1962 signature, very little has changed. The only differences that can be detected lie in the “M’s” of Mickey and Mantle. In some exemplars, the “M’s” dip below the signature line, while other examples do not. Small open loops at the end of the “M’s” are now being used interchangeably.

The 1962 exemplar is from Mantle’s 1962-signed New York Yankees contract. (Photo 34)

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1963 EXEMPLARS

Consistent to his signature from the previous few years, the 1963 example of Mickey’s autograph has little variation. The 1963 signature shown is from his signed 1963 Yankees contract. (Photo 35)

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Also shown is a machine or mechanical signature of Mickey’s from April 30, 1963. Mickey was known to use a mechanical signature to answer his many autograph requests. (Photo 36)

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Photo 36

1964-1968 EXEMPLARS

Except for slight variations in his “M’s,” Mickey’s signature has remained the same. Some loops in the letter “M” are wider, while the half-moon loops occasionally dip lower than other exemplars. These changes are subtle and hardly noticeable. Examples from this time period include his 1964 signed New York Yankee contract, a 1966 Simon and Shuster book contract, and Mickey’s signed New York Yankee contract from March 13, 1968. (Photos 37, 38, 39)

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POST PLAYING DAYS

With retirement just around the corner, Mickey would sign his last New York Yankees contract on Feb. 26, 1968. Even though a contract in the amount of $100,000 was sent to Mickey for his endorsement, Mickey decided to retire on March 1, 1969, and the contract went unsigned.

With Mick’s playing days behind him, Mickey would now become a businessman, not a very successful one, but a businessman nonetheless.

Mickey would now find employment by opening a number of Country Kitchen and Country Cookin’ restaurants that eventually would go belly up after a few years. He would also open a men's clothing shop and his own bowling alley. Other jobs would include public relations work for Reserve Life Insurance of Dallas, Texas, and The Claridge Casino in Atlantic City, N.J. He would also do television commercials and small film roles that would lead to a job as a broadcaster for televised Yankees games.

If not working, Mickey could also be found on the golf course, meeting up with old friends.

All in all, Mickey was extremely busy after his playing days were through. His new daily routine would provide ample opportunities for his legions of fans to have access to him for autograph requests.

PEN OR SHARPIE

Even though the invention of the Sharpie by W.H. Sanford dates to 1964, it wasn’t widely used for autographs until the late 1970s or early 1980s when Mickey would do card shows on a fairly regular basis. Prior to this, Mickey Mantle autographs were almost always done in black or blue ballpoint pen. Autographs that were signed at the ballpark were usually signed by a 3½” pencil that was complimentary with the purchase of the game program of the day.

1970s EXEMPLARS

In exemplars from the 1970s, Mantle’s signature remained the same. All characteristics of Mickey’s letters, slant, and size are all similar throughout the decade.

Exemplars include an endorsed Yankee payroll check from 1978, and a 40th Anniversary of the National Baseball Hall of Fame cachet, where Mickey signed his name below the postal cancellation. Gateway was a safe way for autograph collectors to get authentic signatures before authenticating services became commonplace. (Photos 40, 41)

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A final exemplar from 1979 is a rare personal check of Mickey’s. The check is signed on the front and is from the Rossville Bank in Rossville, Ga. It is dated June 6, 1979. (Photo 42)

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1980s EXEMPLARS

With card shows becoming more and more commonplace throughout the country, Mickey had found himself in great demand. In fact, he quickly was becoming the “King" of the Card Show Circuit. With ballpoint pens still being used to sign baseballs, the Sharpie was now the preferred choice when it came to autographing photos and bats.

Fine point silver and gold Sharpies were also created for autographing uniforms, hats, and dark areas of photos.

With these permanent markers being used more frequently, Mickey’s signature became larger and more flamboyant.

Exemplars from the 1980s include a Dec. 1, 1981, signed contract with Nabisco and the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and a 1982 cut signature with “Best Wishes, Mickey Mantle.” (Photos 43, 44)

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Other exemplars from the 1980s are a baseball show poster from 1984 that is signed in red sharpie and a 1985 personal check dated on Sept. 17, 1985. (Photos 45, 46)

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Notarized signatures became very popular with collectors in the late 1980s. Complete with photo and lifetime stats, the sheet was dated and signed in black or blue Sharpie. The signing was witnessed by a notary public and was stamped with a raised seal. Several different photographs were used to give collectors a choice. (Photo 47)

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Photo 47

1990s EXEMPLARS

The signature of Mickey Mantle in the 1990s changed very little from the previous decade. One thing that is noticeable, however, is the shortness of the middle post in both “M’s.” At one time, the length would extend to the base of the “i” in Mickey and the “a” in Mantle. Now it is common for the middle posts to extend a little bit below the start of the “i” in Mickey and the “a” in Mantle. The short “M’s” can be seen in the aforementioned notarized stat sheet from 1990.

In the early 1990s, Upper Deck Authentic burst onto the collector's scene by signing many of sports' biggest stars. It was only natural that Mickey would be one of UDA's biggest draws. The selling point was that the buyer knew without a doubt that the autographed memorabilia was 100 percent authentic. Examples of signed Mantle merchandise include a Warner Brothers limited edition art cell of Bugs Bunny, autographed baseball bats, which Mickey had stopped signing at some point in the past, autographed hats, baseballs, cards, Yankee jerseys, and other items. In 1994, Upper Deck even issued a card that featured portraits of him and Ken Griffey, Jr. (Photo 48)

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Photo 48

WILL HE SIGN IT?

While attending shows, I always found it amusing to see the wide array of collectibles that people would bring for Mickey to sign. I’ve seen everything from beer cans to basketballs and even footballs signed by the great No. 7. For the most part, Mickey would sign just about anything put in front of him. Collectors would try to “push the envelope” by asking Mickey to add special notations to their collectible. Mickey was usually happy to grant their request.

Today, in retrospect, it is those special notations like adding #6 or #7 to his autograph that raise the value of Mickey's autograph considerably. Mickey was also known to add special notations upon request such as "The Oklahoma Kid,” “Best Wishes,” “Merry Christmas,” Other notations might include “The Commerce Comet,” “536 HR’s,” 18 W.S. HR’s,” “Happy Birthday,” or “ Happy Hanukkah” or “Hanukah” as Mickey spelled it.

Of all the “special” items that Mickey signed, perhaps it is the single, signed baseball with his middle name that remains one of the most valuable. Signed baseballs with “Mickey Charles Mantle" can fetch as much as $3,000+. (Photo 49)

Photo 49

Photo 49

A FINAL WORD

This list of exemplars, to the best of my knowledge, is by far the most comprehensive compendium ever created. All of the Mantle signatures are 100 percent authentic. Mickey had several distinct signatures during his lifetime and although at times his signature looks similar to a known exemplar, the fact is, all signatures will vary in some small way, shape, or form. No two signatures are exactly alike.

Mickey took great pride in signing for his fans. He always wanted his fans to have the very best. Hopefully by using this entry as a point of reference, forgers will be thwarted and the collecting public will be a little bit more educated.

Auction of the Week

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Collect Auctions Summer Auction

Collect Auctions bidding ends August 6 and bidders can view each lot on our website at www.collectauctions.net. There are more than 1,000 lots of vintage sports cards and sets; what we believe is the strongest unopened lineup any auction house has ever offered. Bidding ends Thursday, August 6 at 9:00 p.m. CST (10:00 EST).