Some antique collectors travel far and wide to find hidden treasures.
Alex Archbold had one land in his lap almost by accident.
The owner of Curiosity Inc., an antique store in Edmonton, Alberta, received a call in early 2020 that piqued his interest. A Canadian man on the other end of the phone said he was asked to clean out a Mennonite barn around Ontario and he found some old toys — pieces that Archbold enjoys picking up for his shop.
Archbold asked the guy if there were any other items found in the barn that might be of value. The man stated there were some trading cards, but they weren’t in good condition.
“He sent me a couple pictures of the cards and there was a Gordie Howe and something else,” Archbold said. “‘And, I’m like, ‘OK, yeah, they’re not in great shape, but there’s a couple neat ones in there.’”
Archbold and the man agreed on a price for all the items. Archbold mailed a check and the guy shipped the box.
“It was sort of a leap of faith,” Archbold said. “We get this box in the mail and it’s literally like an old cereal box and I can hear stuff floating around inside. So, he just threw everything in there and it wasn’t individually wrapped or in holders or anything like that. … And I’m like, ‘What is this?’ At first, I was a little bit annoyed, because I’m like, ‘Oh, geez. Who ships old sports cards loose, rattling around in the mail getting all dented up and stuff?’ So, I was unhappy at first.”
Archbold brought the package home from his shop and sat down in the living room to open it up. He started casually sorting through the more than 100 trading cards.
“I’m like, ‘There’s some ’52 Topps in here,’” Archbold said. “My wife’s in the kitchen, and I said, jokingly, ‘Well, it would be nice if there was a Mantle in here.’ Then, like the second card I flipped over, I’m like, ‘Holy, crap. There is a Mickey Mantle rookie card here.’ She said, ‘Is that good?’ I said, ‘Yeah, that’s good.’ It had been bent in half, but the color’s really good on it still.”
Archbold didn’t have a clue how much a Mantle was worth. He first wanted to make sure it was real.
Archbold sent off about a dozen cards — including the Mantle, Howe and a rough-shaped Sandy Koufax rookie — to PSA to get graded. This happened just before COVID-19 started sweeping through North America. Not long later, PSA was backlogged by millions of cards, so Archbold didn’t get the cards returned to him for more than seven months.
“All I cared is that they said it was real,” Archbold said. “Didn’t matter what the grading was, I just wanted them to say, ‘Yep, this is real thing.’”
The card was indeed real. However, the condition of it was a little rough.
“The Mantle was probably in the worst shape of them all, mainly because I think the kid probably liked them and carried them around — probably took them to school or who knows what,” Archbold said.
The Mantle was graded a 1 with a MK qualifier — meaning it had pencil marks on it.
Archbold advertised the card on his company’s Instagram page and posted it on eBay, and the offers started rolling in.
Bryan Eugene, a collector in southern California, reached out to Archbold. Eugene wanted to upgrade a ’52 Topps Mantle he already owned. The two started talking and agreed on a price.
Eugene paid $35,000 in trade value for the PSA 1, which he thinks has great eye appeal. He really loves the story attached to it as well.
“Most of the time when you purchase a card or trade for a card, the chances are I don’t know the history on something and I just kind of view it as what it is, so there’s really no connection or attachment to it,” Eugene said. “But the fact that it came from a Mennonite barn — I was Googling, it’s similar to the Amish, that’s super cool — to be in that time period where kids were being kids and being able to collect something or admire something for what it was during that time. I feel like it’s really nostalgic in a way.”
Eugene isn’t really worried about the condition when picking up ’52 Topps Mantle cards for his collection.
Eugene had bought and sold two Mantles before getting a Mantle he dubbed, “Frankenstein” in late 2020. That card was graded authentic altered by BVG and had tape on its sides and corners. Eugene was able later to move “Frankenstein.”
“The cards I’m getting keep getting better in terms of condition,” Eugene said. “This one I’m content with. I told myself I’m going to keep it forever and pass it down to my kids. … I’ve learned my lesson to not mess around with it.”
Eugene isn’t going to get many more chances to swap out his Mantle in the future. As of April 14, PSA has only graded 1,744 copies of the iconic card.
Both Eugene and Archbold love the provenance that the card came from a Mennonite colony. But it also conjures up a lot of questions that will never be able to be answered.
“I wish I could at least see a picture of the barn, see a picture of the box of cards that it came out of, where they had purchased it,” Eugene said. “Did they drive to the U.S., and stopped at like a grocery store and bought the packs maybe as they were driving back up to Canada? I would have loved to know how it ended up in Canada.”
Archbold doesn’t know how the Mantle ended up in a Canadian Mennonite barn, either.
“I can tell you this much, the box was about as old as the cards,” Archbold said. “The newest card in that collection was 1958 or so. So, probably during a kid’s formative years from ’52 to ’58, they probably collected and maybe they weren’t allowed to collect or they hid them away in the barn and never went back for them.”
That Mantle turned into quite the reward for Archbold and now Eugene. Both guys are happy they can be a part of such a cool story.
“It was a total shot in the dark that I bought these cards sight unseen and I had no idea there was going to be a Mantle in with them,” Archbold said. “The thing was, they were going to throw out all this stuff and this guy had the foresight when he was cleaning the barn to set this stuff aside and keep it because he knew mainly that I liked old toys. If it wasn’t for him knowing about us and for me asking those follow-up questions, that card could have been thrown away.”