“Are you out of your mind?”
In an auction preview of the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle #311 PSA Mint 9 card in April 2018, Heritage Auctions predicted that at some point the winning bidder would be greeted by someone with these words.
Heritage Auctions then went on to justify six- or seven-figure price tags, saying, “In its simplest, unsentimental terms, an elite collectible such as this offering represents the purest distillation of the law of supply and demand. In that regard, it is entirely accurate to consider the value of this glorious example of Mickey Mantle's 1952 Topps card as grounded in the densest of economic bedrock. The stomach-churning waves of a Bitcoin graph are nonexistent in this world. There can be no Enron crash. There can be no Madoff swindle.”
The card went on to be sold for a record $2.88 million, and no doubt somebody said to the winning bidder, “Are you out of your mind?”
That card was sold by former NFL lineman Evan Mathis, a Super Bowl Champ and two-time Pro Bowler who became a card collector of note. He once told the Associated Press that the 1952 Mantle card is “kind of like the Mona Lisa of the sports card world.”
Fast forward to December 2019. Another Mantle version of the Mona Lisa—a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle #311 PSA NM-MT+ 8.5—went up for auction at Heritage Auctions and fetched $765,000, a remarkable and eye-opening bid in itself.
While the seller and buyer remained anonymous, the story behind the card was revealed by Heritage. It comes from the well-known “Rosen Find” of 1986 in the Boston area.
Many of you know the story. A truck driver had a case of 1952 Topps cards that had been stashed in his father’s attic for decades. When the late Alan “Mr. Mint” Rosen asked how many Mantles there were, the ultimate answer was 42. He reportedly bought 5,500 total cards, including those Mantles, for $125,000. It was described as one of the greatest finds in hobby history.
One of those Mantle cards made its way into the recent Heritage auction, which described it thusly:
“Beyond the stunning lack of wear, the card boasts the boldest hues we've encountered from the entirety of the 1952 Topps breed, an attribute that must be seen in person to be truly appreciated. Centering is well within desirable parameters, and surfaces are as clean as an operating table. The margin of difference between this example and the multi-million dollar trio at the top of the population pyramid is nearly too small to perceive.”
The card is among five 1952 Mantles that are graded an 8.5. Only nine have graded higher; six Mint 9s and three Gem Mint 10s.
The Gem Mint 10s are said to be worth $10 million. And you can bet that if one is ever auctioned at that price, the winning bidder will hear this from someone: “Are you out of your mind?”