Mickey Charles Mantle was a hero to many. He was the All-American kid, who captured our attention with his boyish good looks and booming home runs. Even today, his legacy is as strong as ever. There's no need to continue, since we all know his accomplishments by heart.
Not only was he popular in the United States, but he was a hero on the international stage, as well. He was venerated in Japan, while touring with the World Champion Yankees in 1953 and then again, despite losing to the Brooklyn Dodgers, in 1955. His popularity didn't stop there. Mickey even had fans in South America and was revered by our neighbors to the north -- Canada. In fact, it can be safely said that the humble Mantle never realized how popular he really was.
His cards today are sound investments. Who wouldn't want to own a gem mint 1952 Topps #311 or even one graded poor to fair? It is a card that all Mantle fans would love to own, regardless of condition.
In this chapter of “Mickey Mantle: The Complete Collectibles Guide,” I'll be focusing on his international cards that have found their way into our great American hobby.
Mickey's first international card can be traced to 1953. It is a very rare card from Japan called the Yamakatsu Mantle. It shows Mickey batting left-handed, while wearing No. 6 in pinstripes. The Yamakatsu Mantle card was part of an uncut sheet of 30 cards that featured the top stars from America, Japan, and Hawaii. Shown are the single card and uncut prize sheet. (Photos 1 and 2)
A second Mantle card from Japan is from 1955. It is called the "Menko" card. Since this prized card measures 7" x 10”, some purists in the hobby debate whether this should be classified as a "card." The Menko card has Mickey's name printed in Japanese in the lower bottom of the "card." (Photo 3)
For more information about Mickey Mantle collectibles from Japan, please see the March 6, 2009 issue of Sports Collectors Digest.
In 1959, Topps started producing and marketing baseball cards in the South American nation of Venezuela. Looking similar to its American counterpart, the Venezuelan cards, for the most part, used the same designs and photographs. Occasionally different designs, like that of the 1967 set, were used, but the cards had one major difference. The Venezuelan cards lacked the high color gloss, which created a faded, flat look and were made of cardstock that was much coarser than those distributed in the United States.
Most of the backs were identical, as well. However, it should be noted that in some cases the numbering scheme was changed such as in 1967. In the United States issue, the Mantle card is #150 and sports his statistics from 1949 through 1966. The backing also features two comics and is printed in a greenish, olive ink. The 1967 Venezuelan issue's reverse side is numbered 192, written in Spanish, and contains no statistical data. The ink used is a light blue color.
With lower production runs and limited cards in each year’s set, the Venezuelan cards are very difficult to find and are usually in poor condition, as most were pasted in albums or scrapbooks.
After issues in 1959 and 1960, Topps decided not to issue a Venezuelan set in 1961.
After releasing its 1962 set, the decision was made to issue a set every two years during the even years. With complete sets issued in 1964 and 1966, Topps decided it would once again produce cards on a yearly basis.
So in 1967, Topps produced three different series that totaled 338 cards. The cards had backs that were written in Spanish and also had different numbers and design than its American cousin.
In 1968, the size of the set increased to 370 and no set was issued in 1969.
The following is a checklist for all the Mantle Venezuelan cards issued from 1959 to 1968.
1959: Card Number 10. (Photo 4)
1960: Card Number 160 - Rival All-Stars (Mickey Mantle and Ken Boyer). (Photo 5)
1962: Card Number 18 - Managers Dream (Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays). The backing is printed in Spanish. (Photos 6 and 6a)
1962: Card Number 53 - A.L. Home Run Leaders - (Mantle, Maris, Killebrew, Gentile). This card was number 52 in the American release. (Photo 7)
1964: Card Number 50 - The reverse of the Venezuelan issue is printed with dull, flat, black ink, while the American release is printed with an orange border. (Photos 8 and 8a)
1964: Card Number 331 - A.L. Bombers - (Mantle, Maris, Cash, Kaline). (Photo 9)
1966: Card Number 50 - The Venezuelan card and United States issues are virtually the same, except for the flat, dull appearance. (Photo 10)
1966: Card Number 92 - New York Yankees Team Photo. (Photo 11)
1967: Card Number 192 - The 1967 reverse is described above. (Photos 12, 12a)
1968: Card number 280 - (Photo 13)
Mantle also appeared on the back of Don Hoak’s Venezuelan Card Number 254. He was the answer to the “coin quiz” question that was located on the bottom right. The question was, “What active AL batter has the highest batting mark?” The answer was Mickey Mantle with a .309 average. (Photo 14)
Finally, it must be noted that in 1960 and 1962, there were no regular base cards of Mickey appearing by himself. He only appeared on the above described “special cards.”
THE MANTLE O-PEE-CHEE CARDS FROM CANADA
In 1965, an agreement was reached between Topps and O-Pee-Chee of London, Ontario, to begin production of baseball cards in Canada. Printed in smaller numbers than its American counterpart, O-Pee-Chee printed cards that were almost identical to those sold in the United States. To differentiate the two issues, the words, “Printed in Canada,” could be found on the bottom reverse of the O-Pee-Chee issues, and a slightly different cardstock was used.
The following is a checklist for all the Mantle O-Pee-Chee cards issued from 1965 to 1975.
Mickey's first Canadian release was in 1965. The set did not contain a regular base card like the American issue. Instead, three different special cards that contained Mickey were issued.
1965: Card Number 3 - A.L. Home Run Leaders (Killebrew, Mantle, Powell). (Photo 15)
1965: Card Number 5 - A.L. RBI Leaders (Killebrew, Mantle, B. Robinson, Stuart). (Photo 16)
1965: Card Number 134 - World Series Game 3 - Mantle’s Clutch Home Run. (Photo 17)
1966: Card Number 50 - Mantle. (Photo 18)
1966: Card Number 92 - Yankees team. (Photo 19)
1967: Card Number 103 checklist. There are two variations of this checklist. On variation No. 1 - card number 170 has a period after the first-name initial: D. McAuliffe as in Dick McAuliffe of the Detroit Tigers. Variation No. 2 has no period and appears as D McAuliffe. A small facial shot of Mantle appears on the front of each card. (Photos 20, 20a)
1967: Card Number 131 - Yankee team. (Photo 21)
1967: Card Number 150 - Mantle. (Photo 22)
1968: Topps Pin-up Insert #11 - In 1967, the American-based Topps Company issued a 32-insert set called Topps Pin-Ups. In that set, Mantle was designated as Number 6. In 1968, O-Pee-Chee produced the same set that was inserted in wax packs of O-Pee-Chee but changed the numbering scheme. The Mantle Pin-Up was changed to Number 11. The words, “Printed in Canada,” appear in the lower left corner. (Photo 23)
1975: Three different Mickey Mantle cards were made that featured him as the American League Most Valuable Player. In 1956, Mickey is paired with Don Newcombe. In 1957, he is paired with National League MVP Hank Aaron, and in 1962, The Mick is paired with National League MVP Maury Wills. The reverse of all the MVP cards is written in English and French Canadian.
1975: Card Number 194 (1956 MVP’s) Mantle & Newcombe.
1975: Card Number 195 (1957 MVP’s) Mantle & Aaron.
1975: Card Number 200 (1962 MVP’s) Mantle & Wills. (Photo 24)
Mickey Mantle Cards from London, England
1965: One of the strangest Mantle issues known to exist is from Bancroft and Company called Bancroft Tiddlers. The company made a series of different themed mini-books with Mickey appearing in Volume 6 called "Giants of Sports." The pages, which PSA grades as cards, are small biographical sketches complete with portrait.
The Mantle card has Mickey's name misspelled as "Mickie" and has his birth year incorrectly listed as 1925. The portrait of Mickey is also the subject of controversy. It resembles St. Louis Cardinal Hall of Famer Stan Musial, while the back side has a write-up of Sir Stanley Matthews. The card is listed as Number 22. The reverse side that features Mickey's biography is listed as Number 20. (Photo 25)
Kelly R. Eisenhauer of Lehighton, Pa., has been a fan and collector of Mickey Mantle memorabilia for more than 50 years. He owns and operates a Mantle website at www.hofmemories.comand Mickey Mantle Cards and Other Memorabilia on Facebook. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org