THAT CARD AGAIN — As if Mickey Mantle’s 1952 Topps card didn’t get enough attention in SCD two issues ago, when it appeared as the cover story. Well, here it is again, leading a wild month of online bidding. Seller PWCC Auctions listed a wonderfully clean specimen of the seminal card, an example that’s about as perfect as you can expect from such an old piece of cardboard. PSA assessed its condition at 8/Near-Mint-Mint. As you know, we just don’t see PSA 8-grade ’52 Mantles every day.
Not surprisingly, the card inspired 100 bids and soared to a price of $428,100. PWCC, which has more than 20 years’ experience brokering cards, calls this classic an “iconic blue-chip investment piece.” Now that’s going out on a limb! Given the card’s weighty impact and (as you read two issues ago) intriguing history, it may actually be an undervalued card, as PWCC’s listing opined.
Just three months ago, we reported on a 1952 Mantle graded PSA 6 that sold for $82,401. And in this very column, between our Top 10 chart and the “next 10” list, you’ll note two other ’52 Mantles that got collectors doing some heavy bidding: an SGC 5.5 that brought $72,700 and a PSA 5 that fetched $52,222.
AN EXPLOSION OF BIDS — When we see an auction at eBay draw more than 100 bids, we’re impressed. But when a listing sparks nearly 250 bids—as we saw in one case last month—the item in question must be something special. A Honus Wagner T206? A pristine Babe Ruth-signed baseball? A perfect-10 Michael Jordan rookie?
Well, “something special” in this case might surprise you. The target of exactly 238 bids placed in a mid-September auction wasn’t a Gem-Mint, 10-grade card. The item’s subject wasn’t even a Hall of Famer. It was a Pete Rose rookie card with a grade of PSA 9.
Why the fuss? Topps’ 1963 set is extremely condition-sensitive. In fact, PSA, in its online price guide, doesn’t even bother with a column showing the price of 1963 cards in “10” condition. It stops at “9.” And even finding 9-grade cards from that set is unusual. As PSA’s experts wrote, the 1963 set is “very difficult to fill in high grade. In fact, there are only six or seven collections on the 1963 Topps PSA Set Registry that are complete in unqualified PSA 8 or better.”
As for the non-Hall of Fame aspect, consider this: There are legions of fans who strongly believe Rose—the game’s all-time hits leader with 4,256—belongs in Cooperstown, that his penalty for gambling on baseball (betting on his own team when he was managing the Reds) is too steep. Perhaps they’re banking on the notion that he’ll eventually break through—even though the prevailing opinion of baseball experts is that Rose’s lifetime ban will stick. No matter. At this auction, collectors did so much bidding that the card reached six figures, selling for $100,100.
One other factor prompted the crazy number of bids: Among all baseball cards of the 1960s, Rose’s rookie ranks right up near or at the top in terms of popularity. It’s from a colorful, lively set that’s a challenge to complete, if you’re condition-focused, and it features the most prolific hitter in the game’s history. What’s not to love?
PS: Rose’s mates on his 1963 “Rookie Stars” card were Pedro Gonzalez of the Yankees, Ken McMullen of the Dodgers and Al Weis of the Mets.
ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN —Wondering about the items that finished outside out Top 10? The otherworldly Patrick Mahomes II leads the way with two autographed insert rarities that each sold for a hair over $55,000. Mahomes has also been leading the way on the gridiron early in this NFL season, sparking the Kansas City Chiefs to a 3-0 record and accounting for nine TD passes (no interceptions) and nearly 900 yards.
Here’s the full list of our “next 10”:
• $55,100 on 65 bids: 2017 Panini Prizm Patrick Mahomes II Gold, #2/10, auto (BGS 9.5)
• $55,089 on 138 bids: 2017 Panini Contenders Patrick Mahomes II Cracked Ice, #3/25, auto (SGC 9)
• $52,756 on 47 bids: 2003-04 Upper Deck SP Authentic Limited LeBron James, #39/50, auto (BGS 9)
• $52,222 on 52 bids: 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle (PSA 5)
• $50,600 on 52 bids: 2003-04 Topps Chrome LeBron James Refractor (PSA 10)
• $50,125 on 28 bids: 2003-04 Topps Chrome LeBron James Refractor (ungraded)
• $49,100 on 47 bids: 1984-85 Fleer Michael Jordan with signature (BGS 9, auto 9)
• $46,625 on 44 bids: 2003-04 Bowman Chrome LeBron James Refractor (PSA 10)
• $44,100 on 67 bids: 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan (BGS 9.5)
• $44,000 on 1 bid: 1996-97 Topps Chrome Kobe Bryant Refractor (PSA 9)
LOVE THIS LEATHER! — One of the most appealing items we’ve seen in recent months on eBay is a vintage, fresh-to-the-hobby glove autographed not by one, not by two, not by three, but by 11 baseball luminaries. Among them is one of the toughest signatures to find: Roberto Clemente. And he wasn’t the only star to ink his name on the leather.
Along with Roberto’s autograph, there are sigs from fellow Hall of Famers Lefty Grove, Willie Stargell, Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson and Bill Mazeroski along with Maury Wills and Frank Howard.
All autographs have been authenticated by PSA/DNA, which helped the glove achieve its Buy It Now price of $6,000. The consignor, Showpieces, offered this story from the owner, who only now released it into the hobby after receiving it from a pal in the 1970s:
“At an exhibition game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Baltimore Orioles in the spring of 1968, a man who owned a major reconditioning outfit in East Stroudsburg, Pa., was granted access to both baseball dugouts.
“In each dugout, he passed around the glove for various autographs. He took it home and gave it to his son, an eighth-grader. His son kept it through high school. When the son entered college as a freshman, he gave it to me. I was his roommate at the time, and I happened to be a huge Roberto Clemente fan. I kept the glove for 46 years, and now want to sell it.”
Now that’s a great roommate to have!
TOP 10 CHART
1. $428,100 on 100 bids: 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle (PSA 8)
2. $205,300 on 45 bids: 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket Tom Brady, #/100, auto (BGS 8, auto 10)
3. $100,100 on 238 bids: 1963 Topps Pete Rose (PSA 9)
4. $100,000 on 55 bids: 1910 E98 “Set of 30” Cy Young, red background (PSA 10)
5. $85,100 on 68 bids: 1961-62 Fleer Wilt Chamberlain
6. $75,100 on 71 bids: 1996-97 Topps Chrome Kobe Bryant Refractor (PSA 10)
7. $72,700 on 55 bids: 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle (SGC 5.5)
8. $58,178 on 64 bids: 2018-19 Panini Flawless Luka Doncic Emerald, #2/5, auto patch (ungraded)
9. $55,701 on 48 bids: 2003-04 Topps Chrome LeBron James Refractor (PSA 10)
10. $55,212 on 36 bids: 2003-04 Upper Deck SP Authentic Limited LeBron James, #32/50, auto (SGC 9.5)