The Topps 1952 Mickey Mantle card that captured the attention of the sports collectible hobby over the past month shattered the all-time sports card record Saturday, selling for $12.6 million.
The card surpassed the previous record by more than $5 million in the Summer Platinum Night Sports Auction at Heritage Auctions. The card was owned by collector Anthony Giordano, who purchased it from hobby pioneer Al “Mr. Mint” Rosen.
The previous record was a 1909-11 T206 Honus Wagner card that sold for $7.25 million in a private sale by Goldin Co. last month. That card surpassed another T206 Wagner card that sold for $6.6 million last year at Robert Edward Auctions.
The Mantle card was expected to top $10 million, with some experts predicting it might climb to $15-$20. In the end, after extended bidding Saturday night, it finally settled at $12.6 million, including a 20 percent buyers premium.
The sale is not only a sports card record, but the highest-selling piece of sports memorabilia in the history of the hobby. The identify of the buyer of the card was not released.
“An eight-figure auction result in the sports market was the stuff of fantasy just a decade ago,” says Chris Ivy, Director of Sports Auctions at Heritage. “We always knew this card would shatter records and expectations. But that doesn’t make it any less of a thrill to be part of an auction during which a single item breaks the eight-figure threshold for the first time.”
The card is part of Rosen’s monumental find in which he landed 75 mint 1952 Mantles in 1985. Rosen, who was nicknamed “Mr. Mint,” called this particular Mantle the best in his find.
“There are Rosen Find Mantles that I’ve graded — I’ve never held one that nice,” said Derek Grady, Heritage Auctions’ vice president of sports auctions. “It’s dead centered, the color’s immaculate, the corners are razor. This is a prototypical Rosen Find Mantle, this just happens to be the one that [Rosen] called the ‘finest.’ He saw them all, he sold them all, and he called this one the finest one that he handled. He even wrote a letter of provenance to Anthony saying, ‘Here’s the finest ’52 Mantle, enjoy it, basically.”
Giordano and his son, Ralphie, went to a card show on Father’s Day 1991 in Madison Square Garden and ended up at Rosen’s table.
Giordano was enamored with the ungraded ’52 Mantle, which was priced at $57,500. The collector negotiated the price to $50,000, paying $10,000 up front and paying the remaining balance the next day.
The card then stayed at Giordano’s residence in southeastern Pennsylvania until earlier this year.
Looking to sell the Mantle after all these years, now was the right time for Giordano with prices being so favorable.
Heritage Auctions was contacted by Giordano, and Grady traveled to go check out the card.
“I was blown away,” Grady said about the card that was still in its original screw-down case. “I didn’t take it out that day, because he had not decided who he was going to sell it with.”
Heritage Auctions wrote up a proposal and Giordano decided to go with the well-known auction house. In order to maximize the value of the card, Grady suggested the card get graded.
“He really didn’t want it out of his possession,” Grady said. “We get it graded by SGC, because it’s better than a 9 and they have a 9.5 grade, and they did 9.5 on it.”
Grady predicted the card could become the hobby’s first eight-figure item, estimating it at $10 million.
The 1952 Mantle card owned by Denver collector Marshall Fogel, one of just three graded PSA 10, has long been regarded as the top Mantle card in the hobby.
Grady said he’s been told this SGC 9.5 Mantle is comparable to Fogel’s PSA 10.
“Fogel has the best 10 of the three 10s. It’s widely known that Fogel has the best 10,” Grady said. “I have not seen Marshall’s for a long time. I’m sure it compares favorably to Marshall’s, but let’s argue this: It’s Marshall and this one, or vice versa. Those are the two best in the hobby.”
In early May, a Diego Maradona World Cup jersey sold for $9.3 million, breaking the record for a sports memorabilia item.
“Our goal is to beat that number, and it should by, oh, everything’s pointing north of $10 million,” Grady said.
— Greg Bates contributed to this story.