One after one, each piece is more remarkable than the next.
• A single-signed Babe Ruth baseball graded PSA 9.
• Lou Gehrig’s 1936 MVP trophy.
• Joe DiMaggio’s uniform from the 1951 World Series, when he hit his last home run at the Polo Grounds.
• The only Type 1 photo of Honus Wagner that was used for his famous T206 card.
• And the highest graded example in existence of Mickey Mantle’s iconic 1952 Topps card.
PHOTO GALLERY: The Marshall Fogel Collection
The collection Marshall Fogel has amassed over the last 30 years is frankly unbelievable. Breathtaking for any sports fanatic and collector.
The 81-year-old former attorney is on the top of Mount Rushmore for sports collectors.
Fogel’s overall portfolio is what strikes Collectable CEO Ezra Levine. In February, Levine’s fractional investment company conducted a sit-down interview from Fogel’s Denver home to educate collectors — new and experienced — in the first part of a series on how some of the best and most successful collectors have made their mark in the hobby.
“The major thing for us is we wanted someone obviously who’s an incredible collector and has really embodied and epitomized all that it means to be a collector,” Levine told Sports Collectors Digest. “But we also wanted somebody who was a real hobby pioneer, somebody who had seen the progression and the evolution of the industry, someone who had consistently been on the right horses and found trends prior to other people.
“In Marshall, you have a guy who sees the world very clearly, and who sees evolution and oftentimes, again, has just been correct in kind of seeing what the future has in store.”
Fogel’s collection is incredible in Levine’s eyes.
“Literally, it’s the best of the best,” Levine said. “The cards are obviously incredible, but I think the game-used bats that he has are beyond me. In one handful, you’ll be handling a gamer from Mantle and Maris from the 1961 season and then he pulls out a Jackie Robinson or a Ty Cobb bat. Seeing it in person, not only the breath and the depth of the collection, but it’s the icons of the sport — it’s who everyone has heard about.”
Fogel started with a vision and has followed it for the last three-plus decades.
“I consider myself one of the Christopher Columbus’ in collecting memorabilia,” Fogel told Sports Collectors Digest.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
With vivid detail all these years later, Fogel goes into how he got into the hobby.
He was a casual collector growing up, picking up some baseball complete sets each year.
In 1989, Fogel heard about the National Sports Collectors Convention being held at the Hyatt Regency Chicago. He wanted to take his wife and kids on vacation to the Windy City, so he planned a trip for family and personal reasons.
When Fogel came down the escalator at the hotel and witnessed more than 600 display tables at The National, he was intimidated. He didn’t know the ins and outs of the hobby at that point.
“Hell, I thought Ty Cobb was a dress designer,” Fogel joked. “I didn’t know any of this stuff.”
He had heard of big-time dealers such as auctioneer Bill Mastro and baseball card pioneer Alan Rosen, and they were on hand.
Fogel always wanted a 1953 Topps Mickey Mantle, and he ended up purchasing one at the show. Years later, Fogel found out it was trimmed. That was his first lesson in “that crap.”
Of course, all the cards at the 1989 National were raw since it predated the beginning of Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) by two years.
Fogel also bought a couple other Mantles: a 1951 Bowman and a 1952 Topps.
“Mickey Mantle was my guy,” Fogel said. “I even had a wooden Mickey Mantle bat when I played ball. Probably like a lot of kids, Mantle was the guy. He was a good looking centerfielder for the Yankees. He was a star when he came up in 1951 for a while. I always wanted something to do with Mantle.”
Years later, Fogel had drinks with Mantle and met him.
“I spent some money, but I didn’t understand anything,” Fogel said about getting his feet wet at his first National. “I got home and decided, well, maybe I’ll have some fun with this stuff. And I really loved it.”
Word got out to dealers and fellow collectors that there was a new player in the hobby.
They would say: “‘Hey, there’s a new guy making the run.’ That’s what they used to say,” Fogel added.
Fogel started educating himself on the hobby by reading books.
“Then I became more aggressive in my buying and it developed into great stories of how I met Al Rosen and Josh Evans (Lelands Auction founder),” Fogel said. “It developed to where I became a player.”
Fogel got to the point where he felt comfortable enough to be all in on the hobby.
“It was a risky venture to be a collector,” Fogel told Collectable. “Well, you know, I’m a risk taker, as you know. I believe in adventure.”
In March 1991, Sotheby’s Auction hosted the Copeland Collection, which featured some of the greatest cards and sports memorabilia around. Fogel went to New York to take part in the auction.
“The place was rockin’” Fogel said. “It was like a Bruce Springsteen concert.”
It was packed with collectors, including Mastro and Rosen, aka Mr. Mint, who Fogel alluded to as the father of the hobby.
“Those two deserve the biggest credit from taking this from a hobby to a collectable asset,” Fogel said.
The two-day auction hit $4 million in sales. Fogel figures he spent $15,000-$20,000.
“Let’s say I went from kindergarten to eighth grade by 1991,” Fogel said. “I started to get a feel for what a T205 was, what a Pepsin pin was, and I bought some of those.”
Sotheby’s had its second auction of 1991 in December. Of course, Fogel had to be there.
He got into a bidding war with a guy who rubbed him the wrong way. The two were bidding on a Roger Maris uniform allegedly from the 1961 season, noted Fogel. The price tag got up to $120,000, and Fogel, knowing he wasn’t going to buy the item, stuck the other guy with it.
At that auction, Fogel met Mastro and they became friends. Fogel invited Mastro to his house where Mastro looked at Fogel’s collection and delivered bad news that a lot of the cards were trimmed.
“I sued everybody, and that had never happened before,” Fogel said. “I either got my money back or I got the right stuff. They knew they weren’t going to do that to me.”
ACQUIRING THE ICONIC MANTLE
One misconception about where Fogel’s 1952 Mantle PSA 10 came from was that it didn’t surface from the great Rosen find in the mid-1980s. It actually came from a pack, noted Fogel.
“The guy that bought it was a guy named Murphy,” Fogel said. “His son is a dealer, Mark Murphy. … I became friendly with his father, who’s an architect and a collector. He was putting together the ’52 Topps set.”
The entire set ended up being put up for auction, but it didn’t sell.
“That collection and those cards were fabulous, phenomenal,” Fogel said. “In that collection was the ’52 Mantle 10. Of course, it was raw. It didn’t sell for $250,000 for the set. Of course, if you would have bought it then, you could have retired at the age of 40.”
David Hall, the founder of Collectors Universe, which owns PSA, had quite the collection in the 1990s. When he was going to start up his company, he decided to sell his collection so it wouldn’t be a conflict of interest when it came time to get his cards graded. Hall and Fogel got to know one another, and Hall flew out to meet Fogel in Denver.
“He said, ‘Here’s what I would like to do, if you’d be our poster boy, I’ll grade all your cards for free,’” Fogel said. “I’m a risk taker to some extent. I said, ‘I like the idea,’ because I’d been burned with this trimmed stuff. So I said, ‘OK. You’ve got a deal.’”
In 1995, Hall got his collection together to sell at an auction.
When the ’52 Mantle lot came up, Fogel recalled that with the bidding at about $60,000-$70,000, it was down to him and a guy from New York who was in the grocery business. Both bidders were on the phone.
“It got up to $120,000, and I was stunned. I didn’t have that kind of money,” Fogel said. “What the hell am I doing? David would see what the other guy wanted to do. I said, ‘David, hammer it already. That’s not fair.’ Finally, the guy dropped out and I got the card for $121,000.”
Fogel told Hall he wanted to make sure he wasn’t getting shill bid, so he asked Hall to get the other bidder on the phone. The bidding numbers checked out.
When word came out that Fogel spent six figures on the card, it wasn’t too well received.
“Everybody thought I was stupid, now I’m wisely eccentric,” Fogel said. “I took a lot of heat, people thought I was nuts — my family, everybody. There could have been 25 more (graded) 10s, how do I know? I didn’t know it was the best 10. It’s like God made that card.”
There are only three PSA 10 examples in existence, and Fogel is certain his Mantle is the most pristine.
Fogel brought home his new card and it “was no big deal.” Back then, he just kept it at his house. These days, his cardboard treasure is stored in a bank.
In January 2021, a 1952 Mantle, graded PSA 9, sold for $5.2 million, setting the all-time record for a sports card. In August, a T206 Sweet Caporal Honus Wagner card, graded SGC VG 3, reclaimed the record, selling for $6.6 million at Robert Edward Auctions.
Fogel thinks his Mantle card is worth more than the Wagner, “and so does everybody else,” he said.
“The pundits all believe, not me, that that card is the most expensive card of any card in the world,” Fogel said. “The way people talk about it, it’s like God made that card — the color, everything.
“When Topps made these things, they used like a guillotine cutter and the cards would slip. So if you look at a full set, you were lucky to get 30 cards out of there that would qualify for an 8. People need to understand how rare it is to get a card centered.”
Fogel believes the card is worth upwards of $50 million. But it won’t see the auction block, because Fogel isn’t going to sell it.
When did Fogel realize his Mantle was a great investment piece?
“I always felt like when I bought it that someday I made the right decision,” Fogel said. “I never had any doubt. I knew about the Wagner card, but I said, you know what, Mickey Mantle is today’s hero. Wagner is yesterday’s hero. Most of the Wagner cards look like a truck ran over them.”
Levine is amazed Fogel turned his low six-figure purchase into a high eight-figure investment.
“He’s got real taste,” Levine said. “He has a real clear vision, really clear standards for what he looks for in his collection to invest in. He’s got really incredibly high standards and everything in his collection meets that stringent standard.
“Obviously, I don’t think he could have predicted that it was going to be worth what it is today, I don’t think anyone could have predicted that. But that definitely shows if you invest, you buy the best of the best, good things tend to happen over time, and that’s what Marshall epitomized. But that’s what Collectable is trying to bring to the market, too, is that degree of curation and the ability to own the best of the best. Obviously, it’s for people who can’t afford it like Marshall, but in ways that are affordable to everybody.”
Fogel has an extensive card collection with all his cards in pristine condition. He makes it a point to only purchase cards that are graded PSA 8, 9 or 10.
THE BEST OF THE BEST
When Fogel started his collecting journey, he sought ways to stand out from others.
He’s always been big into game-used bats, which is an area of the hobby that was in its infancy when Fogel was picking up the huge names in baseball.
“I always like the weapon: the bat,” Fogel said. “Nobody collected memorabilia back then, it was all about cards.”
Louisville Slugger would take samples of bats to MLB players and they would feel the weight and then place their custom orders — those were referred to as pattern bats. Players could turn in a bat once it lost its punch to calibrate a new bat for the player.
“They had a vault room and when Louisville Slugger moved to Indiana from Louisville — of course, they moved back — they were going to destroy the bats,” Fogel said. “There were tons of these bats — some of them were outside. It was very disorganized.”
Fogel said someone took all the bats, roughly 7,000 of them, to a barn at a farm in Indiana to store them. A collector in Colorado that Fogel knew acquired some of the bats, and that’s where Fogel ended up getting some big purchases in the mid-1990s.
Fogel now owns the largest game-used bat collection — eclipsing the National Baseball Hall of Fame — at over 200 pieces of historic lumber.
Some of his highlights include a signed Lou Gehrig bat; a bat Gehrig used when he hit four home runs in his first four at-bats during a game on June 3, 1932 (Fogel also owns the fourth home run ball); a P72 Mantle bat, signed by him (the only year he used that model bat was 1961); a Roger Maris bat from 1961 in which he hit his 50th home run; a rare Wagner bat; and bats from Cap Anson and Wee Willie Keeler.
“I want to make it clear, I don’t buy anything unless I can prove with clear and convincing evidence that it was really used by a player,” said Fogel. “Not a possibility, not if it’s this, this and this, I don’t do that.”
That mentality is clearly the lawyer in Fogel.
He also has a magnificent Type I photo collection. According to Fogel, Henry Yee, who is the lead photo authenticator at PSA, and himself are tied for the best Type I collection in the world. Type I classification is a first-generation photograph developed from the original negative within a two-year period of taking the photo.
Fogel and Yee wrote the book “A Portrait of Baseball Photography,” and are the two top experts in that segment of the hobby.
Fogel’s most famous Type I photo was taken by Carl Horner. In the early 20th Century, he took a shot of Wagner that turned out to be the image used on his iconic T206 card.
A collection of Horner photos ended up at Christie’s Auction in 1996.
Early in the auction, Fogel bought a couple of Horner photos for a few thousand dollars, but he wanted to make a splash. Then the Wagner lot came up. The son of former Topps designer Woody Gelman was in attendance and he wanted the Honus photo. However, so did Fogel.
“I didn’t care what it cost, I was going to own every one of those damn things,” Fogel said. “Once I get pissed off … I’m a lawyer, if you want to play with me, you better put your armor on.”
Fogel ended up paying $25,000 for the image. Recently, Yee has told Fogel he thinks it’s now worth $3-4 million.
“If I put that up for auction, I think it’s priceless,” Fogel said. “It is the number one photo. What photo can you think of that’s not the ’52 Mantle photo? Or, I own the ’33 Goudey photos of Ruth and Gehrig that are Type I’s You can ask Henry, it’s number one. Just like the Mantle card, it’s number one.”
Fogel’s top Type I of Gehrig is of him sitting on a dugout step at Detroit’s Briggs Stadium after it was announced that his streak of playing in 2,130 straight games was coming to an end.
Some other favorite pieces in Fogel’s collection include:
• A Wagner trophy, made by Tiffany’s, that displays all his batting titles on it.
• The highest rated single-signed Gehrig ball.
• Two Gehrig bats.
• A Wagner bat.
• A Sandy Koufax uniform from 1960.
• Ty Cobb’s passport.
• And a ball from Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series.
With such a massive and impressive collection, Fogel can honestly say there isn’t any piece of memorabilia he’s still seeking to purchase.
“Here’s how I operate, and I think this is important to collectors,” Fogel said. “I always used to collect what nobody thought was important and I was trying to stay ahead of the game. I’m an eclectic collector. You can start from the beginning of baseball to some of the modern-day stuff, it’s hard for me on the modern day, because I can’t even pronounce half the names of these players and you can’t read their signatures. I’m careful with that.
“For instance, I bought Cal Ripken’s bat before he got in the Hall of Fame. Look, if there’s stats — you’ve got five MVP years and you play over 10 years — you’ve got a shot.
“Here’s how it works, you get a guy like Ripken, there’s a lot of Ripken stuff out there. But pretty soon there won’t be a lot of Ripken stuff out because it’s been eaten up by the demand. You say, well, I remember when there were Sandy Koufax jerseys out there and they sold for around $30,000. Go find one now for $500,000, if you’re lucky. I think you’ve got to be careful to collect horizontally. In other words, if you’re a Dodger collector, don’t scrape the barrel because a lot of that stuff, unless you like it, isn’t worth anything.”
At 81, Fogel has lived a full life and loves his collection. He admires it often.
“The only problem is, I wish I was younger, but I’m in good health,” Fogel said. “I’m having the time of my life, sitting here in the king’s chair. Everybody comes to the house and wants to talk to me. I’m a community-minded guy. If a guy calls me up, I’ve had guys want my autograph and I mail it. I’m a little guy, I came from the street. If somebody wants to know about a ’52 card that’s worth $50, you know what, I’ll talk to them, because I don’t want people thinking I’m an a--hole.
“I look at myself as the ambassador at this stage in my life. I believe that God takes care of those that take care of others. … Like my father said, ‘There’s only one word that counts in your life, and that’s respect.’ Not how much money you have, but how much people respect you. That’s how I live my life at this stage. Helping people, being interviewed and trying to educate people and make this thing fun.”