You’re well aware of the holy grail among Mickey Mantle cards — his 1952 Topps rookie, with his 1951 Bowman rookie a worthy complement. But there’s another early Mantle card that puts collectors in a cold sweat: his 1952 Berk Ross.
The first Berk Ross set (“Hit Parade of Champions”) landed in 1951: a 72-card issue with representatives from multiple sports. The second Berk Ross set, from 1952, also offered 72 cards and focused on baseball. All sorts of big names are there, including Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays (all of which can sell for $5,000-$10,000 if in 9 condition). And, of course, Mantle is there.
The Magnificent Yankee’s card is as vintage-looking as it gets. It gives us a photo of The Mick in a right-handed batting pose, shot from below against a colorless sky. In fact, all of this card’s colors are muted, from Mantle’s cap to the faint skyline of buildings along the bottom. Even so, it’s an appealing piece, one that draws excitement at auction, especially if it’s graded above a 6.
As such, a PSA 7 version of Mantle’s ‘52 Berk Ross turned up in an eBay auction recently and fetched $37,777. The seller noted that it looks “pack fresh” and opined that it appears even nicer than the grade. If only it had a higher grade: Heritage Auctions sold a PSA 8-graded Berk Ross Mantle card for $93,000. By the same token, if the grade were any lower, it might have dropped below five figures. For example, a PSA 5 example of the same card recently sold on eBay for $6,227.
Berk Ross’s 1952 cards, by the way, were slightly larger (2-by-3 inches) than the company’s 1951s. Vertical cards were perforated at the top and bottom. The Mantle is horizontal, so the perforation tabs are on the left and right sides.
BERK ROSS BONUS
As long as we’re focused on Berk Ross’ first two sets, let’s quickly consider other recent sales.
The 1951s, as noted, featured athletes from multiple sports. Recent auction highlights on eBay showed some of that variety. To wit:
• A Bob Cousy, graded PSA 4, sold for $,1420, drawing 40 bids. One with a higher grade, SGC 6, somehow sold for far less, $833 on five bids.
• A Joe DiMaggio from the same year got away for $861 on 23 bids, despite a grade of PSA 7. (What can we say? Collectors are lovestruck for rookie cards; the ’51 DiMaggio came out in the last year of his career.)
• A Warren Spahn and Yogi Berra “doubles” card brought $800 on a single bid.
• A combo football/golf card showing Leon Hart and Ben Hogan and graded PSA 8 sold for $500. Hart was a Notre Dame star (only 19 when this card was released) who went on to play eight seasons as a fullback and defensive end with the Lions. Hogan needs no introduction: His fabled career on the links included nine major PGA championships. With 64 PGA wins in all, he’s fourth on the all-time list, behind only Sam Snead, Tiger Woods (see below) and Jack Nicklaus.
And here are recent highlights among 1952 Berk Ross cards:
• A low-grade Jackie Robinson (SGC 2.5) attracted 42 bids and brought $1,067.
• A Willie Mays in the same condition (SGC 2.5) fetched $999 on 36 bids.
• A much better preserved Ted Williams went for $815 on two bids.
• Cards of Vic Raschi and Gil McDougal sold for $599 (30 bids) and $587 (27 bids), respectively. Both are remarkably clean specimens, graded PSA 9.
Cards of Mantle and Mays, including the 1952 Berk Ross Mantle, show up on our monthly Online Auctioneer Top 10 Chart. Here's a look at the Top 10 from March:
1. $75,100 on 67 bids: 2007-08 Upper Deck Exquisite Kevin Durant, #55/99, auto patch (Logoman) (PSA 8, PSA/DNA 10)
2. $68,101 on 39 bids: 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle (BVG 3.5)
3. $66,400 on 66 bids: 2000 Bowman Chrome Tom Brady Refractor (BGS 9)
4. $57,900 on 100 bids: 1951 Bowman Willie Mays (PSA 7)
5. $57,144 on 42 bids: 2021 Topps Chrome Formula 1 Racing Lewis Hamilton Red, #/5, auto (ungraded)
6. $54,655 on 67 bids: 2018-19 Panini Prizm Luka Doncic Blue, #4/199 (PSA 10)
7. $50,099 on 48 bids: 2000 Playoff Contenders Tom Brady Rookie Ticket, auto (PSA 7, auto 10)
8. $42,167 on 73 bids: 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan (BGS 9.5)
9. $41,652 on 10 bids: Babe Ruth single-signed baseball (PSA/DNA)
10. $37,777 on 1 bid: 1952 Berk Ross Mickey Mantle (PSA 7)