A lot has changed since Feb. 6, 2009, the first edition of Sports Collectible Digest’s Mickey Mantle: The Complete Collectibles Guide.
I have always tried to be as complete and thorough as possible, so sometimes “new” items suddenly appear that leave me asking: Where has this item been the last 50, 60 or 70 years? Or why is this item surfacing now after all these years?
Answers to these questions rarely get answered. It just happens that way in our hobby. In this issue, I will update the Mantle checklist by filling in some of the holes that have come forth since I began this on-going series.
MANTLE FAN CLUB MEMORABILIA
If you are a fan of Mickey Mantle and were fortunate enough to see him make his major league debut on April 17, 1951 against the Boston Red Sox, there might be a slim chance you had the fortitude to apply for membership in the Mickey Mantle Fan Club. In the last year, two very rare Mantle items have come to auction.
Also See: All Things Mickey Mantle
Considered the Holy Grail of Mickey Mantle pinbacks, the Mickey Mantle Fan Club button set the record at auction for any postwar baseball celluloid when Barry Halper's example sold for $12,650 in 1999. The pin was available for a short time by mail only to members of fan club, which was located at 400 Madison Ave., Suite 906, New York, NY. The pinback measures 1½ inches and was described in Part 13 of the Mickey Mantle Collectibles Guide (Dec. 9, 2009 issue).
The second item, an official Mickey Mantle Fan Club membership card, measures 2.25-by-3 7/8 and is made of stiff cardboard with a blank back and originally accompanied by the aforementioned Mantle button in 1952. The card is rare, as very few have survived. The card was made available to fans of The Mick in 1952 at the above address. Shown are a blank membership card and one that Mickey signed in black marker.
It is believed that the fan club only lasted a season or two (1952-1953), as no other examples of memorabilia have ever surfaced. In June of 1961, however, a new Mickey Mantle Fan Club was formed, as evidence by a form letter penned by club president Jeff Randall. In his correspondence, Randall talks about membership fees being raised from 25 cents to $1 and that the club boasts a membership of 400.
The address of the fan club was 114-20 Queens Blvd., Forest Hills 75, N.Y. Members would receive a black and white glossy photo like the Mickey Mantle Wonder Bread premium that showed Mantle in a close-up with the printed words “Best Wishes” and a very early, circa 1955, looping “M” facsimile signature.
MANTLE HOLIDAY INN ID CARD
Since writing about Mickey Mantle Holiday Inn collectibles in Part 5 (June 8, 2009), one very rare Mantle collectible has surfaced — a Mickey Mantle Holiday Inn Identification Card. Issued to employees of Holiday Inn, the ID card featured a line for the employee’s name, was individually numbered in red ink, and showed a switch-hitting image of Mickey. The card also featured the Holiday Inn’s name, address and phone number in brown ink and had room for Mantle’s signature.
It is doubtful that Mantle signed every ID card issued, but the exemplar shown features a vintage Mantle signature from 1957.
DON HEFFNER CERAMIC GLOVES
For those who pride themselves in remembering players from the 1930s and ’40s, perhaps the name Don Heffner rings a bell. Heffner, who played for the Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians, Milwaukee Braves, New York Yankees and Kansas City Athletics, was a much-traveled second baseman and shortstop who even managed the Cincinnati Reds in 1966.
Besides being a ballplayer, Heffner had an interesting side job as the manufacturer of souvenir ceramic gloves that were available in souvenir shops and ballparks in the 1950s. Two different molds were used. One featured an image of a player or team logo in the center of the glove, while the other included just the name of a player without an image.
Three different variations of Mantle gloves were made. The first shows a red ceramic glove with Mickey’s image and facsimile signature at the base of the glove, while the second is brown and shows the same Mantle image. A third variation is brown and has only Mantle’s name with no image.
Heffner, of Monrovia, Calif., issued gloves featuring other players, such as Al Rosen, Yogi Berra and Stan Musial. Team gloves in various colors — green, red and brown — included the Milwaukee Braves, New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians and the Baltimore Orioles. The gloves measured approximately 4 ½-by-5 inches and contained Heffner’ copyright on the back side.
MANTLE 1947-66 EXHIBITS CHECKLIST
In Part 4 (May 1, 2009), I catalogued all the Mantle postcards known to exist. In that entry, seven different variations of the 1947-66 Exhibits cards were highlighted and described in detail.
Since that writing, two rare Mantle variations from 1955 have surfaced. For reasons unknown, the Exhibit Supply Company reissued 64 cards from the previous series with “postcard” backings instead of their normal blank backs. The front of the card is the same. It shows a young Mantle wearing his road uniform with the 1951 Yankee patch on his left sleeve. The reverse side was printed with and without the words, “A Mutoscope Card.” These two different postcard backings are highly sought after and very difficult to find.
MANTLE/BERRA YOO-HOO BANNER
In Part 2 (March 6, 2009), I catalogued all the Mantle Yoo-Hoo collectibles. Since that time, a rare Mantle Yoo-Hoo piece has come to light. The highly sought-after item is a 23-by-29 silk banner that features both Mickey and Yogi Berra. The banner promotes the Yoo-Hoo frozen bar with caricature drawings of the two Yankee Hall of Famers and says, "It's a Solid Hit." It is unclear exactly when this banner was made, but it was no doubt made for display purposes.
MANTLE WONDER BREAD ITEMS
In Part 11: Display Ads Part II (Nov. 5, 2009), I wrote about the various display ads that used Mantle as its spokesman, including the Wonder Bread issues that featured Mickey. Here is that excerpt:
In the late 1950s, Wonder Bread issued two supermarket displays that featured Mantle and Stan Musial. The first display ad featured two black-and-white photos of Mantle and Musial and promoted its product with the words, “Be a Wonder Winner! Helps Build Strong Bodies 12 Ways.” At 10½-by-14½ inches, the ad featured a white background with a colorful loaf of Wonder Bread. The second supermarket display featured the same black-and-white photos with a yellow background. The second display was much larger, measuring 32-by-44 inches.
Since that writing, another Wonder Bread display has surfaced. It features headshots of Mantle with Musial, Paul Hornung, Del Shofner, Warren Spahn, Willie Mays, Sam Huff and Elston Howard over a yellow background. On top of the display are the words, “Join the Wonder Winners!” Printed at the bottom is “Eat WONDER BREAD Helps Build Strong Bodies 12 Ways!” This display piece is also in the large format measuring approximately 32-by-44 inches.
Also included in the photo are two other Wonder Bread Mantle-related items: a 5-by-7 black-and-white photo premium; and a wooden mechanical pencil that has a circa 1960 facsimile Mantle signature with the words, “Be A Wonder Winner!”
MANTLE WONDER BREAD BROCHURE
In late 1960 or early 1961, Wonder Bread released an advertising foldout brochure that featured 10 different all-stars, all of whom ate Wonder Bread. The foldout included black-and-white photos of Mantle, Musial, Spahn, Dick Groat, Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, Don and LaVerne Carter, Dolph Schayes and Bob Pettit. The foldout measures approximately 5-by-18 inches.
MANTLE SPORTS HEROES STICKER
Catalogued as a 1964 issue by PSA and 1965 by KeyMan Collectibles, this red, white and blue cloth sticker, measuring 2.75 inches in diameter, was made by Hunter Publishing Company of Winston-Salem, NC. Twenty different players appeared in the set, including Mantle, Willie Mays, Roger Maris, Roberto Clemente and Al Kaline, among others. These stickers were part of a minor-league baseball promotion and distributed to fans at games.
1955 ALL-AMERICAN SPORTS CLUB MICKEY MANTLE #442
Part of a 500-card set, this issue featured players from basketball, boxing, football, baseball and golf. Individual cards were printed on thin, glossy stock and came circulated on uncut 12¼-by-9 sheets that contained 32 cards per sheet. The individual cards had to be hand cut and were numbered in white on the front of the image.
MIDWEST ALL-STAR DAIRIES COTTAGE CHEESE LID
Sometime around 1960 or 1961, Mantle’s image appeared on top of an All-Star Dairy can of cottage cheese. The metal lid shows an illustrated picture of Mickey wearing his Yankee cap, while dressed in his home pinstripe jersey. The lid is rare and may have been issued in limited quantities because of a Federal Trade stipulation.
Mantle was no stranger to having his name and/or picture on milk cartons in the 1950s and 1960s. In fact, he appeared on several different products, such as Meadow Gold, Meadow Sweet and Jo Mar, to name a few. With a ruling by the FTC, Mantle was forced to remove his image from products he never used. This image may have been one of the last to be used before the FTC guidelines went into effect.
MICKEY MANTLE THERMOMETER
Just when you think you have seen it all, a new item surfaces that I have never seen. Have you ever seen Mantle’s picture on a thermometer?
Well, now you have. It is unclear when this piece of memorabilia was made. A good guess would be in the late 1950s or early 1960s. This vintage, metal thermometer shows a black-and-white photo of Mickey, with the Yankees top hat logo at the bottom. Measuring approximately 11½-by-3¼, it is unclear who the manufacturer was and whether this was part of a set.
NATIONAL SPORTS COUNCIL PHOTOS
In July through September of 2010, I penned a three-part series called “The Premiums of Mickey Mantle.” In this chapter, I wrote about all the Mantle items known to exist that were affiliated with The National Sports Council Manly Work Out Program. The program would send oversized workout cards monthly that featured various athletes in various sports. The program started in the mid-1950s and concluded sometime in the early ’60s.
Since that writing, at least three black-and-white glossy 8-by-10 photos have been found. These photos were not included in any mailings but were probably for promotional purposes.
The first photo shows Mantle explaining the proper grip he uses to a youngster. In the second photo, Mickey and Yogi are measuring the young athlete’s chest with a tape measure. The last photo shows Mantle pointing to his bicep, while wearing his national Sports Council T-shirt.
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— 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.com and Mickey Mantle Cards and Other Memorabilia on Facebook. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org