A Traverse City dealer of vintage baseball cards has brokered a record-setting deal for a 1952 Mickey Mantle card. With a price tag of $55,000, it surpassed the previous record price of $43,000, which was paid for the same card two years ago.
What makes this 60-year-old piece of cardboard so pricey?
“This card received a “Near-mint 7 grade” from Professional Sports Authenticators (PSA) which is the number one grading company for cards,” Kirk Wagonlander tells The Ticker. “The card received this premium grade due to its excellent centering and strong eye appeal. Mantle cards I love. I sell more of him than any other name. Maybe it’s a New York thing, but he was also an amazing player.”
Cards are graded 1 to 10, with 10 being a perfect card. There are only three graded 10s of the 1952 Mantle, and those are valued at approximately $1 million each, explains Wagonlander. PSA reports that it has evaluated about 1,100 other 1952 Mantle cards with only 69 of them receiving a 7 grade. They sell for an average of $33,000 each.
Wagonlander declined to identify either the seller or buyer of the card, but described them as “known figures in the hobby.” Neither party knew each other, but each had done business before with Wagonlander, so he brokered the transaction for them.
The 1952 Mantle is one of the most highly prized cards to collectors. Although Mantle first appeared on a 1951 card produced by the Bowman Card Company, the 1952 card was his first card from the Topps Company, the historically popular card company that’s still in business today. The card was also part of the first major set of cards Topps printed.
Boosting its value even more: The ’52 Mantle was a high number card, No. 311 in a 407-card set. That’s a big deal because 60 years ago, when cards were released in a series, the first cards in the series launched around opening day of baseball season. By the time the last cards in the series were issued, usually in September, youngsters were heading back to school and had often lost interest in collecting. Fewer high numbered cards were printed, and even fewer were sold in those autumn months, making them rarer now.
Only a whisper of wear on the corners kept this Mantle card from being graded higher, says Wagonlander, who got into the sports collectibles hobby about 10 years ago, working for another major dealer. During those years he coordinated the sale of the most valuable card in the hobby – a 1909 T-206 Honus Wagner card. It was graded 3 and sold for just over $1 million, he recalls.
In 2005, Wagonlander went out on his own, launching Wagonlander Vintage Collectibles. Rather than buying and selling cards, Wagonlander prefers to act as a broker for deals. He tells The Ticker that he plans to launch an auction company in coming years. For more, visit wagonlander.com.
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