I still have my original baseball card collection, some of the cards from as far back as the 1948 Bowmans. Here, The Wall Street Journal gives readers a glimpse of one of the ultimate rarities in the history of baseball card collecting.
In 1960, Topps Co. cleared space in its cramped Brooklyn warehouse by renting a barge, loading it with boxes of baseball cards that had sold poorly and dumping them in the Atlantic Ocean.
Nearly 60 years later, that renegade housecleaning maneuver has inadvertently created one of the hottest niche investments of the past decade: the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card.
The card in investment grade condition is incredibly rare. According to Professional Sports Authenticator, only 44 of the 1952 Mantles exist in near-mint-to-mint or better condition. As a result, the value of the card graded an 8 has jumped from an average of $63,859 in 2006 to $494,000 today, according to VintageCardPrices.com, which establishes card value by tracking actual sale prices on eBay and at auctions
Matt Corin, a San Francisco-based card seller via his company, The Postgame Show, recounts a story from a baseball card convention two years ago when an “avid Mantle fan” told him he was cashing in his stock portfolio to buy the most highly prized Mantle card, the 1952 Topps. He was there with his wife “who did not seem nearly as enamored” with the iconic Yankees slugger. As she nervously looked on, he plunked down slightly over $200,000 for the piece of colored cardboard graded an 8. Today that same card would be expected to bring in about $500,000 at auction, according to VintageCardPrices sales data.
Next month’s auction will serve as the next marker for an investment that so far has only shot up.