Mickey Mantle Baseball Cards

51B-MANTLEHas there ever been a better baseball player name than Mickey Mantle ? I doubt it.

Besides his made-for-headlines moniker, The Commerce Comet was blessed with superhero looks and enormous physical talent.
The Yankees zeroed in on the next link in their numerical chain of superstars and assigned Mantle #6 to follow Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio.

Mantle joined the Yankees in 1951 and after struggling early, was sent down to the minors. He contemplated quitting, but reconsidered after getting some tough love from his father. When he rejoined the Yankees later in the season, he received his trademark #7.

1951 was also the year that Bowman issued Mantle’s first rookie card. Card #251 in the 1951 Bowman series features a backdrop of cloudy skies with Mantle poised to take a right handed swing. While the 51 Bowman is the most valuable Bowman card ever issued, it doesn’t hold a candle to the most iconic baseball card of the last 100 years.

52-TOPPS--MANTLEIn 1952, Topps issued Mantle’s most valuable rookie as the first card in the high-number series (the 6th series, card numbers 311 – 407). The 1952 Topps Mantle became THE must-have card for Baby Boomers looking to recapture their youth. Even in the infancy of the sports card run up of the early 1980s, the 52 Mantle was selling for $3,000 and up. Today, that number has increased twentyfold. The spectacular design of the Mantle card, coupled with its relative scarcity makes it a great seller in all grades. In fact, we have bought and sold numerous poor condition 52 Mantles, the first in 1987, in a condition I can only describe with the term “elephant stomped.”

Mantle finished the 1951 season with 13 homers and 65 RBIs in 96 games and played in his first of 12 World Series. Unfortunately for Mickey, he tore up his knee in Game 2 trying to snag a Willie Mays drive to right center. Mantle was called off the play by centerfielder Joe DiMaggio and got tangled up in a drainpipe. This was the first of many injuries to hamper Mantle throughout his pro career.

64TSU-MANTLEWith Mantle’s star on the rise and the Yankees a fixture in the Fall Classic, The Mick became Topps’ (and every other producers’) Golden Boy in virtually every 50s & 60s release. Mantle appeared on over 200 different cards from 1951 to his retirement in 1969, easily the most of any player of the era.

The exception was in 1954 and 1955, when a Bowman exclusive with Mantle prevented his inclusion in those two Topps sets. In 1954, Topps slightly skirted the exclusivity by producing a black and white Mantle card for Sports Illustrated. The card is printed on a very light paper stock as came as an insert in Sports Illustrated #2.

Topps would apply the formula of stuffing every Mantle card possible into a given product. Throughout his career, Mantle could be found on combo cards with Roger Maris (1964 A.L. Bombers along with Norm Cash & Al Kaline), Yogi Berra (1957 Yankees’ Power Hitters), Willie Mays (1962 Managers’ Dream, 1968 Super Stars along with Harmon Killebrew), Ken Boyer (1960 Rival All-Stars) and Hank Aaron (1958 World Series Batting Foes).

That’s in addition to his American League Leaders, MVP, Highlights, All-Star and Checklist cards. It was a clearly a winning formula as kids in the 50s and 60s were highly motivated to buy packs of Topps in search of Mantle’s cards. In fact after his death in 1995, Topps paid homage to Mantle by retiring the number 7 in their base brand.

59B-MANTLESince he was included on almost every test issue that Topps produced, his test cards are some of the most valuable of the 1960s. The 1967 Topps Punch-Outs, Stand-Ups & Test Discs, the 1968 Topps Action All-Star Stickers and 1969 Topps Super Mantles are all worth four figures.

Mantle’s popularity was so great that he has the distinction of having the most expensive single card issued by a host of different card manufacturers, including Bazooka (1959 Bazooka #14), Berk Ross (1952 Berk Ross #37), Bowman (1951 Bowman #253),  Briggs Meats (1953 Briggs Meats #34), Dan-Dee Potato Chips (1954 Dan-Dee #17), NY Journal-American 1954 Journal-American), Red Heart Dog Food (1954 Red Heart #18), Stahl-Meyer (1953, 1954 & 1955 Stahl-Meyer),Tip Top Bread (1952 Tip Top #24), Topps (1952 Topps #311) and Transogram Statues (1969 Transogram #30). In fact, ignoring rarities or rookie cards of other players, Mantle is the highest priced card in every set he ever appeared.

Several of Mantle’s early regional issues exceed the values of his corresponding Topps and Bowman cards of the same year. In particular, the Stahl-Meyer, Dan-Dee Potato Chips, 1959 Bazooka and Tip Top Bread cards are usually missing from the collections of even the most advanced Mantle buyers.

Perhaps the Mantle Mystique was best explained in this exchange from the movie Catch Me If You Can:
Carl Hanratty: How did you know I wouldn’t look in your wallet?
Frank Abagnale, Jr.: The same reason the Yankees always win. Nobody can keep their eyes off the pinstripes.
Carl Hanratty: The Yankees win because they have Mickey Mantle.

91S-MANTLEIt was the Boomers’ romanticism of Mantle that touched of the baseball card and memorabilia boom of the early 1980s. When fans discovered they could reacquire the trading cards of their youth AND meet & get the autograph of their hero at a card show, The Hobby became mainstream.

In the early 1990s, the trading card companies realized they could insert autographed cards into the packs to stimulate sales. Of course Mantle was one of the first they turned to. The 1991 Score Mickey Mantle autographs are some of the only valuable cards from this era of mass overproduction.

Mantle’s career accomplishments were impressive but there was always a tinge of “What If?” What if he hadn’t been plagued by injuries? How good could he have really been? Mantle was a Triple Crown winner. He was a 3-time American League MVP, a 7-time World Series Champ, 4-time Home Run Leader and still holds the World Series career record for Home Runs, RBIs, Runs, Base on Balls and Total Bases.  His tape-measure homers are still legendary as are the tales of his late night escapades.

Mantle said it best; “If knew I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.”

If you have any Mickey Mantle baseball cards (produced between 1951 and 1969) to sell or any items on our baseball buy list, PLEASE CONTACT Mark Rubin at 914-725-2225 or via email at mark@amerlegends.com. A quick phone call is all it takes to get started.