Rookie Card Year: 1951
Investment Rating: 9.0
Mickey Mantle's rookie card is generally considered to be from 1951 Bowman Baseball but his first-year Topps card from 1952 deserves obvious mention as well. Additionally in 1952, the Tip-Top Bread Company issued a label bearing his likeness, which is quite collectible, as is his Star-Cal Decal of the same year.
Mickey Mantle Rookie Cards
Considered by most to be Mantle's "real" rookie card, this card commands huge dollars on the secondary market due to the rarity of samples in high-grade condition. PSA has graded over a 1,000 of these cards and, to date, only one has been designated as a Gem Mint 10. It sold at auction for over $600,000, making it the second highest amount ever paid for a baseball card. The posed and painted card features subdued colors and the youth of The Mick is unmistakable.
This is the grand-daddy of them all and, perhaps, the hobby's most iconic card. It is the 1952 Mantle that started the rookie card craze of the mid-1980s when collectors realized that vintage copies of the card were starting to command huge dollars and were seeing greater returns than traditional investment portfolios. For years, baseball cards were produced in multiple series with the first being printed at the start of the season and later series closer to the end. Later series were printed in smaller quantities as the focus of children turned to the start of football season and a return to school. Mantle's card #311 was printed in a later series and, legend has it, that then Topps CEO, Sy Berger, dumped hundreds of unsold Topps cards into the Hudson River, forever sealing countless Mantle rookies in a watery tomb.
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Ask anyone alive today that saw Mickey Mantle play and, if they're honest, they'll tell you he was the greatest player they ever saw. So iconic is the name Mickey Mantle that it has been immortalized in song and film. His jersey number has been retired by the New York Yankees and paid homage with a plaque next to Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in Yankee Stadium's fabled Monument Park. Topps, at one time, even stopped printing cards in card 7 (Mantle's jersey number) in their flagship base set as a tribute to the player whose career was just taking off as they entered the market and whose meteoric rise in the game of baseball helped propel them into the successful company they are today.
His all-around talent defined what scouts came to call a five-tool player--those who hit for power, average, run, throw, and catch the baseball. This perfectly described Mantle's athleticism. Despite these God-given talents, Mantle himself would tell you that he never lived up to his potential, an amazing thing to consider. He lived hard off the field, partying to all hours of the night and often playing a game the next day with a hangover. His exposé in a 1994 issue of Sports Illustrated was a sobering moment for himself and his fans as the then recovering alcoholic sought to make amends to family and friends affected by his drinking over the years.
Mantle appeared in a remarkable 12 World Series, winning seven of them. He still holds the records for most World Series home runs (18), RBIs (40), runs (42), walks (43), extra-base hits (26), and total bases (123). Additionally, he won three American League MVP titles, played in 16 All-Star games, and was a Triple Crown winner in 1956. Enshrined in Cooperstown in 1974, he his regarded as one of the greats and was named to Major League Baseball's All-Century Team.