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1952 Topps Mantle Might Hold the Solution to the Era of Overproduction

1952 Topps Mantle Might Hold the Solution to the Era of Overproduction

The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle is widely considered the greatest card of the Modern Era. The Wall Street Journal even did a story on how it is one of the safest investments in the world. I like to explain buying a Mickey Mantle card this way; the only foreseeable way you'll lose money is if Mantle rises from the Grave and shoots Derek Jeter in the head! Morbid Yes, but it illustrates the point. Mickey Mantle's' story has already been told and his legacy carved in stone.

What many people don't realize is that the 52' Topps is not Mantle's Rookie. His actual RC is his 1951 Bowman. So, the question becomes "Why Would Mickey Mantle's 2nd Year card be Worth so Much More than his RC??".

  • 1951 Bowman #253 Mickey Mantle RC = $8,000
  • 1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle DP/#311b = $30,000/each

In 1960, during a "spring cleaning" at Topps' Brooklyn Headquarters, Sy Berger, the Father of the Modern Baseball Card and the man who designed the 1952 Topps Set from his kitchen table, rented a large Garbage Boat and loaded it with 300-500 Cases of 52' Topps High Series. A Tug boat then pulled Berger and the doomed cards from the Jersey Shore into the Atlantic Ocean, where Berger presumably dumped each and every case.

The name "High Series" is another way of saying "Series 2". Topps "Low Series" was always a hit, but as the baseball season wore on, interest declined. This was also in part due to the growth of Football's popularity in America. Now that Football had cut into the "Dog Days" of summer, Topps was constantly left with an influx of "High Series" cards. Topps dealt with the overflow by either destroying them or simply printing less. The irony is that the first card in 1952 Topps "High Series" is card #311, Mickey Mantle.

For these reasons, "High Series" cards tend to be worth more than "Low Series" cards. The rules of supply and demand are constantly at work in collectibles. This is why Short Prints cards are worth far more than regular base cards. This also explains why most 80's and 90's cards are worthless. Although print runs were not fully disclosed, some estimate that from 1987-1997, there were 10 times more cards printed than any other 10 year span in history.

Here's where the past meets the present. The 52' Mantle is more than just an extremely valuable card; it's the cardboard blue-print on how to make 80's and 90's Cards worth something. It might sound "wrong" to purposely destroy cards, but I think that it's both necessary and the right thing to do. The card industry almost over-printed itself to death in the 90's. An entire generation grew up to the sobering reality that their cards were worthless, not because of bicycle spokes, but because of reasons they couldn't control, namely overprinting.

No matter how much 1990 Donruss you dump in the ocean, your not gonna create a 52' Mantle, but you might endup with a couple cards worth putting in a top loader. As things stand right now; there's never going to be value in brands like 88' Fleer, 90' Donruss,  and 91' Topps in 20 or even a 100 years from now. But, if the Collecting Community makes a concerted effort to cut the number of 80's and 90's card in existence, the value will go up.

I personally will continue my crusade against the "Red Menace"; more commonly known as 1990 Donruss Baseball.  Here's some other possible ways to make a dent in the card population:

  • Create some sort of "Card Recycling" Program. Perhaps have the proceeds go to a good cause.
  • Get the Card Companies to buy back and destroy the cards. This would benefit them as well, a boost in card value is beneficial to both collectors and the card companies.
  • Find a "Rebel Billionaire" willing to buy $50 Million Worth of 80's/90's crap and dump them in outer space! Sir Richard Branson would be a Worldwide Hero if he did that!
  • Get professional athletes that collect involved. Have "signing sessions" that cost "50 Common Cards" to get into. I know for a fact that Twins' Pitcher Pat Neshek is a huge collector.  

Here's a few sets that could have major potential if the number of cards in circulation were cut down:

  • 1989 Upper Deck Baseball
  • 1990 Leaf Baseball
  • 1989 Score Football
  • 1992 Bowman Baseball
1952 Topps Mantle Might Hold the Solution to the Era of Overproduction 1Making purchases through affiliate links can earn the site a commission
Brett is a former contributor to The Cardboard Connection.

User Comments


Me and my brother who are both in our 30s now have been collecting baseball cards since the 80s when we were kids. This may sound crazy but we have been doing exactly what you mentioned for some time now. We buy up massive amounts of 80s and 90s baseball cards and burn them. It’s not that big of a deal to us because we get tons of these cards for $20-$100 off of Craigslist ect. We want to weed out the massive amount of these cards as much as we can.

Even though it was a little comical and made me smile, this is a wonderful idea.

I’ve had to explain the overproduction to so many friends that have a box of cards stashed away somewhere. They’ll tell me, hey I got some cards for you to check out, and I instantly ask them: Are they from the late 80s or early 90s?

The answer is usually yes, and I usually politely tell them that they probably have mostly firewood and they’d get the most value out of roasting some hot dogs over the fire that their cards produced.

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