Rare Mickey Mantle baseball card goes under the hammer for record $12.6 million

The sports item featuring the legendary Yankees player has shattered the previous mark set by the sale of a shirt worn by Diego Maradona at the 1986 World Cup

A 1952 Mickey Mantle baseball card auctioned by Heritage Auctions for $12.6 million.
A 1952 Mickey Mantle baseball card auctioned by Heritage Auctions for $12.6 million.LM Otero (AP)

Mickey Mantle, the legendary New York Yankees baseball player, has made history from beyond the grave. A rare item dubbed the “finest known example” of a 1952 Mantle card has been sold by Heritage Auctions for $12.6 million. Two weeks ago, it had already become the most expensive rookie card ever to be put up for auction, but the price continued to rise throughout this time, making it the most expensive piece of sports memorabilia in history.

Its rival was not easy to beat – Diego Armando Maradona’s jersey from his 1986 World Cup match against England, during which he scored two goals, one remembered as his ‘Hand of God’ goal, sold for €8.5 million a few months ago.

“An eight-figure auction result in the sports market was the stuff of fantasy just a decade ago,” said Chris Ivy, director of sports auctions at Heritage. “We always knew this card would shatter records and expectations. But that doesn’t make it any less exciting that a single item has surpassed the eight-figure threshold for the first time.”

The seller is 75-year-old businessman Anthony Giordano, who bought the 1952 Topps-branded card for his son in 1991 for $50,000 at a collector’s show in New York. Giordano bought it from collector Alan Rosen, who in turn had bought it at a bargain price a few years earlier as part of a collection of 5,500 cards from 1952, many of them valuable, that a Massachusetts man had had stored in a cardboard box in the attic of his home for more than three decades.

There were several Mantle cards in the box, but none in such good condition as the record-breaking example. Giordano asked Rosen to sign a letter attesting to the condition of the copy and Rosen replied, “It is in my opinion the finest example known in the world.” That letter, included in the auction, and the card’s curious backstory have helped to boost its value.

The auctioned card was rated a 9.5 by PSA, the largest agency for the authentication and grading of these items, which works on a scale of 1 to 10, with 5 denoting excellence and 10, perfection; the agency takes into consideration sharp corners and a sharp perfectly centered image. Only three 10-rated Mantle cards from 1952, the player’s second season with the Yankees, are known to exist and another half-dozen with a 9 or higher.

Mantle, who spent his entire career with the Yankees, is one of the Yankees legends on a par with Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio, whom he replaced on the team as center fielder. He was an ambidextrous batter with incredible power, which he was said to have acquired working with his father, a miner. He played 20 times in the All-Star Game, was a seven-time World Series champion with the Yankees in the 1950s and 1960s and was voted best player in the major leagues three seasons. In the 1956 season, when he was already a star, he won the triple crown: best batting average, most home runs and most runs batted in, something that only three other players have achieved since.

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