A 1952 Mickey Mantle rookie baseball card sold for a record $12.6 million on August 27, 2022. It's the most ever paid for any sports item or memorabilia. The record previously belonged to a 1986 World Cup jersey worn by Argentinian soccer star Diego Maradona. It was auctioned for $9.3 million in May 2022.
"We always knew this card would shatter records and expectations," Chris Ivy, Director of Sports Auctions at Heritage Auctions, said in a statement. "But that doesn't make it any less of a thrill to be part of an auction during which a single item breaks the eight-figure threshold for the first time."
The auction house credits the card's astronomical price to its pristine condition and its well-documented history. The rare Mantle card was part of a series released by trading card manufacturer Topps in the summer of 1952. Unfortunately, the cards did not sell as well as the company had anticipated. In 1960, Topps owner Sy Berger needed extra storage space and decided to dump the unsold cards into the Hudson River.
As it turned out, not all the cards ended up underwater. In 1986, famed sports card dealer Alan "Mr. Mint" Rosen got a call from a Boston resident claiming to possess a case of the 1952 Topps baseball cards. His now-deceased father, a delivery driver, had saved a box and stored it in the basement for 30 years.
Rosen purchased the historical collection and sold it almost instantly. The recently-auctioned Mickey Mantle card sold for $1,000. Six years later, Rosen repurchased the card for $40,000 and sold it to New Jersey waste management executive Anthony Giordano for what was then a record price of $50,000! Giordano held on to the card for thirty years before deciding to put it up for auction. The rest, as they say, is history!
Mantle — nicknamed "the Mick" — played his entire 18-year Major Baseball League career with the New York Yankees. The legendary baseball player helped his team clinch seven World Series trophies. He was voted American League's MVP three times and inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 1974. Mantle, who died of liver cancer in 1995, is considered one of the best baseball players of his era and the best switch-hitter — a player who regularly bats both right- and left-handed — of all time.
The trading card was not the only newsworthy sale at the August 27, 2022 auction. An autographed baseball bat used by Babe Ruth from 1918 to 1922 fetched an impressive $1.7 million. It marked a new record for the most expensive game-used bat sold at auction.
Resources: Sports.ha.com, news.artnet.com, bleachereport.com