A rare Mickey Mantle card sold for a record amount

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A mint condition Mickey Mantle baseball card sold for $12.6 million on Sunday, exploding through the record books as the highest paid sports memorabilia in a market that has grown exponentially more lucrative in recent years.

The rare Mantle card eclipsed the record posted a few months ago – $9.3 million for the jersey worn by Diego Maradona when he scored the controversial ‘Hand of God’ goal in the 1986 FIFA World Cup.

He easily topped $7.25 million for a Honus Wagner century-old baseball card recently sold at a private sale.

And last month, the heavyweight boxing belt that Muhammad Ali picked up during “Rumble in the Jungle” in 1974 sold for nearly $6.2 million.

All are part of a booming market for sports collectibles.

MLB All-Star Week
The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle rookie card from the collection of Marshall Fogel arrives at the Rally Hotel in McGregor Square. The card is rated PSA 10 Gem Mint and will be on display as part of the Hall of Legends exhibit at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Denver, CO.

Matt Dirksen/Colorado Rockies/Getty Images


Prices have gone up not only for the rarest items, but also for parts that might have gathered dust in garages and attics. Many of these items arrive on mainstream auction sites like eBay, while others are auctioned off by auction houses.

Due to its near-perfect condition and legendary subject matter, the Mantle card was destined to be a top seller, said Chris Ivy, director of sports auctions at Heritage Auctions, who led the auction.

Some have seen collectibles as inflation protection over the past two years, he said, while others have rekindled childhood passions.

Ivy said savvy investors see inflation coming — as it is. As a result, sports memorabilia has become an alternative to traditional Wall Street investments or real estate, especially among Gen Xers and older millennials.

“There’s only so much on Netflix and ‘Tiger King’ that people could watch (during the pandemic). So, you know, they were going back to their hobbies, and clearly collecting sports was one of them,” said Ivy, who noted a slight uptick. in calls between potential sellers.

Add to that interest from wealthy foreign collectors and you have a confluence of factors that have made sports collectibles particularly attractive, Ivy said.

“We kind of started to see growth and price increases that led to some media coverage. And I think that kind of all kind of built on itself,” he said. . “I would say the onset of the pandemic really added fuel to that fire.”

Before the pandemic, the sports memorabilia market was estimated at more than $5.4 billion, according to a 2018 Forbes interview with David Yoken, the founder of Collectable.com.

By 2021, that market had grown to $26 billion, according to research firm Market Decipher, which predicts the market will grow astronomically to $227 billion within a decade — fueled in part by the rise so-called NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, which are digital collectibles with unique encrypted fingerprints.

Sports cards were in particular demand as people spent more time at home and the opportunity arose to rummage through potential treasure troves of childhood memorabilia, including old comic books and small stacks of chewing gum cards featuring sports stars.

According to Stephen Fishler, founder of ComicConnect, who has watched the growing increase – and profitability – of collectibles traded at auction houses, this lure of making money off something that might be in the his childhood basement was irresistible.

“In a nutshell, the world of modern sports cards has gone crazy,” he said.

The Mantle baseball card dates to 1952 and is widely considered to be one of the few baseball legends in pristine condition.

The auction brought a handsome profit to Anthony Giordano, a New Jersey waste management entrepreneur who bought it for $50,000 at a New York trade show in 1991.

“As soon as it hit 10 million I surrendered. I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore,” Giordano, 75, said Sunday morning. His sons oversaw the auction for him. “They stayed awake and called me early this morning to tell me he got to where he got to.”

The card was one of dozens of sports collectibles up for auction. In total, the items fetched some $28 million, according to Derek Grady, executive vice president of sports auctions for Heritage Auctions.

“Sports collectibles are finally getting their due as an investment,” Grady said. “The best sporting goods are now starting to rival works of art, rare coins and rare artifacts as an excellent investment vehicle.”

Mantle, who hit the switch, won the Triple Crown in 1956, was a three-time American League MVP and a seven-time World Series champion. The Hall of Famer died in 1995.

“Some people might say it’s just a baseball card. Who cares? It’s just a Picasso. It’s just a Rembrandt to others. It’s an art thing to some people,” said John Holden, professor of sports management law at Oklahoma State. and collector of amateur sports cards.

Like works of art that have no intrinsic value, he said, when it comes to sports cards, the value is in the eye of the beholder – or in the wallet of the bidder. potential.

“Value,” Holden said, “is what the market is willing to support.”


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