'52 Mantle card sells for $12.6M, shattering record

by Daryn Albert - A 1952 Topps Mikey Mantle card with a 9.5 grade more than doubled the all-time record for a sports card, selling for $12.6 million.

1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card sells for $12.6 million, shattering record 1:54 AM ET Dan HajduckyESPN Close Hajducky is a reporter/researcher for ESPN. He has an MFA in creative writing from Fairfield University and played on the men's soccer teams at Fordham and Southern Connecticut State universities. The wait is over. After more than a month of fanfare, the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card with a 9.5 grade from grader SGC -- the "finest known example" of a '52 Topps Mantle -- has sold with Heritage Auctions for $12.6 million including buyer's premium. It's the most ever paid for any sports item, card or memorabilia. The previous record for a sports card was $7.25 million, set earlier this month by a T-206 Honus Wagner card consigned to collectables marketplace Goldin. "This card is arguably the finest-condition example of the most iconic post-war card in the world," said Chris Ivy, Heritage's director of sports auctions, in a statement. "That grade, plus the fact it has documented provenance from the most storied find in hobby history, puts this card in a category of its own." So the story goes, in 1986, Alan Rosen, better known as Mr. Mint -- who Beckett Media called "bigger than the hobby" after his death in 2017 -- got a call from the Boston area. A forklift operator told Rosen that a truck driver friend, Ted Lodge, had 1952 Topps cards for sale. Lodge had inherited a home from his late father and stumbled upon a fortune in pristine condition. The record-setting card is considered the "finest example" of a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle. Courtesy of Heritage Auctions Even in 1986, the '52 Topps set was hobby gold. Lodge's father had reportedly been a driver, too, one who drove Topps product in the 1950s; the distribution of the 1952 set had been famously bungled and a trove of them sat in the basement, boxed, for a generation. The notion of mostly untouched 1952 Topps in an attic seemed impossible, but Rosen hired an armed police officer, pocketed cash, and drove to Quincy, MA. In the end, he forked over more than $125,000 for 5,500 1952 Topps cards, including dozens of Mantles. In 1991, Rosen sold one of those ungraded Mantles for $50,000. For thirty-one years, the buyer was anonymous and the card remained ungraded. This is that Mantle. For decades, Anthony Giordano rejected myriad multimillion-dollar offers. Giordano's sons reportedly convinced him to step forward, get the card graded, and part with his beloved Mantle. It's the third time in a twelve months that the all-time record for a sports card has been broken after the early-August Wagner and the $6.606 million Wagner sold in August of 2021 with Robert Edward Auctions. Before that, back in January of 2021, a different '52 Topps Mantle (graded a PSA 9) sold for $5.2 million; a 2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection RPA (rookie patch autograph) LeBron James card sold for $5.2 million a few months later, in April. It was a big night for Heritage in game-used memorabilia, too: In the same auction, a game-used -- circa 1918-1922 -- autographed Babe Ruth signature model Hillerich & Bradsby bat sold for $1.68 million with buyer's premium, breaking the record for most expensive bat of all-time. The previous record paid for a bat was also a Ruth; in 2004, the bat Ruth used to hit the first-ever home run at Yankee Stadium fetched $1.26 million with Sotheby's.