Mickey Mantle is arguably the most beloved sports figure of all-time and original Mickey Mantle baseball cards are staples to any vintage baseball card collector's catalog. Although Mantle has dozens of coveted cards and one's opinion can differ from another's, these are Cardboard Picasso's Top 10 Mickey Mantle vintage baseball cards.
1. 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle #311 Rookie
The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle baseball card is the most recognizable baseballcard to date. Due to the card having two print runs, it isn't near as scarce as other "Holy Grail" sports cards in the hobby such as the T206 Honus Wagner. However, with only 1,283 graded examples by PSA as of May 2018 and only 3 in gem mint condition, the value continues to soar like a blue chip stock. In fact, a centered example professionally graded by PSA and receiving a "9 Mint" designation sold for a whopping $2.88M in an April 2018 auction through Heritage Auctions.To add to the folklore of the card, it is confirmed by the Topps co-founder himself, Sy Berger, that thousands of unsold, high-numbered 1952 Topps cards including the coveted Mantle rookie were dumped into the Hudson River in 1960 to free up space in Topps' overcrowded warehouse. Although the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle isn't technically Mickey's rookie card since there is a card featuring him in 1951, it is still accepted as such to most collectors due to it being Mantle's first Topps card.
2. 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle #253 Rookie
Although commonly overshadowed by the iconic 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle #311, the 1951 Bowman Mantle is Mickey's only true rookie card and to staunch collectors, is just as important (if not more important) than the Topps masterpiece. This incredibly important card is riddled with numerous condition obstacles including print lines, wax stains, and consistent displays of poor centering. As of May 2018, there are only 1515 of these cards graded by PSA with only one grading a perfect 10. A PSA 9 sold for $750,000 in 2018 which sounds like a bargain considering a 1952 Topps PSA 9 sold for nearly $3M the same year.
3. 1952 Berk Ross Mickey Mantle
The Berk Ross cards are very condition sensitive and came in unnumbered 2-card planks that you had to separate by hand if you wanted to display the cards individually. If the logic for acknowledging the 1952 Topps Mantle as a rookie card followed suit for the 1952 Berk Ross Mantle, the Berk Ross Mantle would also be considered by many collectors as one of Mickey Mantle's rookie cards. The circumstances for the Berk Ross card are eerily similar to the Topps card in that both cards are produced in the same year and both are Mantle's inaugural card for each card's manufacturer. Sure, Berk Ross produced a set in 1951 but Mantle was not featured in this set. This is the same exact situation that occurred with the Topps card.
Although the 1952 Topps is considered by most novice collectors as the first Topps release, it is actually the first year for a new format which featured bigger cards with more colorful photos. In fact, like Berk Ross, Topps also had a 1951 release of cards that boasted a less than nostalgic visual appeal which are known as "Blue Backs" and "Red Backs." Obviously, Mantle had neither a "Red Back" or a "Blue Back" Topps card in 1951.
To make things even more interesting, it is debatable if Berk Ross even had the right to feature Mickey and other player's pictures on these cards. In fact, many Giants players during this era filed suit against Berk Ross for using their picture without their permission. Furthermore, Joe DiMaggio who is deliberately absent from both 1951 and 1952 Topps AND Bowman releases is miraculously featured in both the '51 and '52 Berk Ross cards. It doesn't make sense that a relatively unknown brand such as Berk Ross could get permission to feature DiMaggio's photo on their cards but Bowman and Topps were not able to. It is unknown if Mickey gave a damn if his picture was on these cards or not.
Despite all of the history behind this set, the Berk Ross Mantle remains overlooked. In fact, it sells for a fraction of what the 1952 Topps Mantle sells for and many collectors don't even know that it exist. As of May of 2018, there are only 2,370 Berk Ross Mantles graded by PSA and the highest grade awarded is a 8 by PSA.
4. 1953 Topps Mickey Mantle #82
To many, this second-year Topps issue of Mickey Mantle is one of the most appealing card designs ever produced. Due to Bowman and Topps competing for the exclusivity of players who would be featured on their cards, this would be the last Topps Mantle we would see until 1956 since Bowman had exclusive rights to feature him on cards during the 1954 and 1955 seasons. Although the 1953 Topps design is among the finest of all-time, the bottom portion of the card which features red or black edges (red in Mickey's case) is extremely condition sensitive and can expose every imperfection in this region of the card. Out of the 2,943 graded by PSA as of May 2018, only 2 have been graded gem mint (10). A PSA 9 would expect to fetch somewhere in the $235,000+ range.
5. 1952 Bowman Mickey Mantle #101
Like many of Mantle's other early cards, the 1952 Bowman featuring Mantle in his 2nd-year is overshadowed by the notorious 1952 Topps #311 despite it being from the same year. The card features a beautiful painting of Mantle accompanied by a facsimile autograph which is also featured on the '52 Topps. This Mickey Mantle baseball card is the first to picture him in the classic Yankees pinstripes that are still iconic today. Despite there only being 2,370 of these cards graded by PSA with only 2 graded gem mint, the value of the 1952 Bowman Mantle pales in comparison to the '52 Topps making it an excellent option for cost-conscious collectors who desire an early "Mick" but don't want to sell their house to obtain one. However, like all high-end Mantles, mint examples can cost you dearly. In 2017, a PSA 9 '52 Bowman sold for $76,000 which seems like quite the bargain in comparison to some of his other early cards in mint condition.
6. 1951 Wheaties Premium Photos Mickey Mantle
The 1951 Wheaties Premium Photos Mickey Mantle features Mickey during his rookie year on a 5 x 7 lithograph card. This card along with the other 1951 Wheaties Premium Photos of other players were never released to the public. It is unclear if these cards were ever intended to be available for purchase or if they were issued solely as a test prototype. However, rumor has it that a General Mills executive hoarded many of these cards but handed numerous of them them out to friends, colleagues, and family which made them somewhat accessible. In the following year of 1952, Wheaties released a newly designed set to the public but Mickey Mantle, Richie Ashburn, and a handful of other stars who were featured in the 1951 issue were not featured in this new set. This brought many to believe that a mutual agreement could not be made in 1951 between Mantle/Ashburn and General Mills/Wheaties which would explain why the 1951 issues sat dormant and were never released to the public. As of May 2018, there are only 61 graded examples of the 1951 Wheaties Mickey Mantle with only 1 graded as a perfect 10. In 2017, a gem mint example sold for nearly $37,000.
7. 1957 Topps Mickey Mantle #95
Can you see the ghost of Babe Ruth in the background near Mickey's bat? This image captured the imagination of youngsters during this era and made the 1957 Topps Mickey Mantle #95 one of the most famous cards of Mickey's despite it not being his rookie year or an extremely rare release. It is rumored that the "Ghost of Babe Ruth" is actually a maintenance man that was "blacked out" out of the photo after Topps realized he looked extremely out of place on the card. This resulted in a strange silhouette of a person that is visible on the card and made the card an instant classic. The "ghost" seems to be more prevalent on some copies of the card when compared to others which has lead to a debate on whether or not Topps produced a corrected version of the card which would result in a variation. Although PSA has graded over 3600 copies of this card, it is very tough to find it in mint condition. As of May 2018, there are only 15 Mantles that are graded a 9 (without a qualifier) and only 1 gem mint copy in existence!
8.1969 Topps Mickey Mantle #500 Name in White Letters Variation
The 1969 Topps Mickey Mantle #500 typically has Mickey's name in yellow letters. However, there is a rare variation which oddly features Mickey's name in white letters. Although Mickey isn't the only player to have a white letter variation, he is definitely the most significant. It is unknown if the white letters were deliberately done by Topps or if this was some sort of printing error. Regardless, the variation exist and is very coveted among sophisticated collectors. This is the last card of Mickey Mantle's playing days and features all of his career stats on the back which adds to the mystique of the card. Like most of the cards in the 1969 Topps set, many of these Mantle cards are riddled with print imperfections and centering issues. As of May 2018, there were 5,684 Yellow Letter Mantles graded by PSA and only 916 White Letter Mantles graded. This means that less than 14% of the total Mantles graded have been White Letter variations. There is only 1 PSA 10 white letter and 3 PSA 9's. However, 2 of the 3 9's have qualifiers. It is expected that a PSA 9 White Letter would go for over $40,000.
9. 1954 Dan-Dee Potato Chips Mickey Mantle
This is one of Mantle's more sought after sports cards and is extremely hard to find in mint or even very good condition due to the card being distributed in a bag of greasy potato chips. Unlike the more mainstream issues of Mantle from Topps and Bowman, this card features an actual photograph of Mantle as opposed to a painted portrait. You will often see PSA 1's going for a fairly hefty price in baseball card auctions. Out of the entire 29 card Dan-Dee set, there is only 1 PSA 10 and the card is of George Strickland, not Mickey Mantle. Of all the Dan Dee Mantle's graded, there are only 6 PSA 9's as of May 2018. In 2017, a PSA 9 sold for $28,176 in an auction.
Interestingly enough, there are 4 1954 Dan-Dee Mantle's that strangely do not have wax coating. It is unknown to me if these are commanding a premium price in the market.
10. 1954 Red Heart Mickey Mantle
Chances are, if you owned a dog and collected sports cards in 1954, your dog ate Red Heart Dog Food. In a very witty marketing ploy in 1954, Red Heart offered baseball cards via an mail-in offer and featured 33 cards with Mantle as the obvious king of the set. Although Red Heart specialized in dog food, they gave Topps and Bowman a run for their money and produced a beautiful set of cards that rivaled the two card giants. Surprisingly, Mantle and Stan Musial were both featured in this set. Considering Musial wasn't featured in the 1954 Bowman set, this is quite a feat.
Although this card isn't quite "odd ball" status, it is one Mickey Mantle card that is often overlooked since it is not from the mainstream card companies such as Topps or Bowman. As of May 2018, there are 278 PSA 9 examples (without qualifiers) and only 2 PSA 10 Gem Mints. In 2003, a Gem Mint Mantle sold for $12,000. There is no telling what one would go for now!