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Mickey Mantle Rookie Card Versus S & P 500 Index : Which Is The Better Investment?

Posted by Cardboard Picasso on

Mickey Mantle Rookie Card Versus S & P 500 Index : Which Is The Better Investment?

As a 37-year-old vintage baseball card collector who has always had an interest in the stock market and studied Finance in college, I thought it would be extremely interesting to compare the appreciation value of arguably the most iconic baseball card of all-time - the 1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle Rookie, to the annual returns of the S & P 500 index. 

I wanted to examine roughly 10-11 years of performance to establish a true trend and also include a period of extreme volatility (wild price swings, erratic behavior) such as what we experienced with the Great Recession of 2008 along with a period that included extraordinary returns which we have experienced over the last few years.

So why did we choose the Mickey Mantle 1952 Topps Rookie card for this comparison? 

We wanted to choose a card that could mimic the following characteristics of a stock commodity:

1. "Blue Chip" Quality: Leader in industry with a proven track record of positive performance

Why? If we chose a hot rookie (or near rookie) such as Aaron Judge, we don't have enough history of his card prices year-to-year. Sure, he is amazing and his card prices are appreciating greatly but what if he has a career-ending injury tomorrow and never plays again? Hopefully, this never happens. However, if it did, his cards' sky-high prices would plummet dramatically. By using a "Blue Chip", proven player like Mickey Mantle who is already a hall of famer and retired/deceased, we can realistically asses the volatility of his baseball card's prices and eliminate decreases in price due to injury, suspensions, etc. 

2. Highly liquid: Can sell very quickly

Why? I can put a limit order on selling a share of stock that has a market value of $100 for $250 but that doesn't mean that I am ever going to sell it. Similarly, there are people on Ebay listing cards for $1,000,000 that aren't worth a fraction of that. In our study, we evaluated the prices of sold PSA 4 Mickey Mantle 1952 Topps Rookie cards at major auction houses. In actuality, the stock market is just an auction so this should work well with our study. 

3. An investment that's price would be obtainable to the average stock investor who is concerned about retirement

Why? To accomplish this, we chose a Mickey Mantle 1952 Topps PSA 4. If we chose a PSA 10 Mickey Mantle, the one or two richest baseball card collectors in the world would compete for it and buy it at essentially any price. If Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg paid $10M for a card that sold for $2M the day prior, it wouldn't really be a big deal for him considering he is a multi-billionaire. However, if someone making $60k per year paid $10k for a card that is worth $2k, this would be a big blow for them. Although $10k plus for a baseball card is no joke, most families who are concerned about retirement have much more than $10k in their investment portfolio. By choosing a PSA 4 Mantle, we most likely have eliminated the super-rich and are dealing with a market that is attracting the middle and upper-to-middle class. 

Without further a due, here are some auction prices from 2006 to 2017 which were compiled by PSA for a 1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle - PSA 4. 

1952 Topps Mantle PSA 4 Prices Sold (2006-2017)

Date SoldPriceAnnualized Return (using 11 years)


S & P Prices (2006-2017)

DateS & P Price (Close)Annualized Return (using 11 years)
4.871%; 7.083% with dividends reinvested

At first glance, the Mantle seems to outshine the S & P 500 considerably in annualized return with a very respectable 10.8% compared to the S & P's underwhelming 4.87%. However, we need to remember that the S & P index pays dividends which could be reinvested. If we took these dividends and reinvested them, our annualized return would be 7.083%. However, we are assuming that we paid a 0% financial management advising fee which isn't typically the case. 

So, should you liquidate your 401k and invest in nothing but vintage baseball cards? Of course not! Are vintage baseball cards such as the Mantle rookie a viable alternative investment to diversify your investment portfolio? The data suggest that this indeed the case. 

Vintage baseball cards are also a lot more fun to look at than your Fidelity 401k statement! 

Want to see more Mickey Mantle cards? Click here for the Top 10 Mickey Mantle Baseball Cards of All-time.

*Please note that Cardboard Picasso is not a professional financial adviser and this article is for amusement purposes only. Also, we followed the sold prices of a '52 Topps Mantle PSA 4 in competitive auctions. However, it wasn't necessarily the exact same Mantle that was sold each time. Every card is a little different in regards to centering, surface, edges, and corners even if they have the exact same grade from the exact same grader such as PSA.