A mint condition 1952 Mickey Mantle baseball card sold for $12.6 million Sunday in an auction run by Heritage Auctions, setting new records for both most expensive card and piece of sports memorabilia.
The price topped the previous sports card record, $7.25 million for a T206 Honus Wagner, which was set earlier this month. In May, a jersey worn by Diego Maradona when he scored his infamous “Hand of God” goal for Argentina in the 1986 World Cup sold for $9.3 million, setting a record for any kind of sports memorabilia.
“It’s one of the finest examples of the most important trading card of the post-war era to reach the public auction block in the 21st century. That’s the most fundamental reason for the record price,” Chris Ivy, director of sports auctions at Heritage, said in an email. “There has also been an enormous amount of new collectors and investors coming into the sports collectibles marketplace over the past several years.”
It has been a booming time for sports memorabilia that has helped spur the growth of collectible platforms, like Alt, a card brokerage and storage business that has raised $305 million in venture capital money, according to Crunchbase. Alexis Ohanian, Kevin Durant, Alex Morgan, Tom Brady and Giannis Antetokounmpo have been among the early backers.
The Mantle card was on display last month in Atlantic City at the National Sports Collectors Convention. The seller was Anthony Giordano, who purchased the card in 1991 for $50,000 from famed collector Al Rosen.
The card’s scarcity, near-perfect condition, which was graded 9.5 on the 10-point scale, and Mantle’s Hall of Fame career drove the massive interest in the card. The previous record for a 1952 Topps Mantle card was set in 2021 at $5.2 million.
The Mantle card wasn’t the only record set during the weekend auction. A Babe Ruth game-used and signed bat sold for $1.62 million.
“The standing record for the highest price ever paid for a piece of sports memorabilia has been increased by multiple millions of dollars twice in the past four months,” Ivy said, referring to the Maradonna jersey and the Mantle card. “It will be fun to see the piece come to market that may have the potential to set the next record, but there’s no doubt that the eight-figure threshold is an important one in the history of our industry.”