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The Mickey Mantle rookie card is one of the most iconic cards in the hobby.
In this article, we’re going to take a bit of a deep-dive into the card’s value.
Mickey Mantle Rookie Card Value
One of the most common questions I see in the card collecting world is “what is the value of a Mickey Mantle rookie card?” We’ll try and answer it here, but it’s not as simple as just putting down a marker and be done with it.
The simple answer is: it depends on several factors. Before you determine the value of an old Mickey Mantle rookie card, you have to look at several things about the card, such as:
- Condition of the card (we’ll talk about it in more detail later on)
- Number of cards available
- Number of bidders
- The overall appeal of the card
At the very least, you should be getting several thousand dollars for a Mickey Mantle rookie card, regardless of its condition. But the well-kept cards can even cost much more than that – some prices can go into millions if you have a good card! In any case, you’re laughing if you have one.
Again, it’s not easy to just put down a set price and be done with it. You see, card prices will fluctuate constantly. This is especially true for newer cards, but older cards can vary in prices, too. Then there’s the question of the quality of your card, whether you have it graded professionally, and how many interested parties there are.
Essentially, there are two main cards that collectors consider as Mickey Mantle rookie cards:
- 1951 Bowman #253 Mickey Mantle (his true rookie card) – $2000 – $1 million+
- 1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle – $5000 – $2 million+
As you may see, the price ranges are extremely big, but it’s quite a common occurrence with older cards. Let’s take a look at each card and see why they’re so popular, and how you can determine the price.
1951 Bowman #253 Mickey Mantle Value
Overall, the 1951 Mickey Mantle Bowman card is considered his true rookie card. But surprisingly, it’s the 1952 Topps card that most people know about, which is why it costs more.
For the 1951 card, you’ll be able to get anywhere between $2000 – $1 million. Even in poor condition, this card will sell like hotcakes. But the truth is that you’ll almost never find one on sale.
At the moment of writing this, I saw a PSA 3 rated card listing with a price of $39.975. So even if you can find a card like this in decent condition, you’re looking at massive profits. It’s number 253 in the 1951 set, so that means that it’s even more scarce than the earlier numbers from the set. This only increases its value.
About the Card
There’s no doubt that this 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle rookie card is one of the most legendary cards in the hobby. But it is always compared to the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card (perhaps unfairly) because the 1952 card tends to be more popular and well-known.
The design of the card features a big photo of Mantle with his bat on the front of the card, with square white borders on each side of the photo. The back of the card was printed vertically, and it features a description of the player.
Here’s the back of the card:
It’s interesting to read the description on the back of the card. It describes a young hopeful Mickey Mantle who is still seen as a promising player at the time.
Why is it so Valuable?
So why is this card so damn valuable?
- It’s his true rookie card from his first season with the NY Yankees when he still wasn’t a pro until later in that season
- He’s still wearing nr. 6 on the back of his shirt (which he shortly changed to 7)
- It’s near impossible to find it in good condition (most have centering issues, print lines, and wax stains, etc.)
- There are only 1515 of these cards in existence – most of them, collectors will keep for themselves, some of them get lost in time, while only the few that are left get traded
1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle
This card is the holy grail of the card collecting hobby. It’s not his true rookie card, but it’s by far the most valuable card of this player. Why is that so? Firstly, this is considered an iconic card because it’s the first Topps card to have Mantle on it. And secondly, it’s the design of the card that wins out – it looks somewhat futuristic, even (for the 1950s, at least).
The value of this card is thus extraordinary. Even if in poor condition, it will cost at least $5000, but more likely, $10.000 to $40.000 in such condition. If it’s in good or mint condition, this card can command a massive price tag of $1 million to $2 million at least (though not many cards will reach that value).
The top selling price was in 2018 for a MT 9 rated card, and it was $2.880.000! This particular card on the image, rated PR 1, is listed at $26.599. Even with clear centering issues and surface problems, the card still costs that much. Although on the higher end, it’s hard to distinguish all the small details that will determine the price.
Here’s how a VG-EX 4 looks like:
Notice the difference in quality on the surface of the card. The centering is still WAY off, but much better already at first sight than the PSA 1 rated card.
Here’s how a PSA 10 looks like (the one that sold for almost $2.900.000 and will sell for a lot more next time it goes on auction):
So that’s the price range you can expect with the 1952 Mickey Mantle card. Again, it is near impossible to find a sensible price for even a poorly-kept card – but you can expect many people to be interested in it if it does come available.
About the Card
Famously, this card is a part of the 1952 Topps set, which was the first large set of this card producer. The set had 407 cards altogether – although the first Topps baseball set comes from 1951, which only had 52 cards. They changed the approach in 1952 in terms of design, too. It featured a portrait of the player on the front and biographical info and stats on the back.
This card is more popular than the 1951 card, even though it’s not Mantle’s rookie card. That’s something of a rarity in the card collecting world. However, if you look at the card itself, you’ll see why that is. The design and the image on the card make it an iconic card, and it became something of a trend-setter for the next generations of cards.
Today, card collectors often compare it to the 1951 Bowman card – and many times, this one is the preferred card. Firstly, the design of the card is much more sophisticated compared to the 1951 card. They changed the look by adding some new graphical elements, and it’s worked out quite nicely for Topps.
Again, the back of the card is quite similar to the 1951 card. It features a description of the player, some of his stats from his rookie season, and some additional information. Mantle is described as “Joe DiMaggio’s replacement” in this description. It’s always interesting to read these descriptions of players that went on to become greats.
Why is it Valuable?
- It’s from the 1952 Topps set, the first large set from Topps and also the first one to feature this new and now legendary design
- It’s from Mantle’s first season as a baseball pro, which is still quite early in his career – although it’s not his true rookie card
- The overhauled design is an iconic one, and it set the tone for future Topps card sets
- The image of Mantle is quite crisp, especially if the card is kept well
How to Determine the Condition of a Mickey Mantle Rookie Card?
The condition of the card is one of the main determining factors that will tell you the price and the value of a card. You can opt to use a professional grading service, but you can also do a quick evaluation yourself to see how the card stacks up in terms of value.
Here’s what you should look at:
- Centering – this is arguably the biggest issue with old cards. Card collectors want to know whether the card is centered from all sides. This means that the border should not be thicker on one side than on the other. It’s also one of the main criteria that both BGS and PSA use to grade their cards
- Corners – does the card have round or sharp corners? For the old cards, you probably won’t find that many that still have sharp corners. The sharper they are, the better the rating of the card will be
- Surface – this is used to rate the overall look of the surface of the card. Are there any scratches, bends, or even damage to the surface? You want a smooth, clean surface and possibly, as saturated colors as possible. Unless the card is nicely conserved and kept hidden, it’s near impossible to have a perfect surface on an old card like the Mantle cards
- Edges – you want clean edges with no cuts. It’s also an important criterion for graders, although not as harshly used as some others for older cards especially
- Details – for these older cards, details can make all the difference. We’re talking about the really small details such as marks on the cards or even small dots that have been made through the years
How many Mickey Mantle Rookie cards are there?
The 1951 Bowman card is considered as the true Mickey Mantle rookie card. The PSA has graded around 1500 of these cards, while there are significantly fewer 1952 Topps cards – only around 1200. So finding one will definitely be hard, especially if you’re looking for a card in good condition. In that case, you may need to spend big.
Some also argue the 1952 Topps card to be his rookie card. It’s because this was the first card from the Topps set to have Mantle in it. But ultimately, the 1951 Bowman card will remain to be known as his true rookie, despite the fact that the 1952 card is more popular and more expensive.
Which Mickey Mantle cards are worth money?
All of Mantle’s cards from 1951 to at least 1960 are worth quite a lot. The 1951 and 1952 cards are the most valuable cards of Mickey Mantle. But in general, all of Mickey Mantle’s cards are worth money – especially if you’re able to locate one in a decent condition. If you have it graded professionally and certified, you can only increase the value of the card.
Why are Mickey Mantle cards so expensive?
The biggest reason why these cards are so expensive is that they’re rare. The 1952 card is especially rare because there were not that many printed originally, it had a fantastic and futuristic design, and it was the first Topps set to feature Mantle’s card.
Additionally, many of these cards were returned in 1952 to retailers as many were not printed properly, so many of them were even discarded. Overall, this card is considered to be the holy grail of baseball cards, and of course, Mantle was a legendary player in the MLB so that also raises the price quite a bit.
How much is a 1956 Mickey Mantle card worth?
The 1956 Mickey Mantle card is worth anywhere between $1000 to $110.000. It massively depends on the condition of the card. If a card is well-kept, then the price will be closer to $110.000. One PSA 10 rated card of this version was sold for $115.000, so that’s probably the maximum amount you’ll be able to get, even if you have a PSA 10 in your hands.