Considered one of the most iconic and recognizable cards in baseball card collecting, the 1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle card symbolizes the post-war hobby. Often ranked as the second most important card of all time, right behind the T206 Honus Wagner, this card is a white whale item for many collectors. But there are plenty of fascinating facts about this legendary card and set that even the most die-hard collectors overlook. Here are ten tidbits about the 1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle card that you might not have known.
First, here are four facts relating to the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card being a high number (1952 Topps high numbers are cards 311-407). Topps printed the high numbers in far lower quantities to reduce their risk of getting stuck with inventory from canceled orders late in the season. So, not only is the Mantle card pricey because, well, it’s Mantle, but it’s also more scarce than lower series cards.
But wait just a minute; the second fact is that Topps double-printed the Mantle card in the high series along with Jackie Robinson and Bobby Thomson, so many collectors argue that it’s not that scarce. But wait just a minute, again! Topps couldn’t give the high series cards away despite reducing the print quantities. By the time they came out, kids were gearing up for football cards, and the high-series cards sold so poorly that Topps had a ton of leftover cards.
So fact four is what Topps did with those leftover high-series cards. Topps tried to give them away at events like carnivals at “10 for a penny,” but still, no one wanted them. So, Topps loaded the pallets of unwanted high-number cards on a barge and dumped them into the Atlantic Ocean to make room in their warehouse. Imagine how many more 1952 Topps Mantle’s would be on the market if that hadn’t happened!
The fifth piece of information about the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card is that there are two types. Neither is worth more than the other, but here is how PSA describes them, “The version on the left possesses a white print dot near the left border, a partially filled black box surrounding the Yankees logo, an “e” that finishes downward in Mantle’sMantle’s facsimile signature and stitches that point to the right on the reverse. The version on the right features no white print dot, a solid black box around the Yankees logo, an “e” that finishes pointing up in Mantle’sMantle’s facsimile signature and stitches pointing to the left on the reverse.”
Next, the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card is NOT his rookie card; that distinction belongs to his 1951 Bowman card. However, the 1952 card is THE card and certainly his most expensive one.
The seventh thing you should know about the 1952 Topps Mantle is that no one knows who took the black-and-white photograph Topps colorized for the 52 set. However, the photo is dated March 5, 1951, and was taken in Phoenix. Since there is no photo credit for the image, no one knows if a staff member of a freelancer took it.
Our eighth fact is that, of course, there are a ton of fake and reprinted 1952 Topps Mantle cards. All Vintage Cards has a great article about it, updated in November 2022, that talks through a lot of tips to help spot a fake, like details on the two types of cards I mentioned earlier, knowing about dark green backgrounds, intentional aging, fake flips, and tips on how to use a black light and a loupe.
The ninth piece of information concerns an incredible find of Mantle cards. In the spring of 1986, Alan Rosen unearthed around 5500 Topps cards, and I’ve read that about 75% were high numbers, including about 75 Mantles. I’ve highlighted Mr. Mint Alan Rosen in a review of one of his books and one of his finds here on the blog; eventually, I’ll do a deep dive into this find (Find I).
Last, the 1952 Topps Mantle is connected to another Yankee legend Joe DiMaggio. The back of the card heralds the young Mantle as Joe DiMaggio’s successor.
The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card holds a special place in hobby history. There are so many fascinating details about this awesome card and legendary set that will continue to be discovered and written about for years to come. The card is a bucket list item for a lot of us.
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