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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 4/30/2023

Willie Mays had a tremendous rookie campaign in 1951, earning Rookie of the Year honors and helping the New York Giants catch their rival Brooklyn Dodgers in an epic pennant chase that culminated with Bobby Thomson’s famous “Shot Heard ‘Round the World.” 1952 marked Mays’ debut with Topps in the gum company’s flagship set. Much was expected from the uber-talented centerfielder, but when kids pulled his card from their Topps packs in 1952, the Say Hey Kid was serving in the U.S. Army and would not return to baseball until 1954. Though not his “true” rookie, Mays’ inaugural ’52 Topps issue is nearly as coveted, and autographed examples remain extremely hard to come by.

This featured gem is signed emphatically by Mays across his upper torso in near-perfect blue ballpoint pen. The striking, well-positioned autograph displays wonderfully on a borderline mid-grade version of the card itself. Slightly off-center (more horizontal than vertical) in the frame, Mays’ portrait image conveys an intense focus of a determined young superstar against the dark blue background. The edges and corners are indicative of a PSA VG 3, except when you compare its smooth surface, creamy-white borders and super clean back. PSA/DNA has rated the autograph a 9, which is fair for straight signature strength but doesn’t seem to fully integrate eye appeal into the overall grade. There are nearly 2,900 ’52 Topps Mays cards in PSA’s pop report, but only 26 are signed, putting this one in rare company. Only six dual-grade copies have a superior card grade, the best being VG-EX+ 4.5.

A comparable to this one, graded PSA VG+ 3.5 with an ungraded (9-10 looking) autograph, sold for $93,566 in Sept. ’22. What separates our offered example from that one and all other previous sales is the fact that Mays signed this card a lot longer ago. His autograph here is a hybrid of his early 1960’s-era script and the modernized version he graduated to in the 1980’s at memorabilia shows. Based on the look of the “Mays” (particularly the ‘M’), we date this signature to the 1970’s either at the tail end of his playing career or shortly thereafter. This makes a huge difference for astute collectors who only want the best for their elite PCs. The bottom line is, when you consider the timeline of when Mays signed it, this may be the most impressive autographed '52 Mays in the hobby.

1952 Topps #261 Willie Mays with Vintage Mays Signature – PSA VG 3, PSA/DNA 9 Auto.
This lot has a Reserve Price that has not been met.
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