2022 FALL PREMIER AUCTION

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#311 in Topps Chewing Gum’s flagship 1952 set needs no extravagant introduction. If you’re reading this, chances are you already know all about Mickey Mantle’s second-year issue – the most prestigious trading card in the post-war era. From Sy Berger’s audacious, large-format design to the high-number series’ unrealistic distribution quotas that led to the notorious “Boston Tea Party” reenactment, of sorts, several miles offshore the company’s New Jersey warehouse, the mystique of The Mick’s first Topps appearance is well-documented. The question is, does your bank account afford you the luxury of pursuing one of the nicest looking ’52 Mantles in existence? If so, we commend you on your success and good fortune. Best of luck in this pursuit. You’re going to need it.

Leading off SCP Auctions’ 2022 Fall Premier is an absolute stunner graded NM-MT 8 by CSG (Certified Collectibles Group’s reputable sports card grading service). Not only does it measure up to four equal-grade counterparts (all unique) that have each achieved seven-figure prices since the summer of 2021; it has clear aesthetic advantages over at least two from that group, making it among the finest NM-MT 8 examples in the hobby. The eyes don’t lie, folks.

Surface is near-flawless, color is exceptional. It’s a piece of artwork,” remarked CSG’s Vice President Andy Broome who was able to inspect the card in raw form before it was encapsulated in October. (FYI, Broome previously served as Beckett’s senior vintage card grader for 17 years.) We concur, Andy. The stoic expression of the Yanks’ budding star – bat on shoulder, shadowed gaze off-camera – pops with striking clarity out of a super clean and bright sky-blue background. The red and black print on the back remains bold and sharp. Front centering, a common flaw in ’52 Topps, is extraordinary, almost spot-on within the white border. The same cannot be said for a PSA 8 example (08119455) that sold for $1.56 million nine months ago; it appears 65/35 horizontally, 40/60 vertically, and has a noticeable black dot/mark along its back edge. Overall border cleanliness, edge straightness and corner sharpness give this offered CSG 8 astounding eye appeal well-deserving of its NM-MT designation, even under today’s strict grading standards.

The hobby would never have become the multibillion-dollar industry it is today if not for the development and innovation of professional grading. Along the way, the number rating on a flip seems to have objectified and compromised the foundational collector’s code – collect the card, not the grade – once shared among purists. Over the past few years, however, inconsistencies in secondary market prices of ’52 Mantles, T206 Wagners, and ’33 Goudey Ruths by grade (i.e. an EX+ 5.5 selling below an EX 5, or even wider discrepancies) indicate that buying habits – at least among many of today’s astute grail chasers – have refreshingly shifted back to a more traditional, subjective approach.

Coming off the industry-shaking $12.6 million purchase of a ’52 Mantle in SGC 9.5 SGC, it appears the wealthiest of these progressive collectors [and investors] are adjusting to another philosophy: buy the card, not the grader. That monster result two months ago shattered the previous world-record price of any trading card by over five million ($7.25M for T206 Wagner in SGC 2). More importantly, it further cemented home a developing trend. Of the eight highest prices ever paid publicly (as of Nov. ’22), the top three are SGC, three others are BGS, and one is PSA (the other was ungraded). Cleary, it’s about the eye appeal of the card itself, not the three-letter acronym on the flip.

This offered Type 1 version along with a mid-grade Type 2 in Lot 7 were encapsulated at CSG’s Florida headquarters in October. The embedded CSG video clip highlights this NM-MT 8 Mantle’s attractive features and identifies the subtle differences between each Type variation.

Out of 2,650 slabbed #311 Mickey Mantle cards in the four population reports combined (two-thirds of which are PSA), fewer than twenty have received a higher unqualified grade than this beauty (five from SGC and fourteen from PSA). Neither Beckett nor CSG have graded one higher. The numbers prove that PSA has been more lenient handing out NM-MT 8 or better grades for this iconic card, doing so at a rate of 2.63%. That’s nearly double SGC’s rate (1.5%) and five times higher than BVG (0.56%).

The trading card market has made enormous strides over the past decade plus, stimulated by the steady recovery of our economy since the Great Recession and recently jolted by a nostalgia craze of and alt-investment boom brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic. In 2008, you could buy a PSA NM-MT 8 for under six figures. By 2015, the going rate was nearly half a million. In 2018, a PSA Mint 9 sold for $2.88 million. The exact same copy then sold for $5.2 million in January 2021 to a guy who has since turned down eight-figure offers! Through it all, the ’52 Mantle has served as a token measuring stick for such rapid growth, a catalyst for several mainstream media headlines, and a surefire home run for investors if that’s the prerogative.

In June 2021, a PSA NM-MT 8 went for $2.112 million to set the current record in its grade. Four months later, another PSA 8 went for $2.029 million. We mentioned the $1.56 million sale from this past February. Well, a fourth PSA just sold for $1.47 million in November 17th – again with inferior centering, especially on the back. It nearly reached $1.5M in an ancient generation PSA flip with a glaring bubble crack on the holder. This CSG NM-MT 8 beauty is visually superior to both. Google those two 2022 results and see for yourself. CSG has given this card a $2 million estimate. Conservatively, we project $1.5 million and up.

About CSG: For those relatively new to the hobby or unfamiliar with Certified Sports Guaranty (CSG), it is part of Certified Collectibles Group (CCG), the industry’s leading authenticator of non-sports cards, comic books & magazines (CGC), coins (NGC), paper money (PMG), etc. The founding of CCG in 1987 precedes that of Collectors Inc. (PSA, PCGS, etc.) and the two authentication giants have been each’s main competitor for decades. With CGC’s years of experience grading Pokémon cards, CSG has quickly gained steam among sports card collectors and marketplace giants alike. In December 2021, CSG became the exclusive authenticator of raw trading cards sold on eBay, the world's largest sales platform for cards. In August, PWCC partnered with CCG to streamline grading of raw sports cards through CSG. As their reputation grows, it won't be long before many of the world's most valuable vintage and modern sports cards are in CSG holders.

1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle (Freshly Graded) - CSG NM-MT 8
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