May 2012 Auction
This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 5/25/2012
There is a particular majesty associated with the game of baseball because of its unique place in American history. For 150 years, the game has dominated the pastimes of a dozen disparate generations, linking men and women of different ages, races, and creeds in a succession of traditions that remain alive today precisely because of the game. Indeed, it is on the diamond where some of our greatest American traditions were first tested and then preserved for future generations: equal opportunity for all, fairness, respect for the rules, and respect for those who came before, for authority, for veteran players and coaches and umpires, for fathers and grandfathers. While its pivotal effect on modern American culture appears to be its staying power through the years, consistently reminding us of our values and our storied past and our ever-present opportunity for glory, there are certain epochs or periods in the game that overshadow others for one reason or another, whether because of the players, their controversies, on or off the field, or simply because of an over-concentration of that aforementioned majesty within a single dynasty or decade. One of the greatest decades in its celebrated history is the 1950s, or Truman's America, the post-war years of economic prosperity generally referred to as America's Golden Age. While Major League Baseball's so-called Golden Age may extend all the way back to the late teens and 1920s, there is no doubt that the country experienced a renaissance of sorts in the 1950s, an explosion in popular art and culture ushered in by color television, the race to space, and the proven success of the Serviceman's Readjustment Act of 1944, or the G.I. Bill, which sent 7.8 million veterans back to school and insured over 2.4 million home loans by the time the program ended in 1956. In this way, the United States confirmed its status as the dominant world power in the 1950s, not just economically and militarily, but culturally as well. Indeed, it wasn't just our money and might that conquered the world, and beyond, but it was our way of life, and no single individual embodied all that was American in the 1950s, save maybe Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe, better than Mickey Mantle. He was a new breed of sorts, a rare combination of speed and ambidextrous strength, quite unlike anything the game had ever encountered. And yet, he was also the boy next door, the neighborhood kid who beat the odds to play a game for a living instead of spending a lifetime underground in the mines of Commerce, Oklahoma. He was the greatest American success story since V-Day. He was the idol of an entire generation, the first generation in history to enjoy a childhood of peace and prosperity. He was the answer to the question, "Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?" For these and many other reasons, Mickey Mantle's first Topps baseball card has come to symbolize that entire generation, or the so-called baby boomers, unlike any other pocket-sized relic from the period. Designed in the midnight hours at the kitchen table of legendary Topps employee, Sy Berger, the 1952 Topps baseball cards themselves represent an American success story, one that celebrates its diamond anniversary of 60 years this season as The Topps Company rolls out another set of baseball cards for the 2012 season, among countless other products representing other sports and pastimes. However, it is the first card of the final 1952 Topps high-number series, card #311 Mickey Charles Mantle, that has helped grow the brand from Sy Berger's kitchen table to the iconic, world-wide business that it is today, with annual revenues in excess of $300 million. Offered here is one of the finest surviving examples of what is universally regarded as the most famous baseball card (or infamous, depending on one's understanding of its scarcity) in the world. To be brief, Topps printed its first five series of baseball cards throughout the 1952 Major League Baseball season, playing catch-up to consumer demand all summer, and releasing cards #311-407 from the sixth and final production sheet just in time for the World Series and the transition into the off-season. As such, demand took a quick dive after the Yankees won the Series, and the majority of cards produced never left Topps' New York City warehouse. Sy Berger then tried to push the extra inventory in Canada and in Series I packs of the 1953 issue, but to no avail. As a final recourse, in the early 1960's, in a move that would ironically mirror the actions of countless closet-clearing mothers across the country, Berger filled two garbage trucks with the extra inventory and dumped it off the coast of Sandy Hook, New Jersey, where it now sleeps with the fishes. Heartbreaking but true. Because of its significance, those uninitiated in the history of our cherished hobby often assume the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card is his rookie card, and while it's true that the card definitely depicts a rookie player, The Mick's technical rookie card is actually his 1951 Bowman issue, a gorgeous example of which we are currently offering in this sale in the grade of NM 7 from PSA. No, the 1952 Topps Mantle is famous for a very different and specific reason, not because every kid in the country had a copy in 1952, but because those same kids, 20 years later, began to wonder why so few copies seemed to be available, and as the legend of the card grew, so too did its price-tag. Offered here is one of the finest surviving copies in existence, a stunning pack-fresh specimen that epitomizes the advanced grade of NM/MT 8 from PSA. Strong NM/MT corners on the left combine with impeccable MINT or better points on the right to join mildly rough NM/MT edges around the perimeter. A self-evident centering preference gently favors the north and east but is well within the bounds of the NM/MT assessment, while the obvious highlight is its stupendous and immaculate image shining forth from within its ring of clean, ample borders. With sufficient NM/MT qualities in every facet except for its MINT image, the presented masterpiece must absolutely be considered among the finest of its scant 29 competing examples in the NM/MT 8 class at PSA, which report just a dozen higher-graded copies on record from 1,074 submissions. A genuinely rare opportunity that arises just once every few years to acquire this important sports card in NM/MT 8 condition, it would be a gamble to assume that the next chance, whenever that is, will provide the same thoroughly NM/MT or better high-end quality.
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