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The Incredible Value of the 1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle Baseball Card

Posted on May 02, 2017 by Ross Uitts

It’s considered the most iconic post-War baseball card in the hobby yet it’s also commonly mistaken as his rookie card.

That’s right, the 1952 Topps #311 card is actually not Mickey Mantle’s rookie card.

That distinction would belong to the 1951 Bowman #253 card.

But even though that one is Mickey Mantle’s true rookie card, it’s actually his 1952 Topps #311 that is the more valuable of the two.

1951-Bowman-253-Mickey-Mantle-rookie-card

And as you might often expect, Mantle is a rare case where a player’s rookie card isn’t his most valuable.

So, why is that?

Well, the story is actually quite fascinating.

Topps has been the biggest name in sports cards since 1952 when they released their first official baseball card set.

And that’s the first of several factors that make’s Mantle’s 1952 Topps card so valuable: he was the most popular player in the industry juggernaut’s first set.  This immediately sends the card’s historical value through the roof. Even common cards of this set can fetch hundreds of dollars in top condition.

The second reason for its high value is because it’s way scarcer that you might expect.

To understand how scarce it is, you’ve got to remember that Topps and other manufacturers released baseball cards in multiple series. At the beginning of the 1952 baseball season, kids were chasing cards in Series 1, tearing through the 5 cent packs in search of their heroes. But Mantle was nowhere to be found. Series 1 only included cards #1-310, and Topps had earmarked Mantle to be card #311.

1952-Topps-311-Mickey-Mantle-card

Later that summer, Topps would finally release its Series 2 cards numbered #311-407 and Mantle was in circulation at last. It’s important to note, though, that the company was expecting less demand for its Series 2 cards so they printed fewer of them. Fewer print runs increased the scarcity of Mickey Mantle’s card right away.

Unfortunately for Topps, though, demand for their baseball cards had tanked. Far more than they expected. It is believed that kids were turning their attention towards the upcoming football season and their enthusiasm for baseball cards had nearly disappeared.

Topps was desperate and did whatever they could to get rid of the cards, even discounting them heavily to distributors. But it was too little too late.

As a result, pallets of 1952 Topps cards sat in the company’s warehouse for years. In need of space, Topps eventually had to do something.

And what they did forever haunts baseball card hobbyists.

During the early 1960’s, Topps dumped thousands of Series 2 cards into the ocean, taking Mickey Mantle with them. You read that correctly. They loaded up a barge full of baseball cards, set off into open waters, and then sent the cards overboard.

That act boosted the card’s scarcity far more than before. And if there’s anything that makes a baseball card valuable, it’s scarcity.

The thought of so many Series 2 cards drifting slowly towards the ocean floor makes collectors cringe to this day. But as disappointing as the thought is, it’s one of those subtle nuances that can really drive up the price of baseball cards.

And there you have it. That’s why the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card is so valuable. The game’s most popular player of the 50’s and 60’s on the game’s most popular team had his first Topps card printed in the more rare Series 2 print run…and then thousands were tossed into the ocean to be lost forever.

So just how valuable are these cards?

Well…unsurprisingly, Mickey Mantle’s popularity is still sky high and fans have not gone away. And they want his most iconic baseball card now more than ever. Demand for his 1952 Topps card is through the roof as the hobby has picked up steam over the past several years and many collectors have re-entered the market.

Prices of his card can easily fetch six figure price tags in top condition. And if they are truly pristine they can even go for more than $1 million. It’s amazing, isn’t it?

Whoever said baseball cards weren’t worth anything anymore?


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