A new all-time record has been established in the booming sports card market, with an extremely rare 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle rookie card selling for a record-setting $5.2 million on Thursday.
Entrepreneur and venture capitalist Rob Gough purchased the 1952 #311 Mantle rookie through PWCC marketplace.
According to the PSA database, there are only six PSA 9 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle cards in existence.
This particular card was last sold by former NFL Super Bowl champion Evan Mathis in 2018 for $2.88 million to an unidentified buyer through Heritage Auctions.
The previous record for the highest-selling sports card of all time was set in August when a signed rookie by Los Angeles Angels superstar Mike Trout sold for $3.93 million at auction (supplanting the T206 Honus Wagner card, which was purchased for $3.12 million in 2016).
Despite several sectors of the worldwide economy being crushed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the sports card and sports memorabilia markets continue to flourish.
The Mantle sale is but the latest example of the thriving industry’s upward ascension. Last month, a 1979 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky rookie was purchased for $1.29 million at auction, setting the all-time record for a hockey card sale. In July, a 2003-04 Upper Deck LeBron James rookie card sold for $1.8 million, the most money ever paid for a basketball card. 1952 was the first year Topps entered the sports card market, making the set, and the Mantle card in particular, extremely popular. Gough, who purchased the brand DOPE in 2017, told Forbes in an exclusive interview that there are three PSA-10 graded Mantle’s in existence, but Gough was informed that each of those cards is in “strong hands,” meaning the owners have no interest in selling. (An owner was reportedly offered $20 million for one of the 10’s but declined.) It’s uncommon for a card of the 1952 Mantle’s caliber to come to market, so when the opportunity arose, Gough said he “had to scoop it,” adding, “I think I got a tremendous deal on this card.” Gough believes the card was “massively undervalued” compared to other iconic cards on the market, and the $5.2 million price tag was “a steal.”
“I’ve always wanted this card,” Gough told Fobes. “I’ve been searching for this ‘Holy Grail,’ the Mona Lisa of sports cards, the [1952 Mantle PSA-graded] 9. I finally got the 9.”
PWCC, a site that features analytics tools, has comprised market indices representing the investment performance of professionally-graded trading cards. Their “PWCC 500 Index” tracks the top 500 blue-chip trading card assets produced before 2000, against the S&P 500. Dating back to 2008, according to their analysis, the PWCC 500 has almost doubled the return on investment of the S&P 500. Still, Jesse Craig, Director of Business Development at PWCC, told Forbes he remains very bullish on the market in the future due to “the amount of infrastructure that’s being built to help support trading cards and to legitimize it as a tangible asset class.”
2%. The sports card market as a whole is just 1/10th the size of the coin market and approximately 1/50th the size of the art market, according to Craig, despite sports cards being “way more pervasive” than either coins or art. Craig explains that he was confident that “once the masses got a hold of trading cards as a tangible asset class, it would skyrocket.”
Mike Trout Rookie Card Sells For $3.93 Million, Breaking The All-Time Record (Forbes)
At $1.29 Million, Wayne Gretzky Rookie Card Sets Record For Most Expensive Hockey Card Ever Sold (Forbes)