Mickey Mantle baseball card sold for record-breaking $17.6 million

The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle baseball card is the most valuable piece of sports memorabilia to be sold at auction. PHOTOS: HERITAGE AUCTIONS

(NYTIMES) - A mint condition Mickey Mantle baseball card became the most valuable piece of sports memorabilia to be sold at auction, notching US$12.6 million(S$17.6 million) early Sunday (Aug 28).

The card, issued by collectible company Topps in 1952, features Mantle, the most powerful switch-hitter in baseball history. It would have been sold at the time in a wax-wrapped pack that cost either a penny or a nickel, said Chris Ivy, director of sports auctions at Heritage Auctions, which sold the item.

Now, the card has become the first sports item to be sold at auction for eight figures. "We always knew this card would shatter records and expectations," Ivy said in a statement. "But that doesn't make it any less of a thrill."

The card surpassed the record of US$9.3 million achieved this year by the jersey worn by Diego Maradona when he scored the goal known as the "Hand of God" in the 1986 World Cup.

The sale of the baseball card marks a new high for the sports collectible market, one that has been booming in recent years, especially since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

Baseball cards can carry a sense of nostalgia. "People are starting to look at these collectibles as legitimate alternative assets," Ivy said by phone.

Michael Osacky, lead appraiser for Professional Sports Authenticator, the largest third-party grader of sports collectibles, started working as an appraiser in 2012.

Before 2020, he said there was little interest from hedge fund managers or private equity firms. But in the past two years, he said, he has been swamped with inquiries from people who see the collectibles as an investment.

He added: "All of a sudden people are like, 'Wow, this stuff could be art.'"

According to Heritage Auctions, the Mantle card was graded a "Mint+ 9.5" out of 10 by Sportscard Guaranty Corporation, which authenticates and grades trading cards.

According to Heritage Auctions, the card was purchased by an anonymous baseball fan from Rye, New York, from Anthony Giordano, president of a recycling and solid-waste business in New Jersey.

By phone, Giordano, 75, said he had purchased the card in 1991 at a Father's Day baseball card show he was attending with his son at Madison Square Garden. He paid US$50,000, at the time a record for that specific card.

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