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Saturday, March 31, 2018

TOPPS BASEBALL CARDS: 1952 versus 1992

One of my thrills growing up was buying Topps baseball cards, which came in a packet of five with a sheet of bubble gum.  I can still taste that flavor.

Why mostly boys bought them has to do with the culture of the USA and the nature of sports in those days.  Women just did not play sports then.  The most expensive card is said to be the 1909 American Tobacco Company Honus Wagner, which in poor condition still sells for more than a million dollars.  Why so rare?  There are speculations, but it is possible that Wagner didn't want to be involved with promoting tobacco, so most of his cards were pulled from production.  Thus, there are only a few today circulating.  In 2016 this card sold for $3.12 million.

In particular, I remember a Phil Rizzuto card, for no one in my neighborhood had it but me.  Today, a mint condition 1952 Rizzuto sells for $9,000, and even a beaten-up one goes for $175.

Towards the end of the summer, I bought what I thought would be my final pack, and was shocked to see a 5-set that looked different.  I particularly remember Pee Wee Reese, which was so rare in Hawaii that none of my friends had it.  Today, an ordinary copy is worth $500, while a near perfect one sells for $10,000.

If you have a high grade Mickey Mantle from 1952, that could sell for millions.  A cruddy one still goes for $40,000.  Next to that Honus Wagner, this is the second most famous card and could well soon become #1.

The incredible story is that Topps in 1952 released #311-#407 too late in the summer.  When we went back to school, we stopped buying those cards/gum, partly too because the football season took over.  In 1960 the company loaded 300 to 500 cases of those second season 1952 cards unto a barge and dumped them in the Atlantic Ocean.  The world lost several hundred #311, Mickey Mantle.

One empty box is all that is left.  The asking price is $49,995.  For the empty box!


In 1992 I bought a whole Topps baseball set, 792 cards.  They have been kept in a sealed box, so more than a quarter century later they must be priceless, right?  Nope.  The going E-bay price for the whole collection is $50, around 6 cents/card.

Oh, you ask where are my childhood Topps baseball cards?  No normal person in those days kept them.  

They were simply thrown away, probably by my parents.  I don't remember discarding them.  Who had the vision to see a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card being auctioned off today by Heritage Auctions for what is expected to yield, perhaps, $3.5 million.  We won't know for another three weeks.  Who owns this card?  Former Denver Broncos guard Evan Mathis.  He is hoisting the Lombardi Trophy for the team's Super Bowl 50 parade through Denver.  Some experts predict this card will sell for at least $5 million.

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