He’s The King Of The Sports Card Hobby…But WHY?
At the time of writing this I’m a 40 year old guy who’s been collecting Mickey Mantle baseball cards on and off since 1986. Mantle retired from baseball 12 years before I was even born yet he’s always been my favorite player to collect.
To that point, here’s a question I’ve been asked many times over the years, in some form or another, and even more so recently (due to the sports cards popularity boom we’re still in, that’s bringing boatloads of younger people to the hobby):
Why is Mickey Mantle “the chosen one” in the baseball card hobby? And why are his card prices so much higher than other greats like Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial & Ted Williams, who had better overall career statistics than him?
First, let me answer that question in my personal case. My dad. He grew up in Red Sox country in Brockton, MA in the 50s and 60s, yet his favorite player wasn’t Ted Williams or Carl Yastrzemski, it was #7 for the New York Yankees – Mickey Charles Mantle. My dad wasn’t a Yankees fan, he was a Mickey Mantle fan.
And many years later my dad would tell the legendary stories of The Mick to young me, and I was all-in on Mantle. I’ll expand on my personal story on another day but for today here’s how I answer that question in general:
Sports card pricing is determined by the laws of supply and demand. The creation of demand in sports cards doesn’t always make complete sense until you realize that sports cards are a popularity contest. Mantle didn’t have the most career home runs, hits or highest batting average but he was the most popular player of his time, and that’s what matters the most when it comes to baseball cards and their prices.
There’s many reasons why Mantle was the most popular player of his era but perhaps the biggest reason is that he played for the mighty New York Yankees and made 12 World Series appearances (1951, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963 and 1964), winning 7 of them (1951, 1952, 1953, 1956, 1958, 1961, and 1962).
He’s the all-time World Series leader in Home Runs (18), RBIs (40), Runs Scored (42), Total Bases (123) and Walks (43). And while one player doesn’t contribute to winning in baseball nearly as much as other team sports like basketball or football, winning still matters. Mantle was a winner and clutch performer on the biggest stage over and over.
The Golden Boy of The Golden Era of Baseball. America needed a new baseball hero in 1951 when Mantle arrived on the scene and he became that hero. Television sets were beginning to appear in every home, and people were able to watch Mickey and the Yankees virtually every Saturday on the Game of the Week and almost every October in the World Series. Baseball was America’s sport and Mantle came along at the perfect time to become America’s favorite star player.
The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card is the most famous sports card in history. On a side note, let’s get one thing straight, despite the common belief, the 1952 Topps isn’t his rookie card, the 1951 Bowman is. Regardless, the 1952 Topps is the most iconic card in the industry, and that lifts the price of every other Mantle card along with it.
Hobby legends never die. No one embodied that more than The Mick. The legend of Mickey Mantle only grew STRONGER after he retired from playing baseball. Don’t just take my word for it. Hear how Mickey explains it himself in this interview clip with Bob Costas below:
The sports card hobby loved Mickey Mantle and he didn’t take that for granted. He embraced it and his popularity rose to even greater heights because of it.
Sadly, Mantle died less than 4 years after this interview but he remains the hobby king with no signs of slowing down.