Taking My Hacks

Baseball Card Face-Off: Mantle versus Mantle

  Joe Orlando

Over the years, it has been interesting to see the way the hobby treats certain cards in the marketplace. There are periods of time where specific vintage cards suddenly surge in price, while others remain stagnant. In some cases, it may be the result of delayed appreciation. This has certainly been the case with cards like the 1914 Baltimore News and 1916 M101-4/M101-5 Babe Ruth cards. It seemed like the hobby suddenly woke up to how important and undervalued each card was.

Sometimes, there are consistent patterns of demand where an entire set gets really hot or a type of card takes off, like postwar Hall of Fame rookie cards. Other times, there is no rhyme or reason to a particular surge other than a handful of guys killing each other for a set. Who said logic had anything to do with collecting anyway? I guess it's as the old saying goes: a collectible is worth what someone is willing to pay for it.

As the market goes up and down, one of the hobby's favorite pastimes is to compare or debate one card's merit versus another. So, in this installment of "Taking My Hacks," I thought I would debate the merits of the 1951 Bowman and 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle cards. Obviously, both are iconic cards that have a lot going for them. In the 1990s, the price gap between a PSA NM-MT 8 of each card was much tighter than it is today. Right now, you can expect to pay around four or five times more for the Topps Mantle over the Bowman rookie. My, how things have changed since then.

Here's a breakdown between the two legendary cards.

1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle #253 - This is Mantle's only true rookie card, which is a major plus. Let me repeat that -- this is Mantle's ONLY true rookie card. The card resides in a very popular set, along with rookies of Willie Mays and Whitey Ford. The card is a very attractive one with nice blue colors and it features Mantle in a classic batting pose, but it was designed with a slightly smaller format.

1952 Topps Mickey Mantle #311 - This might be the most recognizable baseball card ever made. The card resides in what many hobbyists consider to be the most important postwar set ever manufactured. The card was designed with a slightly larger format versus the 1951 Bowman issue, which adds to the already impressive eye appeal. This is Mantle's first Topps card but it is not, technically, his rookie card.

The August 2014 Population Report breaks down as follows:


Card PSA NM-MT 8 PSA NM-MT + 8.5 PSA Mint 9 PSA Gem Mint 10 Total
1951 Bowman 48 0 9 1 1,497
1952 Topps 31 2 6 3 1,186

Most collectors would love to own either card but, value aside, which one would you choose if you had to pick one? Do you think the 1951 Bowman Mantle is currently undervalued? Does the 1952 Topps Mantle simply have a life of its own since the image is so engrained in the minds of collectors? Which of the two cards, in high grade, has a better future? Going by the PSA Population Report, do you consider one card noticeably tougher than the other or do you view them as comparable?

I am sure the debate will rage on. Collectors love to put cards head-to-head and discuss the pros and cons, just like fans do when comparing great players. It's part of what makes the hobby fun. Regardless of which card you like best, I think we all can agree that these are two staples within the world of baseball card collecting.

Never get cheated,

Joe Orlando

Joe Orlando
Editor In Chief