Last Updated On: October 9th, 2023
Every post about the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle starts with something like “…the most iconic baseball card in sports card history…”, so we’ll spare you from doing the same 😉
A less commonly known fact is that two types of the Mantle #311 card were produced with subtle differences in design.
Our primary goal with this post is to complete a Type 1 vs. Type 2 value analysis and determine whether the market assigns a premium price to either card.
We’ve analyzed multiple years of sales data to determine which type performs better by average and median sales price, the professional grade breakdown for each version, and even which auction houses attain the highest price when selling the Mantle.
So let’s show you what we came up with!
The Topps 1952 baseball set consists of 407 total cards and was produced in six series; each series was distributed before the next one was due to be released. The sequence of cards in each are as follows, with Mantle being the first in Series 6:
Series 1: Cards #1 through #80
Series 2: Cards #81 through #130
Series 3: Cards #131 through #190
Series 4: Cards #191 through #250
Series 5: Cards #251 through 310
Series 6: Cards #311 through #407
Only 97 cards were included in Series 6, which was printed on 100-card sheets. The three empty slots were filled by double-printing three cards, one of which was the Mantle #311. The double prints became known as the Type 2 version.
It’s unclear exactly why the Type 1 design couldn’t be used in the doubles printed to fill the 100-card sheets. Some think it’s because the Type 1 design couldn’t be reproduced exactly as it was originally designed since it was all done by hand, but that story still seems a bit fuzzy.
Either way, how or why it happened isn’t as important as whether there is a difference in pricing within the marketplace (the reason why we’re here). Carrying on!
Overview of Analysis
When we first sought to do the analysis, we assumed Type 1 would achieve a higher price relative to Type 2 given it is, by definition, the first of the two. Our thinking was that in similar instances with comic books, art, books, and even sports cards, the first — edition, print, production, perhaps type — commands a higher price vs. any subsequent version. The results somewhat surprised us.
The data for our research was pulled from CardLadder to include auction and sales results from the last 3 years, starting January 1st, 2021 through October 2nd, 2023. To keep it simple, we only looked at PSA graded copies that sold as they outnumber other grading companies by a healthy margin.
As with any data analysis, some exceptions were made to exclude data which does not add value to the project.
Data Excluded From Analysis
The sales data excluded from our analysis includes the following:
- PSA graded Mantles with qualifiers (e.g. MC, OC) given their small sample size
- Sales without a quality image to definitively identify Type 1 vs. Type 2
- Autographed Mantles; signed cards already command a premium, and they’re not in scope here
- Mantles that sold as part of sets (obviously)
All things considered, very few exclusions were made and the net results include 235 total sales over 33 months (so almost three years).
Mantle Type 1 vs. Type 2 Values Compared
Of the 235 total Mickey Mantle Topps sales, we’re lucky the data split almost perfectly down the middle to give us a fair sales mix for both types:
|Type of Mantle||Quantity Sold (Jan. 1st 2021 thru Oct. 2nd 2023)|
Average & Median Grades by Type
First, we identified the average and median grade for each type of Mickey sold. This is important to determine if either type had a lopsided advantage in the condition of the cards sold (i.e. their assigned PSA numerical grade was much higher or lower).
For the average grade score, we assigned 0 (zero) to any card sold which was deemed Authentic/Altered by PSA, since those don’t come with a numeric grade. The results were as follows:
|Type||Average Grade||Median Grade|
Both types had a similar average grade just under 3.5, which is approximately PSA 3.5 VG+ (Very Good+).
The median grade for each type was right on PSA 3, or VG (Very Good).
We also analyzed what the average and median grade would’ve been had we excluded altered cards where we assigned a numeric grade of zero. The results were relatively negligible, although the median grade for Type 2’s did bump up to 3.5 (VG+).
Average and Median Grades Excluding Altered Cards
|Type||Average Grade||Median Grade|
Top 15 Sales Across Both Types (PSA Graded Copies)
Of the 235 Mickey Mantle 1952 Topps sales we analyzed, the top 15 sales since January, 2021 are as follows:
|Rank||PSA Grade||Type||Sales Price||Sale Date||Platform|
Notice a pattern? 14 out of 15 of the best Mickey Mantle sales were sold by Heritage (8) and Goldin (6) Auction houses. They’re smoking the competition! We’ll get into more about auction house trends in a little bit.
While we cannot glean a ton of useful information from the top 15 sales, we can see there is a healthy representation of Type 1 (8 occurrences) and Type 2 sales (7). Also, with most sports cards prices hitting a post-pandemic peak in 2021, it’s great to see several sales make the list having sold in late-2022, and throughout 2023. The market is alive after all!
Lastly, the #1 sale for $5.2 million (Type 2) is quite the outlier in price — we’ll factor this into our analysis as we look at average sales prices next. By comparison, the highest selling Type 1 ever (or any Mantle for that matter) is an SGC 9.5 Mint+ copy which sold for $12.6 million by none other than Heritage auctions in 2022. As this post is focused on PSA copies, the SGC won’t be considered anyway, but food for thought!
Average & Median Sales Price by Type
At first glance, the average and median sales prices achieved shows us Type 2 outperformed Type 1 by an average price of 15%, and median price of 11.15%.
|Type||Average Sales Price||Median Sales Price|
But as we alluded to, the #1 Mantle sale was a PSA 9 Mint which sold for an incredible $5.2 million dollars. This outlier was a Type 2 card that sold privately at a factor of 2.5x more than the second highest sale recorded.
In fact, as our Top 15 table shows, the three best sales of Mantles in the last 33 months were Type 2 cards; for $1,566,000 (PSA 8), $2,029,500 (PSA 8), and $5,200,000 (PSA 9).
While the median sales price already eliminates outliers, we wondered what the average sales data would look like if we removed the best and worst sale for each type to see how the numbers would shake out. They tell a different story as now Type 1 outperformed Type 2 average sales prices by 6.3%:
Average and Median Prices Excluding Best and Worst Sale
|Type||Average Sales Price||Median Sales Price|
Bottom line: Type 2 outperformed Type 1 by double digits (in % terms) when it comes to median and average sales price before data exclusions. That said, it’s unclear if the small outperformance is all that convincing without looking at the data further.
Breakdown by PSA Grade (Head-to-Head)
The following table organizes all sales by PSA grade to determine how Type 1 and Type 2 performed at a specific grade level head-to-head. We chose average price over median as we felt it would more reliable given the small sample size at each grade level.
|Grade||# of Sales Type 1||# of Sales Type 2||Total||Avg. Sale Type 1||Avg. Sale Type 2||Winner||Margin|
|PSA 8||7||3||10||$1,094,571||$1,638,500||Type 2||49.69%|
|PSA 7||8||5||13||$277,594||$349,200||Type 2||25.80%|
|PSA 6||3||8||11||$150,000||$177,077||Type 2||18.05%|
|PSA 5.5||7||2||9||$147,071||$178,281||Type 2||21.22%|
|PSA 5||8||14||22||$136,200||$108,313||Type 1||20.48%|
|PSA 4||13||17||30||$93,712||$90,938||Type 1||2.96%|
|PSA 3.5||5||4||9||$74,400||$72,342||Type 1||2.77%|
|PSA 3||17||15||32||$58,955||$67,166||Type 2||13.93%|
|PSA 2.5||7||7||14||$55,025||$56,054||Type 2||1.87%|
|PSA 2||8||4||12||$47,580||$46,827||Type 1||1.58%|
|PSA 1.5||10||11||21||$40,090||$39,094||Type 1||2.48%|
|PSA 1||18||16||34||$30,535||$28,941||Type 1||5.22%|
|PSA 0 (Altered)||4||7||11||$27,650||$43,301||Type 2||56.60%|
Some mildly interesting results appear:
- Type 2 outperformed Type 1 in the higher grades — by 18% or better from PSA 5.5 through PSA 8 graded cards where both had datapoints
- Type 1 had tiny outperformance even as the victor, with an average margin of victory of 5.91% vs. 26.74% for Type 2 wins
- Type 2 smoked Type 1 by 56.6% for PSA Altered cards
Again, the numbers are not ground-breaking, although Type 2 still managed to eke out wins in head-to-head grades (7 to 6), and easily by margin of victory.
Auction House Performance
While analyzing head-to-head sales between Mantle Types and PSA grades, we also managed to track which auction house (or platform) was responsible for each sale, and which performed best (because, why not). Remember, the data we captured does not include cards sold with PSA qualifiers.
Number of Cards sold, by Auction House:
|Auction House||Number of Cards Sold||Market Share|
|Love of the Game||4||1.70%|
Best Auction House by Average Sales Price
The table below organizes the best average sales price achieved by the top 5 auction houses by volume. We have also included the average and median grades of the cards sold for additional context.
|Rank||Auction House||Avg. Grade (Median)||Avg. Sales Price|
Best Auction House by Median Sales Price
We see there is a similar rank order when looking at the best auction house by median sales price in descending order.
|Rank||Auction House||Avg. Grade (Median)||Median Sales Price|
Heritage remains king, while Goldin sits in the #2 spot but within striking distance. Goldin has sold the most Mantles since 2021, but are they on the cusp of catching Heritage by price as well? Time will tell. Goldin continues to grow as a brand, and being on Netflix doesn’t hurt either.
Auction House Trends
And speaking of growth, the table below shows how many Mantles each auction house sold in 2022, along with a forecast of 2023 numbers now that we’re three-quarters through the year.
|Auction House||# of Mantle Sales (2022)||# of Mantle Sales |
Goldin is selling the most by quantity, and growing the fastest with 80% year-over-year growth if the forecast proves to be right. In contrast, REA has fallen off a cliff with 66.67% deceleration — Goldin and Heritage must be taking sales right from REA.
Type 2 Mickeys won the head-to-head battle against Type 1s when it comes to average and median sales price over the last 3 years. While the price difference is not drastic, there is a 11-15% gap that some may explain away by suggesting it’s too small of a sample size, or just coincidence at best. And we wouldn’t necessarily fight them on it either.
Even so, we felt we had a little work remaining to do. Is it possible Type 2s are consistently nicer when it comes to (subjective) eye appeal? For example, are they centered better and preferred by collectors? Does the color pop more? It’s hard to say. FWIW, Type 2 Mantles received above average eye appeal assessments from PWCC or MBA 12 times versus just five times for Type 1 (that’s a ratio of 71% to 29% in favor of Type 2 if you’d like the math). If anyone has a clue as to why this could be, we’d love to hear from you in the comments.
As for selling (and perhaps buying) the all-popular 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle #311 card, it’s abundantly clear the two best places to go are Heritage and Goldin Auctions.