As the sports card market climbs to new heights, the industry witnessed its first card purchase exceeding $5 million on Thursday.

Mantle 52 Topps
This Mickey Mantle rookie sold for $5.2 million on Thursday, a record for a sports card. (Image: PWCC)

Venture capitalist Rob Gough bought a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle rookie card graded Mint 9 by Professional Sports Authenticators for $5.2 million through the PWCC Marketplace, ESPN reported.

Few Mint Copies of Mickey Mantle Rookie Exist

Of the 1,404 examples of the card graded by PSA, only six have been judged Mint 9. PSA graded three copies of the card as Gem Mint 10, but Gough told Forbes that all three are in the hands of collectors who have no intention of selling. Because versions of the card in this grade are so tough to find, Gough said he believes the 1952 Mantle he bought was “massively undervalued.”

“I think I got a tremendous deal on this card,” he said.

This is the same card that former NFL offensive guard Evan Mathis, also an avid card collector and investor, sold to an unidentified buyer through Heritage Auctions for $2.88 million in 2018.

Thursday’s purchase represents the highest price paid for a sports card, exceeding the previous record set by a 1-of-1 Mike Trout signed rookie card by more than $1 million. That card sold for $3.93 million this summer.

Many collectors rejoiced at the news of the Mantle sale. As BlowoutForums user marl1220 wrote Thursday, “Glad to see the ’52 Mantle on top where it belongs.”

A Year of Multi-Million Dollar Card Sales

Despite the ongoing pandemic, 2020 saw a flurry of eye-popping card sales. A real estate developer bought a 1909-11 T206 Honus Wagner card for $3.7 million in December. Wayne Gretzky’s 1979 O-Pee-Chee rookie card sold for $1.29 million last month — a record for a hockey card. Several basketball cards exceeded $1 million at auction in 2020 for the first time, led by LeBron James’ 2003-04 Upper Deck rookie card at $1.8 million.

Other cards continue to flourish, yet are still affordable for collectors. A signed 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card graded Gem Mint 10 by PSA sold for $55,000 on eBay on Wednesday. Tiger Woods’ 2001 Upper Deck rookie card has seen prices skyrocket in the wake of a recent HBO documentary, but Gem Mint copies can still be had for around $1,000.

Forbes notes that the card market is magnitudes smaller than the coin and art markets, but that could change as sports cards become viewed as more legitimate investment tools.

“Once the masses [get] ahold of trading cards as a tangible asset class, it [will] skyrocket,” Jesse Craig, director of business development at PWCC, told the outlet.

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