This 1952 Mickey Mantle baseball card just sold for $5.2 million, an all-time record for trading cards

A 1952 Mickey Mantle — one of baseball cards’ holy grails — has sold for a whopping $5.2 million, setting a record for the most expensive trading card ever and nearly doubling its value since a 2018 sale.

The card is one of nine known in existence in its condition. It sold to Rob Gough, an entrepreneur and actor, who started the DOPE clothing and CBD line and whose credits include the 2018 film “Billionaire Boys Club.”

This particular card is graded as Mint 9 by PSA — the go-to grading service for cards — and sold for $2.8 million in 2018 to an unidentified buyer, who then sold it to Gough in a deal brokered by PWCC Marketplace, a leader in the trading card investment market.

“Based on our research, this is the nicest looking 1952 Topps Mantle PSA 9 in existence,” Jesse Craig, director of business development at PWCC Marketplace, said in a press release.

Rob Gough bought this 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle for $5.2 million, smashing the previous high for a sports card sale. (PWCC Marketplace)
Rob Gough bought this 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle for $5.2 million, smashing the previous high for a sports card sale. (PWCC Marketplace)

A Mike Trout 2009 Bowman Chrome Draft Prospects Superfactor BGS 9 card — a one-of-a-kind card autographed by Trout — sold for $3.93 million in August 2020, setting the mark at the time for the most expensive card ever. But these things are like record contracts for superstar players, they’re constantly being one-upped. That Trout card had previously sold for $400,000 just two years earlier, a mind-blowing jump in value.

The sale further illustrates the trading card boom that has hit the industry in recent years, with 2020 being a particularly strong year for sports cards. Cards these days aren’t just a hobby — they’re seen as investments, in the way people play the stock market.

It’s now a playground for the rich to either invest or live out their childhood dreams.

“I've dreamt of owning a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle since I was a kid collecting cards,” Gough said in a statement. “It's the Mona Lisa of sports cards and I’ve been searching for this high graded example talking to industry experts, dealers, auction houses, friends and I’m ecstatic that I’m now the proud owner of this iconic card.”

A combination of factors led to a red-hot sports card market in 2020: ESPN’s “The Last Dance” made the market boom for Michael Jordan-specific products. The pandemic led many fans and collectors to rediscover cards. In many cases, even normal modern sports-card products were hard to come by at big-box retailers like Walmart and Target.

Meanwhile, the market for investment type cards was flourishing too. A Honus Wagner T206 — another of the holy grail baseball cards — sold for $3.7 million in October to real estate mogul Kurt Rappaport, a number that’s now been dwarfed by this Mantle. Outside of baseball, a LeBron James rookie card with a Cleveland Cavaliers jersey swatch sold for $1.845 million in July.

Just like those superstar contracts, don’t expect the records to stop anytime soon.

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