1952 Topps Willie Mays Crushes Auction Record: Next Honus Wagner, Mantle, Ruth, Cobb?

courtesy of Heritage Auctions

It has been known for many years now that collecting baseball cards is not just for kids with a few extra bucks. It’s now a serious money game. When sports collectors think of baseball cards and memorabilia selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars, they generally are thinking about just a handful of players. Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Ty Cobb and only a few more occasional player cards or items reach such high prices when they sell in auctions. You can now put Willie Mays much higher on the list of most valuable baseball card prices.

Unless there have been private transactions or other auctions that have not been recorded elsewhere, the second week of May 2016 brought a new record for a near-perfect mint condition sample of the Willie Mays card from the prized 1952 Topps baseball set. The price tag, including the buyer’s premium, was a whopping $478,000.

After a slew of record-breaking sales prices in the past year or so in other player cards and memorabilia items, it seems that the high-grade vintage sports cards are quite obviously continuing to grow into more and more of an asset class. This trend has taken vintage sports cards and memorabilia into the league of rare stamps, fine art, jewelry, antiques, fine wine and so on. It is becoming ever more common to see items fetch tens of thousands — hundreds of thousands — of dollars when they come up for auction. A few other auctions, particularly in the case of the T206 Honus Wagner, have generated sales prices of $1 million or more for cards or memorabilia.

Heritage Auctions said going into the auction:

Those who have followed the past two years of Heritage auction offerings have witnessed the soaring ascent of the fabled Mickey Mantle #311 card, certainly the hottest commodity in the entirety of the sports collecting hobby at present. Let’s use three recent offerings of a PSA NM-MT example to illustrate the point: $179,250 (July 2014), $382,400 (July 2015), $525,800 (December 2015).

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