Features 1952 #311 Mickey Mantle & Many High Numbers
January 06, 2016
We receive dozens of inquiries and email questions every week through the Appraisal Page on our JustCollect.com website. Many are from collectors that want to know what their 1989 Donruss Ken Griffey is worth or that they found a hoard of 1987 Topps in the basement and want to know if it will pay off the college loans. Sadly, the answers to such questions are often, "Very little, I'm sorry to say" and "No, unfortunately it won't." We also get inquiries that genuinely pique our interest, whether it is someone looking to sell a vintage set collection, evaluate some high grade vintage cards or they just want to discuss a collection that contains some high profile cards. There are many people that have some incredibly fascinating collections. We follow up on all of the inquiries for better or worse and really enjoy the hunt for treasures.
Recently, we received in inquiry from a gentleman that had interest in getting an appraisal and evaluation on his childhood collection. It consisted primarily of Topps cards from 1952-1954 and he included a few images of some of the "better" cards. One of the images included a worn, but still very nice looking 1952 Mickey Mantle that immediately caught our attention. From the details that he provided, I knew he was in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and knowing that it was three hours earlier on the West Coast I would have to wait a few hours before reaching out to the gentleman. I waited until the clock ticked away a few hours so that it wasn't too early and made the call shortly after Noon EDT. I got an answering machine and left a message thanking him for the inquiry and advised him that we were very interested in talking to him about his collection and I asked if he could call us back at his convenience.
We understand that pretty much anyone in the industry can provide a value of a collection (some are willing to put in the time and effort and some are just ball-parked estimates). Serious evaluations require some dedicated research and mathematic skills. But we also believe that the story and the history of the collection are just as important as the value of the cards. We also understand that for many, there is a deeper connection, whether it is a connection to their youth or to a friend or family member that may have collected with them. We want to know the back story. We want to be able to share that story with the collection. There can be great history in a good story.
Later in the afternoon, one of our customer service representatives advised me that a gentleman from Vancouver was on the phone returning my call. I was eager to speak with him. I introduced myself and asked him about his collection. We talked about the cards for a bit and then he started to tell me about when he was 11 years old and the change in his voice was astonishing. The man, in his mid-70's, began to reminisce about his collection and there was suddenly a lilt in his voice that belied the many decades and thousands of miles lived and traveled since the cards were bought by an exuberant lad in the early 1950's. He told me how he saved up from his paper route in Kelowna, British Columbia and how each month he would spend some of that money on gum cards at the local store. He would build team sets and recalled having complete Yankees and Dodgers sets from most of the years. During the World Series, he would turn over the cards of the players in the games and read their statistics and biographies as he listened to the games.
We talked about his collection, about how he used to save the cards and about how he's held onto them for all these many years. We talked about how his boys also collected before they found girls. We even talked about his days of playing minor league baseball. I asked why he was looking to get an evaluation and he said, "I've had them for so long, I guess it is time to let them go." And sadly, when it got to that point, the exuberance and youthfulness in his voice waned and I began to hear the mature, metered voice of a man no longer remembering his youth, but a man resigned to the fact that he was close to letting a piece of it go.
Cards are a fantastic memento and connection to our childhood or even our teenage or young adult life, but no one has to sell those memories when they sell their collection. The memories, the stories, the youthful effervescence are reminders of special times, of vignettes in our lives. Times that we can always remember, even without the cardboard snapshots of the childhood heroes. No one has to surrender their memories, they're yours to keep!
I gathered more information from the gentleman as we traded emails filled with images and lists of cards in the collection and I built a "virtual" collection to evaluate. There were many High Numbers from 1952 Topps (including the #311 Mantle, 2 #312 Jackie Robinsons and a #407 Eddie Mathews), Yankees and Dodgers galore from 1953 Topps including 3 #1 Jackie Robinsons, Willie Mays, Satchel Paige and a few 1954 Topps including an Ernie Banks #94 rookie card. Additionally, there were some more "modern" hockey cards that the man's son had collected, including several O-Pee-Chee rookies of Wayne Gretzky (1979) and Mark Messier and Ray Bourque from 1980. With a great amount of images, I built a spreadsheet of the cards, their approximate condition and relative retail values and I was able to prepare an accurate valuation of the collection as well as present a purchase offer for the collection.
We discussed the values and the conditions of the cards and I explained how we arrived at the values and what our purchase offer would be based upon the market value of the collection. I presented our offer and discussed the possibility of shipping the cards to us at our expense on our FedEx account. While the gentleman wanted to take everything on good faith and although we had reached an agreement on a purchase price, there was a part of him that worried about sending something of such value to someone that he'd only spoken to on the telephone a few times. And honestly, I don't blame him, or anyone else that we deal with over long distances, for having such apprehension. Likewise, we're not in the habit of forwarding thousands of dollars in payment and then waiting for delivery of the collection, so we had some obstacles to overcome.
Since traveling 3000 miles (or 4800 kilometers) to Vancouver wasn't something that we had on our agenda at any point in the near future and while it was a significant collection in its entirety, we couldn't justify a cross-country, international excursion without some additional time and advance planning although we have made arrangement on large collections on very short notice. Luckily, we've made many friends through the years and were able to call on one to lend us a helping hand, assuming we were able to negotiate with the seller of the collection.
Our friend in Vancouver agreed to help us out and the seller agreed to meet with our friend to complete the deal. I provided both with each other's contact information and they arranged a meeting location and date. We forwarded Certified US$ Funds to our friend to pay the seller upon confirmation of the collection and during their meeting, our friend was in regular contact with us via text and telephone and the deal was completed in very short order and our friend provided the seller payment in full and went to FedEx to ship the bounty back to us. Amazingly, he shipped it on a Saturday via 2-day and it was in our office at 9:45 Monday morning.
We could not have completed the deal without the help of our buddy in Vancouver or the trust of the seller that we would follow through. Luckily, we have many friends and associates around the country that may be able to help out in such a pinch, but we also offer a fantastic, fully insured mail-in program that is utilized regularly by many collectors around the country. We've been able to buy hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cards from collectors sending them to us for an appraisal and offer. We haven't bought everything sent to us, but we are able to buy most and in all the years we've been offering this service, we've never had an issue with a package getting lost or misplaced or a customer suggesting we switched out or swiped any cards. Our reputation is too valuable to us to risk that for any amount of money and it is too easy for someone to let the world know about a bad experience. After the transaction, I asked the seller for a little more history of his collection and he provided this:
"It is hard to believe that these cards have become so valuable. We treated them so poorly not knowing what their value could be. I fell in love with baseball when I was 11 years old and I would spend my paper route money once a month at the corner store in Kelowna, British Columbia. For five cents, I would get a package with cards and bubble gum and go from there.
At one time, I had the complete set of 1952 Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees. I would like to think that I had more than one #311 (Mantle) card. I know I had about ten 1953 #1 Jackie Robinson cards along with several doubles of both teams from that year.
I met a fellow at a local card show in 1991. He was from New York and was very interested in my cards. I guess I just wasn't ready to sell them, yet. I gave my grandson a folder of cards a few years ago as he is also a collector. I can't tell you how many cards that I cut all of the corners off when I was a kid because I thought they looked better that way. I have a scrapbook that still has some of these cards Scotch taped to the pages. So, now you know what I mean about it being hard to believe these cards have become so valuable.
Thank you again for the way that you and your company handled the exchange.
-- Larry – Vancouver, CANADA --"
We are always looking for vintage sets and collections, so if you have a collection that you are interested in selling, contact us today to and we'll provide you with a free appraisal and can make you a cash offer on the entire collection. We also travel to buy more extensive collections.