1952 Topps “Mystery Find”

Finding quality consignments is hard work.  Doing it well demands discipline, tenacity, and an ability to locate quality material, amidst cutthroat competition.  It’s not as if quality consignments fall in your lap.

Except one day this past spring, that’s exactly what happened.  A quality consignment fell in my lap.

I received a text message from my mother, with a blurry cellphone photo of a ’52 Mantle and a question: “How much is this worth?”

After a number of questions and a lengthy back and forth, the story became clear: my cousin’s friend’s family found a ’52 Mantle in a stack of cards belonging to a deceased relative.

Thus became my first post-Covid consignment trip as I “masked up,” packed a lunch and took a long drive out to southwestern Pennsylvania.  There I met with an absolutely lovely family that, in the process of cleaning an attic containing the belongings of their deceased father, discovered a small pile of baseball cards tied together with string, in a box of his childhood toys.

The family is not a collecting family, and the father did not even like baseball.  How he obtained the cards – and why he would have kept them – was a mystery.  There were 78 cards in total, each from the 1952 Topps high number series – and only one duplicate (Ed Wright, one of which the family elected to keep).  They had no idea what the cards were worth, if they were authentic, or who most of the players were. The one thing they did know was the cards must have belonged to their father, since they were the original owners of the house, and all the items inside it belonged to the family.

The cards were pristine.  Clearly untouched for decades, the cards were blazers, with sharp corners and edges, and brilliant color.  Aside from a few cards that had been damaged by the string, and a few others that had been subject to corner dings and surface wear, the cards were simply gorgeous.  And the keys – Mantle, Campanella, Mathews and Robinson – were fantastic.  My only concern, beyond the typical Topps centering of the era, was that some of the cards appeared narrow.

After discussing it with the family, we elected to submit the entire collection to PSA for grading.  Quickly, we learned the result of the first four: while Mathews and Robinson attained decent numerical grades, Mantle and Campanella, according to PSA, exhibited evidence of trimming.  PSA encapsulated the Mantle in an Authentic holder, and returned the cards to us.

Of course, this made no sense to us.  Having spent hours with the family it was clear: nobody had any idea where the cards came from, and certainly nobody would have trimmed them.  The issue seemed simple to us: it would make no sense for some of the cards to be trimmed, but not all of them – yet two of the first four received numerical grades.  At the same time, the evidence was undeniable: the Mantle was a full 1/16” narrow (the Campy is much less narrow, but thin nonetheless).

Seeking a second opinion, we submitted the two cards to SGC.  Upon review by their grading team, they agreed that the cards were too narrow to attain a numerical grade.  However, the graders at SGC did not feel the cards were trimmed – they simply did not meet the minimum size required for a numerical grade.  SGC elected to assign an “Authentic” grade but for minimum size reasons.  After consulting with the family, we elected to keep the Mantle in the PSA holder but also include the “MIN” grading tag from SGC with the sale, to provide the purchaser with evidence that SGC did not feel the card was trimmed.  We asked SGC to holder the beautiful Campanella, which they did as “Authentic.”

Ultimately, PSA rejected about two dozen of the remaining cards as “evidence of trimming.”  As we did with the Campanella, we submitted those cards to SGC with full disclosure that they came from the same collection. SGC elected to assign numerical grades to 15 of them, and holder the rest with an “A” designation.  It is important to note – every one of the 1952 Topps cards from this collection in SGC holders has already been submitted to – and rejected by – PSA.  We agree with SGC that they are not trimmed, but are offering them in our Summer, 2020 auction with full disclosure.

Ultimately, the cards are beautiful – a once in a lifetime find of pristine, virtually untouched 1952 Topps high numbers.  Still, some of them do not measure up to the standard size for 1952 Topps cards, a true mystery that will never be solved.  Regardless, they include some of the finest examples of individual cards from the set that we have ever encountered (just look at that Campanella!), and it is our pleasure to work with a wonderful family to bring these cards to you.

Leave a Reply