1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle Rookie Card Highlights the Uni-Ball Collection

Vintage Bowman Baseball Cards Tucked Away for Years in a Pen Box
  • May 17, 2023

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Found beneath a collection of books, stamps, knitted blankets, and old family photos was a box that had been in that spot for as long as the family can remember. When the Uni-Ball pen box as picked up, a plain, white envelope was holding more than just a fancy pen; a 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle rookie card and other vintage cards were inside! 

THE UNI-BALL COLLECTION 

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Long before the New York Yankees superstar was a household name, Bowman included a card in their 1951 Bowman Baseball set of a 19-year-old Mickey Mantle. You may be familiar with the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle, but Bowman beat their cardboard rivals by an entire year with this 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle rookie card. Mantle was called up to the Major League in 1950 but never played a game; he was there to gain experience. Bowman was savy enough to include the would-be Hall of Famer in their 1951 release. As a rookie in 1951, Mantle hit 6 home runs over the final 27 games of the season and was on the roster when the Yankees won the World Series. Above is the Mantle Bowman rookie card with a Summer sky in the background, and The Mick holding a bat as he perhaps stares down a pitcher. Mantle was a switch hitter, meaning he could bat both left-handed and right-handed. You can see Mantle is batting righty in his rookie card. 

The 1951 Bowman baseball set has 324 cards in total, each measuring 2-1/16" by 3-1/8", and you'll find a beautiful painted rendition of the players. Aside from Mantle, you will find other legends in the set like the cards you see above. These are the exact cards from the Uni-Ball collection! Mantle's teammate, Whitey Ford, has his rookie card in the set and leads the way at card number one. The 10-time All-Star, and 1961 Cy Young award winner still holds the Yankees franchise record for career wins at 236 and he hasn't pitched a game since 1967!  Card #165 is Ted Williams. "Teddy Ballgame" was a legend on the field and a hero off. Williams hit 521 career home runs, retired with a .344 batting average, and is the last player to hit over .400 (.406 in 1941). Williams served the Country as a Marine where he earned his way to Captain. Ted Williams flew 39 missions as a pilot and even survived a crash landing after being hit. 

In 1952, Bowman produced another spectacular set. Fewer cards were in the set with 252 being the tally. The cards are slightly larger in size coming in at 2-1/8" by 3-1/8”. Similar to the 1951 set, a lovely color art reproduction of a photograph of each player is on the front along with a facsimile autograph. Mickey Mantle is in the set, this time without a bat. Maybe Mickey is sitting in the dugout as he looks on the field, maybe waiting to get his turn at-bat. Card #156 is Warren Spahn, one of the best pitchers ever to step on the mound. Spahn won 363 games, still good enough for sixth all-time in baseball history. Spahn made 17 all-star games, won both the World Series and Cy Young award in 1957, and pitched TWO no-hitters (9/16/60 and 4/28/61). Larry Doby is card #115 in the 1952 set. Doby's numbers on the field were very good; 7 all-star games, two-time home run leader (1952 and 1954), and a World Series championship in 1948 propelled him to the Hall of Fame. 

Here is a closer look at the 1951 and 1952 Bowman baseball cards featuring these stellar ball players.

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THE STORY

When the owner picked up the Uni-Ball pen box underneath those books, stamps, blankets, and photos, the baseball cards had been sitting in the same spot of the family home for as long as the owner could remember. Likely passed down from generations and various members of the family, the cards were simply stored away with other family items; "just a box of stuff my mom gave me." this gentleman said. Having never been a sports fan or collector, the owner did not know much about the cards. His mom recognized some of the names such as Mickey Mantle and knew there could be value. This is why we have tips on unexpected places to find cards and memorabilia; we may need to add old pen boxes to to our list of tips! How long do you think the cards were stored in the pen box for? Did these vintage cards not see the light of day since the Moon Landing? Did Mickey miss out on the last episode of Seinfeld? We wonder if the Internet was invented when the cards were placed inside of the Uni-Ball box you see above. Just Collect has been buying and selling collections for over 20 years - did WE exist before Mantle last saw the light of day?! 

The owner did a bit of research including the condition of the cards and realized that each were not in Mint condition. A rubber band was placed around the stack of cards. When you find vintage cards, this happens often. Kids secured their collections with a rubber band! The top card and bottom card tend to receive the most damage, and that is why the first and last card in complete sets are desired in mint condition - it could hard to find these cards without rubber band damage. The owner knew there is still value in these vintage cards, though. After taking photos of each card, the cards were stored away for nearly a year after being pulled out of the box. When he finally had a free moment, the owner decided to check with local card shop owners, but most were unable to help. After not finding any help at the local card stores, the gentleman found Just Collect through a search on Google. The retail stores are focused on selling modern products and simply don't have the time or the knowledge to carefully evaluate vintage collections. This is where I'm happy to help you. My name is Leighton, owner and vintage card specialist at Just Collect. If you have a collection you're interested in getting appraised or selling, I'd love to hear from you. Please reach out to me at Leighton@Justcollect.com. I have purchased many Mickey Mantle rookie cards including a very similar collection that had TWO rookies stored in an Ankle Brace.

THE APPRAISAL AND PURCHASE

After reviewing each card carefully here at the Just Collect office in Millburn, NJ., I made the gentleman a fair offer that he accepted. Rather than keeping the treasures stored in an old pen box for another few decades, he chose to sell the collection so that a collector of vintage baseball cards will be able to appreciate the Hall of Famers you see. I then paid the gentleman how he wanted to be paid. While I offered cash, he chose to be paid with a certified check. Wish there was a pen in the old Uni-Ball box; I would have loved to sign the check with it to make the collection come full circle.

The gentleman said he and his mom now have an idea on what to do with their money from the sale. Spoiling the grandkids over birthdays and holidays will make them both happy to do something extra! 

WE ARE ALWAYS BUYING

Just Collect is always buying vintage sports and non-sports cards from 1879 to 1979 as well as select modern cards. If you have a collection that you are considering selling, contact us today to discuss or get our industry-leading purchase offer. If you have a collection that you want appraised, please contact us and we would be happy to discuss your collection and help you understand the real cash value of your collection in the current marketplace. Check out the Just Collect Buy List.

We always offer a FREE APPRAISAL for your collection here at the Just Collect site. Just click here:

FREE APPRAISAL

We offer may ways to evaluate your cards other than or using our website, too.

  • Travel to Us

If you can make the trip here like the son from my hometown did for this collection- we can make a deal at the office. We once met a father-son duo that drove eight hours from Virginia to meet us to sell a Michael Jordan rookie card stored in Tupperware since 1986 - great read here

  • Come to convention

We keep a LIST of card shows we'll be attending.  Come stop by the Just Collect table and chat.

  • Meet in-person

If you have a valuable collection and want us to come to you, we'll hop on the next plane out.

  • Meet in New York City

We have another location in New York you can meet us at; read all the information here.

  • SHIP your collection 

If you choose to mail your cards for an appraisal, we will evaluate your cards for FREE still. If you choose not to sell the cards, we'll ship them back shipping fees paid by us!  We can offer our FedEx account with 2-day shipping, fully insured, all covered by us. Simply contact the office to set up this option.

OUR BUYING PHILOSOPHY

We've run into a wide range of people and collections over the last 25 years. Although Just Collect is known for buying vintage sports cards and especially vintage baseball cards, we are also extremely interested in buying non-sports cards, too!  

Every collection and every collector is different and we treat EVERY collection with the respect and attention that we show for our own collections. We understand that many have put their heart and souls into building their collections. So when you're ready to sell, we understand the feelings that you're going through and will work with you to help you reach a decision that is a WIN/WIN, because if you're not happy, we're not happy.

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Whether you have vintage cards or modern wax you want to sell, you can reach out to us any time! 

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