1952 Topps Mickey Mantle Rookie Highlights Complete Vintage Sets Discovered in The Black Box Collection

Six Complete Baseball Sets from the 1950's includes Iconic 1952 Topps Set
  • July 06, 2022

ratio 2 to 1 black box image

Six complete vintage baseball sets from the 1950's have been discovered in our newest collection purchase. Among the six sets is the iconic 1952 Topps set which contains the coveted Mickey Mantle rookie card. This is a heartwarming story of a young boy losing his baseball card collection and how he connected with his new stepdad over the likes of Mantle, Jackie Robinson, and Willie Mays. I'm proud to introduce you to The Black Box Collection.

When Tim was 8 years old in 1968 he joined our beloved hobby. Like you and I did as kids, Tim began collecting baseball cards in a time when all we cared about were what snacks mom packed in our lunch bag (or metal lunchbox if you were cool enough to own one). What a year to start collecting, too - Nolan Ryan's rookie card is in the 1968 Topps set. Back when packs were just a nickel for five cards and a delicious stick of bubble gum, Tim enjoyed pulling cards of his favorite Pittsburg Pirates players. Friends and family would also give Tim older cards of Pirates players like Dick Groat, the 1960 National League MVP.

Stop me if you've heard this one before "mom threw out my collection!" At one point or another, your mom did it, my mom did it, and Tim's mom did it - tossed out that childhood baseball card collection. Perhaps another tough thing you can relate to is your parents divorcing. No matter what age this happens at, the hardest part is connecting with your new stepdad. After Tim's mom remarried, he told his stepdad the story about what happened with his baseball card collection. That's when Tim's stepdad took him to his library and showed him something special - his own baseball card collection. There came the bond between the two, and his stepdad became a father to Tim. After putting the cards in protective sleeves and binders, Tim found great joy in flipping through the pages of cards to see the top players like Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, and Ted Williams. In total there were SIX COMPLETE sets of Topps and Bowman cards from the 1950's. In those binders was a holy grail of baseball cards - a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle rookie card.

In April of 2017, Tim's stepdad passed away and the collection of baseball cards became his. Today, Tim no longer collects baseball cards. Though, he does have a cool story about his childhood favorite, Dick Groat. The former Pirate opened a golf course, Champion Lakes, in Bolivar, PA. Tim and his brother played golf there and were excited to meet Groat while showing him a photo of the vintage collection that had a Groat card or two. Rather than the collection of vintage 1950's cards sitting unappreciated in the attic, he wanted to offer the cards to someone who appreciates that era of baseball cards. Tim felt the time was right to sell the cards that bonded he and his stepdad.

Tim found Just Collect on-line and reached out via our FREE APPRAISAL link for more information on the collection. Initially I provided Tim with advice with which cards to have graded and how to protect the collection. After seeing our Google Reviews and reading about the many collections of 1950's baseball cards Just Collect has purchased over the last 25 years like Grandpa's Shoebox Collection from Canada and The Sooner State Collection, I'm honored to say Tim chose Just Collect to sell his collection to. I'm proud to have purchased The Black Box Collection and am thrilled to show you these incredible pieces of history.




Why "The Black Box Collection" you ask? Tim stored his now-protected collection in this 51-pound black box! I like to consider myself a baseball card treasure hunter so this box seems quite fitting. Let's see the treasure inside!


The 1952 Topps Baseball Set is considered the most important post-World War II set ever made. At the time of creation, this release had the largest checklist with a tally of 407 cards. Each player has a vibrant, colorful photo on the front of the cards along with their team logos. The size of the cards still stands out compared to modern cards today. The 1952 cards are 2-5/8" by 3-3/4 while a standard size today is 2-1/2" by 3-1/2". On the back of each card you'll find biographies and stats. The cards were released in multiple series during the baseball season which sounded like a fine marketing tool at the time. By releasing cards numbered 1-80 in "series 1" and not releasing all 407 cards simultaneously, collectors would not be able to build a complete set of cards early in the baseball season. This would keep collectors purchasing cards all season, or so Topps and distributors thought. When Fall came around, collectors were more interested in football. The forgotten sixth series, cards #311 - 407, were disposed of by being dumped into the Atlantic Ocean!

Guess which player has the majority of his rookie cards lost forever in a burial at sea? Mickey Mantle. Card #311 is Mickey Mantle's rookie card. Coupled with his legendary career and the scarcity of surviving copies, the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle rookie card is one of the most desired cards in the hobby. The first card from The Black Box Collection, I give to you - The Mick:

1952 Topps 5 -1









Tim had the Mantle graded by PSA and the result was a 1 out of a possible 10. Don't let the grade fool you; this is a rare card. In total, PSA has only graded 1,830 copies of this card. Comparatively, PSA has graded 37,757 copies of Derek Jeter's 1993 Topps rookie card. To date, there are only THREE known copies graded PSA 10 of this 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card. Only 6 copies have been graded PSA 9, and the last copy sold for 5.2 million dollars. Even in a PSA 1, a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle is true conversation piece.











The other cards in the set hold very familiar names. Below you can see the Mantle rookie side by side with a beautiful copy of another 6th series alumni - card #312, Jackie Robinson. This year is the 75h anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball. Any time I have the opportunity to share a photo of this 1952 Topps Jackie to you, I can't resist.

  1952 Topps Jackie Robinson


Not to be overlooked is card #261, Willie Mays. There is the Say Hey Kid next to Jackie and Mickey below. A few other stars you can find in the set are Eddie Matthews, Roy Campanella, Duke Snider, Yogi Berra, and Warren Sphan. 

1952 Topps 11952 Topps 2

1952 Topps 41952 Topps 3



The next set included in the collection is a 1951 Bowman Baseball Set. In the Bowman set you'll find the 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle rookie card. I know what you're going to ask - I just told you Mickey Mantel's rookie card is in 1952 Topps. A year before Topps released their set, Bowman included a young Mantle in their product. Mantle was called up to the Yankees in 1950 but never played a game for the Bronx Bombers; he was there to just gain experience. Bowman was savvy enough to include Mantle in the 1951 Bowman set despite the young kid not playing a single game they year prior. Mickey Mantle does indeed have two different rookie cards, each stellar in their own right.

1951 Bowman cards have painted images of each player on the front along with a nice writeup on the back of each card. There are 324 cards in this set, each measuring 2-1/16" by 3-1/8". Aside from card the Mantle rookie at #253, this set is the home of a Willie Mays rookie card (#305), and other key cards such as Nellie Fox rookie (#232), and Whitey Ford rookie (#1). You'll also see a player you won't find in the 1952 Topps set - Ted Williams (#165).

1951 Bowman 5

Similar to the 1952 Topps grades, a grade of PSA 2 on the Mickey Mantle card here in 1951 is quite desirable. Currently there are 2,471 Mantle cards graded by PSA and only 1 has has ever received a perfect grade of 10. Back in the 1950's, kids may have placed a rubber band around their stack of cards. The top card and bottom card on the stack eventually garnered worn edges thanks to the rubber band. Cards might have been used for game of FLIP or placed in bike spokes.





1951 Bowman 6

1951 Bowman Duke Snider


You can see Bowman did a nice job mixing cards in the horizontal position and vertical  position with this view of Willie Mays and Duke Snider versus the Ted Williams and Whitey Ford cards.


1951 Bowman 7-1

1951 Bowman Whitey Ford

1951 Bowman 3 1951 Bowman 2

1951 Bowman 11951 Bowman 4



We're just getting started with the complete sets from The Black Box Collection. In 1950, Bowman created a checklist of 252 cards stuffed with stars. Jackie Robinson, Bob Feller, Larry Doby, Casey Stengel, Ted Williams, Duke Snider, and Roy Campanella just to scratch the surface.

The design features colorful artwork of each player on the front and measures 2-1/16" by 2-1/2”, slightly smaller than a standard-sized card. Bowman had the baseball card market corner in 1950; Topps wasn't around. Kids could spend 1 penny to get a one-card pack with a stick of gum. Talk about a tough way to build a set of cards - one at a time. Kudos to Tim's stepdad for completing this delight.

1950 Bowman Jackie Robinson






Jackie Robinson won the National League MVP award in 1949, so we can imagine Tim's stepdad chewed plenty of gum in an effort to find himself card this exact card in the 1950 Bowman set.


















1950 Bowman Color 2-11950 Bowman Color 3



The 1952 Bowman baseball set is similar to the 1951 release having a color reproduction of each player on the the front of the card. The images were taken from photographs of each player. Bowman make a cool change to the 1952 set, though; a facsimile autograph from the player is on the front of the card. In total there are 252 cards, each 2-1/8" by 3-1/8”.

Second-year cards of Mickey Mantle (#101) and Willie Mays (#218) are in the 1952 set, and you can also see card #44 of Roy Campanella for a fine, NY trio in the picture below. Campanella was such a star in his prime before a car accident left Dodgers catcher paralyzed in 1958. By then, Campanella earned three National League MVP awards and was on the 1955 World Series championship team.

1952 Bowman 3

Thinking about the Dodgers and Giants playing in New York back in 1952 is something else. You may have heard the question of "Willie, Mickie, or the Duke?" At one time, all three New York teams had a Hall of Fame Centerfielder in the making with Willie Mays (Giants), Mickey Mantle (Yankees), and Duke Snider (Dodgers). Many teams from the 1952 season have changed Cities and even names. The Boston Braves, St. Louis Browns, Philadelphia Athletics, Washington Senators, New York Giants, and the Brooklyn Dodgers are all elsewhere. 

1952 Bowman Casey Stengel




A legendary manager coached several of these teams! Casey Stengel managed the New York Yankees, New York Mets, Brooklyn Dodgers, and Boston Braves. Stengel won 7 World Series championships at the helm of the Yankees, and his 1952 Bowman card #217 has me curious - is he cupping his ear to hear or his mouth to yell louder? I have a feeling Stengel was having a few words with an umpire.








1952 Bowman 11952 Bowman 2



Moving away from the color paintings for their design, Bowman used vivid photographs of each player go grace the front of their 1953 baseball cards. Looking at the cards from this set is like staring at a Polaroid, capturing a moment in time. In 1953, the first color television was available at a price tag of $1,175. In 2022 that would equal $12,863.21! This is truly a special set. The set was reduced to 160 total cards and measure 2-1/2" by 3-3/4”. Absent from the set is Ted Williams as he was enlisted as a Marine Pilot, fighting in the Korean war. Teddy Ballgame flew 39 missions, rose the rank of Captain, and earned many honors including three Air Medals for Aerial Flight Operations. Oh, and he managed to hit 521 home runs in a Hall of Fame baseball career!

1953 Bowman Color 41953 Bowman Color 2













1953 Bowman Pee Wee Reese



Card #33 of Pee Wee Reese is an all-time great. The horizontal design of Reese jumping in the air while making a play is lightyears ahead of it's time. Take a look the cards you have seen from The Black Box Collection; most images are poses and color renditions with few, if any action photos.






Last and CERTAINLY not least from The Black Box Collection is the 1953 Topps Baseball Set. How would Topps follow-up their 1952 release? Thankfully Topps did not dump the 1953 cards into the ocean. They took a page out of Bowman's book this year with an a beautiful, artistic design on a card measuring 2-5/8" by 3-3/4”. Each card you look at reminds you have an oil painting you saw on a class trip to the State Museum. Jackie Robinson leads the 274-card set off at card #1, and all the big names are here: Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Bob Feller, Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra, Warren Spahn, and so many more great players. One card in the 1953 set is key to the hobby - #220, Satchel Paige.

1953 Topps Satchell Paige





This card is the only card Topps included Paige on during his playing days. Can you spot the error on the card? Topps spelled his first name wrong! Sorry, Topps, there is only one L in Satchel.

You'd think Topps would have had plenty of time to pick up the spelling of Satchel given he set the record for being the oldest player in MLB history. Paige was 46 in 1953, and pitched in a game at the age of 58 in 1965!








1953 Topps 1 1953 Topps 2

1953 Topps 3


I want to thank Tim for allowing me to purchase his collection, one that was an important part of his youth. When Tim agreed to sell his collection, I compensated him how he wanted to be paid! When you sell a collection to Just Collect, I pay you how you want to be paid. I could write you a check, pay you in cash, a money order, wire transfer, or I can buy you a round of golf at Dick Groat's golf course if that's the payment you prefer 😎

I also appreciate Tim taking the time to research and reach out to Just Collect, knowing he needed a vintage card specialist to evaluate his collection. Your local card shop is generally not well equipped to appraise or purchase vintage collections like this unless they have vintage expertise on staff like we do. 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.



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:



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. We recently took a trip to California to purchase a collection that included three Jackie Robinson 1948 Leaf rookie cards that you can read about here.

  • 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.


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.


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


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