1952 Topps Mickey Mantle Rookie Card Possibly Found in Ocean

Many 1952 Topps Baseball Cards Were Dumped in Atlantic Ocean in 1959 - Was This One?
  • March 23, 2024

Thousands of 1952 Topps baseball cards were dumped into the Atlantic Ocean over 60 years ago. Hundreds of Mickey Mantle rookie cards plummeted into the depths unknown. Is this iconic card from one that a recovery team pulled up from the watery trenches?  

THE 1952 TOPPS BASEBALL CARD SET

The 1952 Topps baseball card set is one of the most coveted in our hobby. Featuring colorful depictions of the game's stars, each card  catches your eye as you thumb through history. The size of each card makes the set standout when compared to counterparts, too; cards measure 2-5/8" x 3-3/4" which is larger than the standard 2-1/2" x 3-1/2". Loaded with players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, you'll find names like Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Yogi Berra, and Stan Musial in the set. The most well-known card in the set features a young Mickey MantleThe three-time MVP and seven-time World Series champion calls the 1952 Topps set home to his famous rookie card. With the set as highly-sought after as it is, it may be hard to imagine this once was not the case. In fact, not only could the card barely be given away- hoards of these treasured pieces of history were dumped into the ocean! 

STORES COULD NOT SELL THE CARDS

In 1952, Topps released their cards in series. Picture a batch of cards. Cards numbered 1-80 would be the first batch, or series, of cards released to stores for kids to purchase. After some time, the next batch, series 2, would hit the shelves. This process would continue until all 407 cards in the set were released. In total, there would be six different series. The marketing goal was to continue having kids buying packs of cards all baseball season long rather than completing a set in just a few weeks. The downfall came when baseball season overlapped with football season; kids wanted to buy football cards and not baseball cards. Series six, the last batch of 1952 Topps cards to hit shelves, was ignored. Stores simply could not sell the last series of baseball cards. Series six contained cards numbered 311-407. Guess who had his card numbered 311? Mickey Mantle.

DUMPED INTO THE OCEAN

1952 Topps Mickey Mantle Rookie Card-1

Sy Berger created the 1952 Topps design, and worked his way up Vice-President of Sports and Licensing at the storied gum and card company. By 1959, Sy had a little problem: unsold 1952 Topps cards clogged his storage. Being unable to sell any of the cards, Sy opted to DUMP THE CARDS INTO THE OCEAN! Talk about unexpected placed to find baseball cards.

FINDING THE CARDS IN THE OCEAN 

Mesmerized by the story, I did as much research about the cards in the ocean as I could. Could any of these cards have survived after six decades? Have either of the cards been salvaged? Is my card above that you see pictured FROM THE OCEAN?  After I combed over the details - I don't think the cards ended up in the Atlantic Ocean! 

Regarding the cards, Sy Berger was quoted in an interview with Sports Collectors Digest's T.S. O’Connell, stating he had a friend that owned a garbage scow. The baseball cards were put into cases, three garbage trucks worth, and then onto the scow. A tugboat then pulled the scow, cards and all. Berger states to T.S. O'Connell “I was out there with it. Opposite Atlantic Highlands, a few miles out.”

Atlantic Highlands? Checking the site, there is a boat launch at address 2 Simon Lake Drive in Atlantic Highlands. Google Maps has a nice image that shows directly to the right of the boat launch, blocking entry into the Atlantic Ocean, is the peninsula of Sandy Hook.
 
When launching from Atlantic Highlands, the Romer Shoal Lighthouse  is about 9 miles out. If Sy truly went "a few miles out", there is a solid chance the tug boat did not pull the cards beyond the Sandy Hook peninsula. The barrier itself is only about 6 miles long. The tugboat may have never made the turn around the peninsula! According to the depths, the cards may only be no more than 60 feet deep, too! Tugboats travel around 15 Knotts per hour, which is 17.26 MPH. For a three-mile trip, that's only 10 minutes and 26 seconds out. My guess: If Sy was just interested in dumping cardboard, these cards were floated 10 minutes, 3 miles out, and never actually made it fully out into the Atlantic. If I were Sy, the 1952 Topps cards were dumped near Fort Hancock.
 
Could these cards survive the elements? Cardboard will decompose in saltwater in just two months. Time to play the "what-if" game, though. What if the tide pulled some of the cards back in rather quickly, ala DB Cooper stolen bills that washed ashore. What if cards were in plastic garbage bags? Bags last 20 years in saltwater. WHAT IF this happened? The Internet and social media were not around between 1959-1979. The hobby had yet to explode at that point. WHAT IF hundreds of Mickey Mantles were washed ashore and collected without anyone questioning it? WHAT IF.
 
Is this particular Mickey Mantle rookie card here from the Ocean? Chances are, probably not. However, it is not impossible. 

The next you see one of these iconic cards, just imagine - what if. 

My name is Leighton, owner of Just Collect, and professional sports card treasure hunter! If I'm willing to dive into the ocean for a Mickey Mantle card, know that hopping on a plane to appraise your card is in my wheelhouse. If you're interested in selling your collection, reach out directly to Leighton@JustCollect.com. I have proudly purchased many 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle rookie cards. From a Mantle rookie stored with jars of pickles to complete sets of 1952 Topps like the Black Box Collection. If you have a Mickey Mantle rookie card or 1952 Topps cards you're interested in selling, I'd love to hear from you!

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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.

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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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