Colorado lawyer and card collector Marshall Fogel arrived at an undisclosed bank on Monday morning to help package and escort one of the world’s most valuable baseball cards—his mint condition 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle, insured for $12 million—to its temporary location. He entered the safety deposit vault, sealed the Mantle card in layers of foam and protective paper, placed it inside an unassuming box, and sent it off in an armored vehicle, destined for History Colorado Center.
For three days (July 16–18), the card will sit in a UV-protected, humidity-controlled case—the same case that housed Thomas Jefferson’s bible in 2013—in the museum’s atrium. It stands as a midsummer addition to History Colorado’s summer-long Play Ball! exhibit, which features memorabilia and artifacts from some of the game’s greatest ballplayers, including Ted Williams, Sandy Koufax, and Joe DiMaggio.
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Fogel’s Mantle card, rated a perfect 10 by third-party evaluator Professional Sports Authenticator, is one of only three of its quality in the world. That’s due to its sustained color, perfectly cut edges, and lack of any signs of wear. The organization has dubbed it “perhaps…the most recognizable sports card in the entire hobby and the anchor of the most important post-war set in existence.” Adding to the card’s intrigue is the longstanding legend of Topps, which, after dismal sales figures, dumped hundreds of cases of the 1952 collection into the Hudson River.
Fogel bought the card at an auction in 1996 for $121,000. There were a number of justifications for the purchase: He always loved baseball; Mickey Mantle was his favorite player growing up; and he considered it an investment. “You take a chance, like anything,” Fogel says. “I knew enough about baseball cards that when I saw the card, I knew there was nothing like it.” Fogel has no plans of selling, but the investment has proved its worth. This spring, former Denver Broncos offensive guard Evan Mathis auctioned his own 1952 Mantle—PSA rated it a nine—for $2.88 million. Fogel’s edition, with a higher quality rating, is presumably worth more. “They used to call me stupid,” he says of his 1996 purchase. “Now they call me wisely eccentric.”
The card’s brief stay at History Colorado is a safety measure, says Jason Hanson, lead curator of Play Ball!. There’s no worry of a high-stakes robbery—off-duty police officers will watch the card 24 hours a day—but rather of discoloration due to sunlight. A UV-protective case can keep Mantle safe for three days, but extending its stay could run the risk of fading the color.
That won’t be a worry. After leaving History Colorado, Mantle will again be wrapped and packed into an unassuming paper box, then transported via armored car to an undisclosed safety deposit vault. And later: “Once I die, it’s going with me to heaven,” Fogel says. “Put it on my chest in the casket.”
If you go: The Mickey Mantle card will be on display from July 16–18 at the History Colorado Center. The larger Play Ball! exhibit will be open throughout baseball season. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week; 1200 N. Broadway