1952 Mickey Mantle card by Topps sells for near-record $2.88M

A 1952 Mickey Mantle Topps rookie card in mint condition sold for $2.88 million late Thursday night.

That's second-highest price ever paid for a baseball card, falling short of the $3.12 million a collector paid for a 1909 T206 Honus Wagner card in October 2016.

The card, graded by Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) as a 9 on a scale of 10, was being sold by former NFL offensive lineman Evan Mathis and auctioned by Heritage Auctions.

The rise of the Mantle rookie card has been astounding. In 1988, this card in its best condition could be had for $3,300. Ten years later, the record was $121,000. By 2007, the top sale for the card -- which was a comparable PSA 9 -- was $240,000.

"It's a remarkable price," said Chris Ivy, director of sports auctions at Heritage. "It was 10 years ago when we last had a Mantle 9 sell, but this sold for 10 times that."

The record for the card was for a PSA 8.5 sold for $1.13 million in 2016, which held until Thursday night.

The Wagner card was made more rare by the company that produced them, Piedmont Cigarettes, when the card was discontinued. The Mantle card is naturally rare because, well, no one wanted them.

The Mantle was the first card in the Topps 1952 high number set, which was the second wave of that year's product. But Topps, in only its second year of making baseball cards, found that the cards came out too late in the year and there was little to no interest in consumers buying more. So the 1952 high number packs sat in Topps factory for seven years, before Topps' card pioneer Sy Berger made an attempt to get rid of them.

"I went around to carnivals and offered them at a penny apiece," Berger told Sports Collectors Digest in 2010. "And it got so bad, I offered them at 10 for a penny."

When cards were still left over, Berger gave up and dumped more than 300 cases of the 1952 cards into the ocean.

A mistake? Of course. But if Berger didn't destroy them and everyone's mother saved their kid's cards perhaps the best baseball cards wouldn't command what they now do.