Home Run or Foul Ball? NFT Picture of Mickey Mantle’s Rookie Card Fetches $470K

Mickey Mantle, NFT, rookie card

Memorabilia bearing Mickey Mantle’s autograph has traditionally been one of the safest investments in world of sports collectibles — be it baseballs or the Yankees slugger’s rookie card.

On Friday (March 4), a non-fungible token (NFT) featuring a photo of the 1952 Topps card sold for $471,000, showing that the 16-time All-Star’s blue-chip status extends to the crypto world.

NFTs hold some type of media — images, videos, legal documents, anything really. They come with a built-in certificate of provenance, as each transaction is permanently and unchangeably recorded on a blockchain, and can be viewed by anyone — a very important consideration for any collectible.

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The Mantle rookie card NFT does have good provenance. It is the first in a line of Topps Timeless NFT Series, which the historic baseball card maker is launching in connection with Major League Baseball. It has the official seal of authenticity, and Topps has promised it will be a one-off, with no other sold.

“The Topps 1952 Mickey Mantle card continues to be one of the most coveted baseball cards of all time, and we’re excited for one passionate fan to be able to add this monumental piece of sports history to their digital collection,” said Tobin Lent, vice president and general manager of the Topps digital sports and entertainment division.

As Topps no doubt hoped, the card NFT set a record for a professional league’s official sports-themed token, more than doubling the $230,000 NBA Top Shots NFT of a Lebron James slam dunk from the 2020 NBA Finals. (Of course, five of the top six Top Shots NFTs are of King James, and they’ve raked in nearly $1 million — and he’s still dunking.)

That said, the NFT did not come close to the $5.2 million paid in January 2021 for a physical Mantle Card.

What it does have is rarity and “first” status in the Topps NFT line, which is something NFT buyers are willing to pay for. For example, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s first tweet — viewable by anyone on the social media site — went for $2.9 million.

Something More …

Beyond that, the NFT auction comes with a boost from the Mantle estate, with his sons Danny and David upping the ante by providing the winner a 30-minute interview. Which apparently adds … something … to the value.

From a market value perspective, that value depends on whether the interview can be recorded, and whether that recording can be put onto its own NFT — which would make an interesting pair. However, seeing as it wasn’t marketed that way, we’ll call that unlikely at best.

The NFT market, which barely existed two years ago, has been going more than a little crazy of late, peaking last March with the $69 million auction of a collage by digital artist Mike Winkelmann, who goes by “Beeple.” A sale that provided no ownership right to the work — downloadable on Christie’s website — other than to display it.

Read more: PYMNTS NFT Series: From Famous Artists to Forgers, the Art World Embraces NFTs

As a result, there has been a stampede into the space by celebrities of all standings, from Snoop Dogg to Paris Hilton to Ozzy Osbourne’s CryptoBatz collection. Julian Lennon’s recent auction of NFT images of several of his father John’s movie-worn coats and notes about a song’s arrangement (not the actual lyrics) came with a clear notice that Julian Lennon retained all rights to the actual items.

Related: PYMNTS NFT Series: Hey Jude, Don’t Burst the Bubble

And with all due respect to quarterback Tom Brady’s Greatest of All Time status, his recent line of NFTs was a little on the eyebrow-raising side: It features such exciting pieces of sports history as a picture of a pre-NFL combine jersey — 1,300 of which were sold, possibly to fans as well as collectors.

However, given the difficulty of actually buying an NFT — it generally involves providing know your customer (KYC) proof of identity and buying cryptocurrency with which to pay — and the reports that the entire 16,600-piece line sold out in minutes, that seems unlikely.

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