A rare Mickey Mantle baseball card became the most valuable piece of sports memorabilia after it fetched $12.6 million in auction on Sunday.
The mint condition Mantle card, sold by Heritage Auctions, surpassed the $9.3 million paid earlier this year for the jersey worn by Argentine great Diego Maradona when he scored the so-called “Hand of God” goal in the 1986 World Cup. It was almost twice the previous record price for a sports card.
"An eight-figure auction result in the sports market was the stuff of fantasy just a decade ago," Chris Ivy, director of sports auctions at Heritage, said in a statement.
"We always knew this card would shatter records and expectations. But that doesn't make it any less of a thrill."
The previous record for a sports card was $7.25 million, set this month by a century-old 'T206' Honus Wagner card in a private sale facilitated by collectibles marketplace Goldin.
Mantle, who was named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team in 1999 and inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1974, played for the New York Yankees in the 1950s and 1960s.
Before the pandemic, the sports memorabilia market was estimated at more than $5.4 billion, according to Forbes.
By 2021, that market had grown to $26 billion, according to the research firm Market Decipher, which predicts the market will grow astronomically to $227 billion within a decade — partly fuelled by the rise of non-fungible tokens, which are digital collectibles with unique data-encrypted fingerprints.