Baseball legend, the late Mickey Mantle, hit another one out of the park this weekend when his rare mint condition 1952 Topps trading card sold for a staggering $12.6 million. 
Expectations were high when the auction began last month. The card last sold in 1991 for $50,000 but after the auction wrapped up this weekend, it has become the most expensive piece of sports memorabilia ever sold. It beat a record set in May when a Diego Maradona jersey worn in the 1986 World Cup sold for $9.3 million. A Honus Wagner baseball card recently sold in a private deal for $7.25 million but held the title of most expensive baseball card sale for just a few weeks.
Chris Ivy, director of sports auctions at Heritage Auctions, told Cheddar News that the Topps Mantle card sits in a very exclusive club.
"Depending on the grade, a handful of different cards have a current market value in the vicinity of $10 million or more," he said. Other trading cards close in value to the 1952 Topps piece include the 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth and the 1909-11 T206 Honus Wagner. 
"As far as Heritage items across all our 55 categories, it currently ranks third behind Dmitry Muratov's 2021 Nobel Peace Prize sold in June this year for $103 million and a 1787 DBLN New York Brasher Doubloon MS65 that realized $9.36 million in January 2021," Ivy said.
While factors like the card's condition, print variations, the number of circulating pieces, and errors can impact its value, other intangibles such as time period and what players meant to entire generations can have even greater weight in determining the value. For baby boomers, Mantle was the most idolized baseball player of their childhoods, according to Ivy.
"The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle became the symbol of the entire card collecting world when this once-niche hobby became a nationwide phenomenon in the 1980s," he said. "The combination of the historical importance of the set as Topps' first major effort, Mantle's popularity and even his name, which seems like a product of Hollywood casting, has made this card what it is today."
Unlike other sports cards, Mantle's 1952 Topps collection has transcended sports and has become "pop culture art," he added.
With the last baseball trading card auction record standing for just over three weeks, it would not be at all surprising if another piece of sports memorabilia contends for a spot in that exclusive club. 
"The best of the best specimens often sell for huge premiums. It is a universal rule that applies to collectibles," Ivy said.