A phone call in 1986 would forever alter the landscape of high-end trading cards.
Alan Rosen, more commonly known as “Mr. Mint,” was on the receiving end of this now-auspicious call. A Boston-based forklift driver tipped Rosen off to an entire collection of mint 1952 Topps Baseball cards for sale. While this certainly sounded promising, many in the hobby have had skeptical house calls and meetups that were too good to be true.
Regardless, Rosen’s trip to Massachusetts would land him the most valuable find in the history of collectibles. An assortment of mint Mickey Mantles, Jackie Robinsons, and Willie Mays accompanied Mr. Mint on his ride back to New Jersey.
36 years later, one of those Mantles, now encapsulated in an SGC 9.5 holder, sat in a glass box in the 2022 National Sports Collectors Convention. The biggest names in the industry took time to reflect and admire this eight-figure piece of cardboard. The ’52 Mantle would go on to sell for $12.6 million in August 2022.
It’s hard to imagine the world of baseball cards without the name Mr. Mint. Rosen’s story begins like many collectors. As a kid in the 1950s, he fell in love with baseball cards and spent hours poring over them, trading with friends, and dreaming of owning every card in the set. But while most of us outgrow our childhood hobbies, Rosen never lost his passion for cards. In fact, he turned his love of the hobby into a career.
Rosen used his dynamic personality to become the first superstar in the hobby. He flashed thick wads of cash, he appeared in Sports Illustrated, and he left sentiment out of his transactions. Mr. Mint was oftentimes not addicted to collecting cards but rather the magic of the deal.
But it wasn’t just Rosen’s business acumen that made him a legend in the hobby. It was his eye for quality and rarity. Rosen was known for seeking out the best-conditioned cards, the rarest variations, and the most valuable sets. He had a knack for spotting cards that others had overlooked, and his collection soon became the envy of the hobby.
Rosen’s collection includes some of the rarest and most valuable cards in the world. He owns the only known example of the 1916 M101-5 Babe Ruth rookie card, as well as multiple copies of the T206 Honus Wagner, the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle, and countless other iconic cards. His collection was estimated to be worth millions of dollars.
He kept wheeling-and-dealing well into the 21st century. Unfortunately, Mr. Mint passed away at the age of 70 in 2017 after a long battle with leukemia.
We’ve seen the Hobby transform to new heights since the pandemic boom in 2020. Million-dollar sales, documentaries, and busy showrooms serve as a testament to the new era of card collecting. As a fan of hobby pioneers and history, it would be interesting to see how Rosen would navigate the industry today. Nevertheless, we won’t soon forget his efforts in making this hobby as lucrative and legitimate as it is today.