Article originally sourced from: Forbes
"Earlier this month, an “amazing” 1951 Mickey Mantle Bowman rookie card in mint condition fetched a record $588,000 in a Memory Lane Auction. Four years ago, the exact same card offered by the exact same auction house sold for $220,150.
“Some prices being paid now are mind-blowing compared to what they once were, but there are folks out there buying cards for a variety of reasons to whom $580,000 is like $5,000 to you and me,” Rich Mueller, the editor of Sports Collectors Daily, told me. Top-grade Mantles continue to blow many minds besides his.
For all its star power, the Bowman Mantle wasn’t the card that caught my eye; I was taken with a much scarcer and lesser known card that costs a pretty penny too. From 1953 through 1955, Stahl-Meyer sold cards of Dodgers, Giants, and Yankees in the metropolitan New York area not with bubble gum, as Bowman and Topps did, but with, of all things, hot dogs—bare naked inside the packages.
Lelands declares the 1954 Stahl-Meyer that it is auctioning off is “one of the rarest Mickey Mantle cards in the hobby."Aaron Wasser describes the entire Stahl-Meyer set as “excruciatingly rare” in a 2014 article for Sports Collectors Daily.
At a White Plains, N.Y. show last week, a collector snapped up a Gil McDougald, a common player, for $150 within the first few minutes of its opening. Credit goes to Stahl-Meyer: the cards are one of the most beautiful sets from the 1950s and proudly featured on the company’s website. The 123-year-old company is still going strong.
Since their inception in the 1880s, baseball cards have been stained by tobacco, candy, caramel, and Cracker Jack. Hot dogs are a whole other deal.
“This set, as hard as it is to imagine today, was packed with Wilson Hot Dogs distributed across the country,” Joe Orlando, the CEO of Collectors Universe, wrote of a much more common issue from 1954 titled “The Hellacious Hot Dog Set.” For the love of mystery meat, they were actually packaged with hot dogs! The result? Staining from the dogs, a potential problem with any of the cards.”
Stahl-Meyer’s decision to coat the cards with wax seems to have done little to keep them from becoming marinated in “100 percent beef frankfurter” grease.
Imagine what the public reaction would be today. In our germaphobic age, parents would go ballistic if their children handled these cards and then put their fingers in their mouths. At the very least, gallons of Purell would be required before flipping and trading contests to protect against possible bacteria like listeria.
Perhaps the cards’ rarity stems from a slight yuck factor, even back in the innocent 1950s.
Lelands is also auctioning off 1962 Dodgers cards distributed in Bell Brand potato chip bags: “Learning from the other regional food issues of the 1950s, when cards were nestled immediately next to the food products resulting in massive staining, the Befll Brand company issued their cards in neatly wrapped cello packages.” I call that progress.
There’s one school of thought, which Wasser subscribes to, that the 1953 Stahl-Meyers are the hardest to find of of the three years of production, Children could send in two cards and an essay of 25 words or less “telling why you like Stahl-Meyer frankfurts” (perhaps a precursor to Twitter). The 200 “most original letters” won tickets to one of three pre-selected Yankee, Dodger or Giants games that season!
But Lelands and the late dean of baseball cards, Bob Lemke, believe the 1954 set is the scarcest. A study of the top auction sites supports this belief. “Only 94 cards of 1954 Stahl-Meyer issue TOTAL have been authenticated by PSA, with a short supply of 13 Mantle cards,” Lelands notes. “This card is extremely rare.”
Twenty-nine bids have lifted the Mantle, graded in good condition, to $7,222, still below its pre-sale estimate of $10,000. In 2011 an example in near-mint condition commanded $23,500 in a Robert Edward auction. As Mantle rookies and his 1952 Topps go crazy, a rare regional issue like the Stahl-Meyer deserves a serious look.
The Lelands’ Mantle derives from the Hidden House Find in an undisclosed location somewhere in the United States. As I previously reported, a longtime picker and hoarder approached the Lelands booth in Chicago last summer with a carry-on bag stuffed with more than 300 baseball cards from Mantle’s entire career, including rare regional and test issues, that had been stashed away for a half-century.
The owner has three rooms piled high to the ceiling with cardboard gold of Mays, Aaron and other all-time greats he bought for a song a half century ago. (His 1952 Topps Mantle cost him $1). The first $100,000 of the quarter-million-dollar treasure trove is for sale in the Lelands’ auction closing on October 27. The entire Hidden House Find may top $250,000."