I don't have the date of purchase (probably early 2000's), but I paid $7200 for a PSA 3. Wow, have those gone up!!!
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MansGame - You are right the best bet would be off-eBay at show/local deal. I would want something resembling a Mantle if I were paying ~$10K for a card. My high-end purchases have also been in $200-300 range. Perhaps, one day I can swing a five-figure purchase but a lot of things would have to fall into place for that to occur.
dano7 - Congrats on landing one early! That's a great price. I regret not going after vintage stuff sooner.
3 pages deep and no one has posted one yet!?!
I went to the National with a 51B Mantle as my #1 want, and I saw probably 15-20. My target of $8K for a decent 4, which I thought was a real possibility, was not found. Closest I saw was $8200 for a severely OC SGC 4, or $10K for a pretty good PSA 4. Prices on mid-level 51s have risen about 20% in the last year, in my casual observations of ebay and at the big shows, and I don't think they'll ever be cheaper. Even in a recession, if some people sell they won't flood the market, and the whales out there will just keep buying.
There's been a lot of money sloshing around all sorts of collectibles, in traditional hobbies and relatively new areas, and a rising tide lifts all Mantles. As the 52 Mantle has risen, so have the others as people get priced out. What do you do when you have $8K but that won't get you a PSA 1 1952 Topps anymore? You can get 1951 Bowman PSA 4 or a 1953 Topps PSA 6, and it seems that's what people are doing.
But on the whole I just don't understand why a really nice 51B, like a PSA 7, is not $50K or even $100K. There are currently 3 7s on ebay, at $35K, $40K, and one on auction ending in a couple days currently at $30,100. It's with PWCC, so who knows, but it will probably seem like a bargain a year from now.