April 1, 2023
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
When Rick Finlay was nine years old, he saved up his nickels to buy packs of 1952 Topps Baseball cards at three different variety stores in the Fairport Beach neighbourhood in Pickering, Ont.
“My friends and I would go out and collect pop bottles and cash them in and buy packs of cards,” recalled Finlay in a recent phone interview. “We were all saving cards.”
In one of those packs, Finlay uncovered one of the Holy Grails of baseball cards – a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle. Finlay didn’t realize how valuable it was at the time.
“Back in the day, you didn’t get the [pricing] information like you do today,” he said. “Who would’ve even thought of that as a kid? I was just lucky that I kept it and didn’t throw it away.”
Lucky indeed, Finlay held on to that Mantle card for 70 years, through getting married, having children and through three moves. He put it in a protective case “30 or 40 years ago” and eventually stored it in a safety deposit box.
“I was always aware that it was one of the top cards,” said Finlay.
But after more than seven decades of owning it, he decided it was time to sell it, and he did so last December through Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas. Prior to the sale, the card (shown above) was graded “Very Good-Excellent” or four out of 10 by SGC, a well-known U.S. card grading company.
The card fetched $120,000 Canadian, which after fees meant Finlay received a cool $102,000 Canadian.
“With that money, I’m going to go out and buy a new truck,” said Finlay. “I’ll give the one I’ve got now which is a 2019 (Dodge Journey) to my oldest daughter (Cheryl). Then the 2017 (Dodge Journey) I gave her four years ago, she’s going to give that to my son (Jim).”
The Mantle card was the best card in his large collection that he assembled during his childhood.
“I’ve still got thousands of cards,” said Finlay. “I’ve got hockey cards. I’ve got sets. I have the whole 1952 set that Mickey Mantle was in. I have that and ‘53 and ‘54 [Topps baseball sets].”
He also has non-sports cards like the 1950 Topps Hopalong Cassidy series.
“We were like nutcases collecting cards,” said Finlay. “That was our whole life for years when we were kids. For years, it was cards, cards, cards.”
If Finlay’s name sounds familiar, it’s because yes, it’s that Rick Finlay – the legendary Canadian women’s softball coach. He’s the founder of the highly respected Port Perry Angels program and he has also coached at Seneca College. He began his tenure in women’s softball in 1976 when his daughter’s team needed a coach.
“There were years where I was coaching three teams at once,” said Finlay, who will be inducted into the Scugog Township Sports Hall of Fame (which includes Port Perry) this spring. “So I’ve spent a lot of time at the ball fields.”
Over the years, his teams have won numerous Ontario and Eastern Canada titles and two National titles.
Seven of the women he has coached have played for Team Canada at the Olympics and 13 have competed for Canada at the World Softball Championships. Sixty-five have earned U.S. college scholarships
Much of his coaching was done as a volunteer, while juggling his long career in plant maintenance at GO Transit.
“I do it for the players,” said Finlay.
So if anyone deserves a six-digit payout from a baseball card preserved from their childhood, it’s Finlay.
But does he have any regrets about selling his Mantle card?
“I actually feel good about it,” said Finlay. “I’m happy that I’m going to be able to help my kids (Cheryl, Jim and Tom).”