How To Spot A Fake 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle Card

Updated Oct 04, 2023

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The 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle card is one of the most iconic vintage baseball cards in the hobby. 

Oftentimes, the 1952 Topps Mantle or Mantle’s second year 1953 Topps card get all the attention but the 1951 Bowman Mantle is still his true rookie card. 

Today, even a mid to low-grade 51 Bowman Mantle can fetch upwards of $20,000

Of course, as prices go higher, the more we need to worry about fakes.  And there are no shortage of 51 Bowman Mantle fakes. 

This guide should give you all the information you need to avoid getting scammed on a fake 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle cad.

As always, if you spot a suspect card and need some help or if you’re trying to sell an authentic 51 Bowman Mantle, feel free to shoot us a line at

Examining An Authentic 1951 Bowman Mantle Card

An authentic 1951 Bowman Mantle card.

Text on authentic 51 Bowman Mantle

Note that 51 Bowman cards very commonly have print dots that often appear in the Mantle text box.  Here are two authentic Mantle's below that have a print dot. 

Note the print dot on this authentic card

Another print dot in the black box on an authentic Mantle 51 Bowman

Note that the print on the back of the card is Red (in Mantle's name and in Baseball) and Dark Blue.  Note the blue often looks black in online photos.  Both of these cards below are real. 

Back of an authentic 51 Bowman Mantle

A real 1951 Bowman back

Ten Steps To Take In Evaluating A 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle Card

Note that each one of these steps shouldn't necessarily rule out a card being authentic, but taken in tandem, this should help you piece together the puzzle.


Step 1 - Look Under Mantle's Cap

On a real card, there should be green under the brim of Mantle's hat, whereas on many fakes, this green is indistinguishable.  Note that some images can darken the green or the print could be a slightly lighter shade, but the color difference between Mantle's hat should be distinguishable from the underside of his brim. 

A real 51 Bowman Mantle


A fake 51 Bowman Mantle --look under the hat and see the lack of Green color.


Step 2 - Check Out Mick's Complexion

While the colors can vary slightly on original 51 Bowman Mantle's, a key area of distinction between a fake and authentic Mantle card surrounds the complexion of Mantle's face.  On many fakes, Mantle's face looks extremely red and almost sunburned.  There typically should be clear delineation of his cheek bones and facial markings with a normal, tannish sort of complexion.

A real 51 Bowman Mantle - note the regular complexion

A fake, or more like sunburned Mantle


Step 3 - Look For Pink Print Dot On Mantle's hat

I've seen so many fakes with this little pink/red print dot, that it is at least worth noting here.  I have not seen a real Mantle card with this same print dot--it is possible that it exists, but for now, know that if you see one with this print dot, there is probably a 90% + likelihood the card is a fake.   Note that print dots do certainly exist on the Bowman Mantle --see section at beginning of this guide that looks at print dots on front black Mantle text box. 

A fake Mantle card with a pink print dot which is a common identifier on many fakes.


Step 4 - Examine White On Borders

On a real card, the borders are white but more of a dull white, whereas on many fakes the borders, unless significantly altered/aged are bright white. Here's a comparison of a real Mantle with a fake.  Can you see the difference in the border colors? 

An authentic 51 Bowman Mantle card

A Fake 51 Bowman Mantle


Step 5 - Look For Artificially Rounded Corners or Intentional Ageing Of The Card

This is not necessarily specify to Mickey Mantle 51 Bowman fakes, but applicable to any intentionally aged, counterfeit cards.  Cards over time will get corner wear if not properly stored, but when the corner wear looks forced and fairly consistent on each corner, there's a high likelihood that the card is fake.  

Authentic 51 Bowman cards were printed on a gray card stock, so any sort of wear on the card, speaking of corners or creases will show the grey stock of the card.  On many fakes that are printed on newer paper, the intentional wear will still show the unnatural whiteness of the card.

Here's an authentic Bowman 1951 Mantle card.  Note how the corners look and what the overall wear looks like -- this is what a 70+ year old card will look like that has been mishandled and stored and transported between generations. 

The genuine 51 Bowmans were printed on grey cardstock-- meaning the cardboard Bowman used was grey all the way through (If you ripped one open, it would be grey in the middle). If you turn a genuine 51 Bowman Mantle on its side, the edge will be be grey. The bright whiteness in the first image is not natural for the issue. This quality by itself suggests that someone printed a picture of the grey Bowman back onto white paper or white cardstock.  The unnatural whiteness test can be applied to all cards that are known to have been printed on grey or dark colored cardboard. The appearance of unnnaturally white edges can quickly identify many counterfeits online.

A real 51 Bowman Mantle which show the signs of natural ageing.

Here's a fake Mantle which has been artificially aged.  This one might be a little tougher to distinguish for any novices., but the job becomes a bit easier once we look at the back of the card.

A fake Mantle that has been intentionally aged.

The back of the corners on this fake Mantle are a tell tale sign of artificial ageing....just look completely unnatural.

Here's a fake that would be a bit easier to identify.  Note the bright white borders and the fake looking artificially worn corners that are completely white.  Also, this one appears to have the typical spider wrinkles associated with a card that has been soaked.

A fake 51 Bowman Mantle with rounded corners


Step 6 - Examining The Print With a Loupe

If any of the aforementioned steps don't provide a clear cut answer, it's time to grab your loupe.   One of the easiest ways to pinpoint a fake is in the black area where Mantle's name is located on the front of the card.   On an original card, the black area was printed with black solid ink.  On the majority of fakes I've seen, this area will show the characteristic dot matrix look.

Here's a real Mantle and the text box.  There should be very defined clarity between the black and the white in the lettering. 

Text on authentic 51 Bowman Mantle

Here's a closeup on the lettering of a fake Mantle.  If you have a real Mantle, it will NOT look like this. 

A fake 51 Mantle and characteristic of little dots on white Mickey Mantle lettering---common on many fakes.

Here's a closeup of what an authentic Mantle will look like under magnification.  These cards were produced with a half tone printing method with circular (albeit not perfect) print dots.  More modern reprints will also use a halftone method but with a cleaner and different pattern of print. 


A real mantle and what the card will look like under magnification with half-tone printing.

I do have to stop and give a shoutout to Dave (not sure of last name) who produced an amazing YouTube video reviewing fake vs real 51 Bowman Mantle rookie cards.  He actually provided a look at one fake that I hadn't seen yet and even provides a closeup look at the print dots of a real Mantle vs a fake.  I highly encourage anyone looking at a raw Mantle Bowman Rookie to watch Dave's video (below).  


A screenshot from the  ' Bluejacket 66'  Mantle video and the dots in a real Mantle (left) versus a fake (on the right).


Step 7 - Check Alignment Of Text On Back of Card

One thing I have noticed on many fakes is that the alignment of lettering on the back of fake cards can differ from an authentic Mantle. 

Here' the back of a real card.  Pay attention to the spacing between the red 'Baseball' and the line above it.  There is some space, not a lot, but there is a small space.  Also notice that the space below baseball is approximately the same---something we would call 'padding' in design circles.  Thus the top and bottom padding on baseball is identical.

Here is a fake Mantle card.  Note the padding above is a lot smaller than on the real card.  And the padding below is much larger than on the authentic card.  This should be a dead giveaway of a fake card. 


Step 8 - Look For Registration Issues on The Borders

On a real Mantle card, many times (not always) there are registration issues on the bottom border where the trees are located, both on the left and right. Registration just refers to the alignment of printing colors and on many older cards (very common on T206 cards). 

Take a look at this authentic 51 Bowman Mantle card and the bottom border, where some colors have bled beyond the black border.  This sort of print registration error is not something I've ever seen on any fake Mantle.  Again, this registration problem isn't evident on every authentic Mantle, but if you see it, there's a good chance your card is the real deal. 

An authentic 51 Bowman Mantle with registration issues on the bottom border which are quite common


Step 9 - Wrong Color/Broken Font On Back Of The Card

This fake came into me recently and I immediately knew something was wrong.  As I had mentioned earlier, the font on the back is dark blue.  It should not look choppy like this, and it should not be a more royal blue. Note this fake also had the pink print dot on Mick's hat. 

A fake Mantle card with the wrong color and broken text.

I will also note that some fake cards have black text which will be a dead giveaway that the card is not authentic. 


Step 10 - Perfect Centering = Red Flag

1951 Bowman Mantle's are notorious for having centering issues.  Not to say that a 51 Bowman Mantle can't have perfect centering--they certainly do exist, but it is more common to find an off-centered card.  The majority of fakes have perfect centering, although some certainly have added off-center to the equation to try and fool collectors.  Whatever the case, if you are examining a Mantle and it is perfectly centered--your fake alert should immediately be triggered.  

Here are three authentic Mantle Bowman rookie cards with centering issues--and is typically par for the course. 

Note that each one of these steps shouldn't necessarily rule out a card being authentic, but taken in tandem, this should help you piece together the puzzle.

The last thing I would say and the thing that I would tell anyone considering the purchase of a very expensive raw card -- purchase some 51 Bowman commons on eBay and a loupe if you don't have one.  Also try to purchase a few fakes on eBay.  

Examine the card in question and see how the print compares to a real Bowman card.  Does it match one of your fakes instead?

Ultimately the comparison of print under microscope is going to be your most effective way of determining authenticity.  If you have any questions feel free to shoot us an email at  

All Vintage Cards

About the author

Chris Rogers, is the founder of All Vintage Cards. Launched in 2018, All Vintage Cards is the hobby's leading resource for vintage sports cards. Chris is also the author of 'The Complete Guide To Selling Your Sports Cards'. Chris remains an avid collector and can be reached at

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  1. I have a 1951 Mickey Mantle rookie card. It looks good as far as what you said you would look for. However it is missing the 1951 Bowman Gum Inc Phila, Penn at the bottom .Does that make it a fake?

  2. This is a great website! The info on identifying a Bowman 1951 Mickey Mantle is amazing. I was wondering if you could verify on a test I heard about, to see if your card is authentic. Something about the paper that was used. In 1951, when you shine a light bgehind the card (used cell phone light) you should not see the light. If it is truly a card from 1951, you should NOT be able to see the light, whereas newer cards you can see the light. If this is valid, you don't have to do other tests. After using all the info you had listed, we thought we might have a winner. When the card "failed" the light test, we began to think it is a fake. Please let me know if this "light test" is valid. Thanks, Karen

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