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Going to bat for history

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Marshall Fogel has one of the most complete sports memorabilia collections in the country. He said his collection tells the history of baseball, and he wants to share that history with others.
Photo: Carly Rose, Rocky Mountain PBS

DENVER — Like many young boys in the 1950s, Denver native Marshall Fogel grew up collecting baseball cards. Unlike most of those other boys, he never stopped.  

Today, he owns the most valuable card in the hobby: a mint-condition 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle. That card, which Fogel calls “the holy grail,” is just the beginning of his impressive collection.  

Fogel’s collection is considered one of the most complete sports memorabilia collections in the country. 

Over the course of 35 years, he’s collected game-use bats and baseballs, original photographs, game tickets, uniforms and even a piece of the original Yankees Stadium, to name a few. 

Fogel, 82, began seriously collecting in 1989 after attending the National Sports Collector Convention in Chicago. It was around that time that the hobby began to grow into the industry it is today. Many collectors, including Fogel, were still figuring out what was authentic and valuable.  

As Fogel’s collection grew, so did his knowledge about how and what to collect.  

“Through the years, people would write articles about what was worth collecting, what was authentic, what was restored,” Fogel said. “People that were experts, like collectors like myself, were able to mentor the industry.”

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Original photographs and game-used bats make up a significant chunk of Fogel’s collection. He was on the forefront of collectors interested in these items.  

Some collectors build their collections vertically, meaning they dive deep into a specific team or type of item. Fogel said he collects horizontally, looking for items across teams and eras that document the sport’s history.  

“I would skim the top. I'd collect important baseball bats, uniforms, photographs. My collection is really the history of baseball,” Fogel said. “I had the ability to [do that] because there weren’t a lot of people collecting the way I felt it was worth collecting because I always thought it would be valuable, not just necessarily monetarily, but historically.” 

Fogel has worked with several museums to exhibit parts of his collection, including the Denver Art Museum, the New York Yankees Museum and the History Colorado Center. He also displayed some of his collection at the 2021 Major League Baseball All-Star Game hosted at Coors Field in Denver. That exhibit included the 1952 Mickey Mantle card, guarded by the Denver Police Department’s S.W.A.T. team.

A 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle baseball card. This card is graded a "gem mint 10" by Professional Sports Authenticator. It’s considered the most valuable card in the hobby due to its pristine condition and cultural significance.
Photo: Marshall Fogel

Fogel grew up watching the Denver Bears, a farm team of the New York Yankees, and he’s a proud Rockies fan.  

His hope for the future of the collection is to display it in its entirety in Denver. He envisions a “hall of legends” that teaches people about the history of the sport and its value in American culture. 

“Baseball really was the beginning of integration of culture, of race. It has a history of bringing our country together,” Fogel said. “It has a history of civil rights. It has a history of the singular hero, the beauty of the game. To me, it's an artform, and I possess that history. My goal, before I kick the bucket, is to find a way to keep it together so people can enjoy it.” 

Carly Rose is the journalism intern at Rocky Mountain PBS. Carlyrose@rmpbs.org.

Julio Sandoval is the senior photojournalist at Rocky Mountain PBS. Juliosandoval@rmpbs.org.

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