We know some high numbers were shipped off to Venezuala. We also know a bunch were sold in Canada (no link here but enough on www.net54baseball.com exists if you want to shuffle over there and take a gander). Take that information, add in a dose of the usual paranoid Topps practice of having their employees deflect any probes into the actual workings of the business and sprinkle it with some oft-repeated hoary bits of PR department blather and you get the idea nobody, but nobody wanted these cards, or so the story went.
But here's the thing....Topps did have ways to burn off excess cards and had being doing so since their first card returns came back in 1949. They sold early versions of Fun-Paks, slipped overstock into Trading Card Guild aftermarket offers and often, very quietly backdoored unsold and returned product through "unofficial" hobby dealers. The first of these unofficial dealers was Sam Rosen-Woody Gelman's Stepfather-who started selling excess Topps stock in the early 50's and I suspect handled the Trading Card Guild orders initially before things eventually went to more of an arm's length agreement.
Back to the '52 highs. The biggest problem I have with the dumping at sea story is the lack of highs from the Card Collectors Company's 1959 catalog after Sam Rosen had stocked them in his prior catalogs:
Look at the 1952 Topps entry. You cannot buy a card above #310. A year later, the highs are available, right around the time Sy Berger purportedly went out to sea:
A dime for anything below #311, 35 cents for highs. The availability is back and the premium pricing is starting to be baked in right around the time the barge full o'highs dumped her load in the Atlantic Bight.
1961? Well, the catalog got fancier with photos and the '52 highs must have financed the snazzier look (not, really):
(courtesy David Kathman)
Those $1 high numbers match CCC in 1962 & '63. I'm also curious about some other series pricing in these early catalogs. There's no scarce mid-series indicated in '57 and high numbers outside of 1952 are not yet commanding a premium.
Woody maintained his supply of '52 highs at a dollar apiece until at least 1968, where he had enough still to offer a de facto 10% discount if you bought the whole series intact. Woody seems like he still had a gaggle of highs by the time the Year of The Pitcher kicked off:
Not among the "very rare"-Mickey Mantle! I'm going to track the scarce and high number pricing patterns shortly and will trace the '52 Mantle pricing through the years as well.