There is Only One

The Most Iconic Trading Cards of All Time

Artist James Fiorentino has been at the forefront of a developing trend highlighting the magnificent artwork that has always been a part of the trading card industry. He began painting trading cards for Topps in 1999 and was recently contacted by East Coast Sports Marketing to start a project to commemorate the most iconic baseball cards in history.

This new watercolor painting by Fiorentino of the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle trading card captures and enhances the brilliance of this underappreciated corner of the artworld. The painting was on display at the “There is Only One, the Most Iconic Trading Cards of All Time” exhibition in The Philly Show last September. The Philly Show is the oldest baseball card show in America starting back in 1975.

I had the good fortune to visit with James recently and when I saw the 22 by 30-inch painting of the 1952 Mantle card I was blown away. For my generation this is the ultimate prize of the baseball card world. And as a lifelong Mickey Mantle fan the painting is truly heart stopping. I had read recently that this card, in mint condition, sold for almost $3 million dollars in 2018. But what really hit me was the sheer beauty of the painting and the understanding that both the original card and Fiorentino’s recreation are nothing short of and sports-art masterpieces.

Also on display in the show was Fiorentino’s recreation of the 1953 Topps Mickey Mantle trading card. According to James, “For me, this painting is the holy grail of the set because it’s always been the most iconic card (along with the Honus Wagner T206 card), so it was a painting that had to be very accurate. This is such a beautiful card to paint because of how the colors just pop. The aquamarine type background color with the yellow bat just give it that classic look. I have always loved the detail in the logo design, and the shot of Mantle as a young kid from the side is such a great pose, evoking a Paul Bunyan-type hero. This may be my favorite Mantle card of all time because of my affinity with the artist Gerry Dvorak, who originally painted this iconic card in 1953. Gerry was a friend and mentor, so it was an honor for me to work on this card. The entire 1953 Topps set is my personal favorite, with the large faces and classic red label. I have always loved the softer feel of the portraits in this set, as well as the brushstrokes you see on many of the cards. It’s another well balanced image, and great shot of a young Mickey Mantle.”

Fiorentino had several other watercolor paintings on display at the show which included the 2011 Topps Mike Trout card, the 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. card, the 1951 Bowman Willie Mays card, 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle card and the 1933 Goudy Babe Ruth card.

The Series Two show has also been completed. The paintings displayed in both shows have been sold out. The Series Three show is being developed and should be scheduled soon.

James has been an incredibly talented artist all his life and through years of hard work and dedication has mastered the difficult watercolor medium. When growing up his two loves were painting and playing baseball. He still does both though his baseball playing has recently been limited to coaching little league with his two sons. Painting iconic baseball cards is just a small part of his portfolio which includes spectacular watercolors of super stars from all sports such as Tom Brady, Joe Namath, Michael Jordan, and Kevin Durant. He also does gorgeous wildlife paintings and luscious landscapes.

Check out his work at James Fiorentino 

And his Instagram account:

Don’t forget to check out my books:

Mickey Mantle’s Last Home Run: Falco, Steven A: 9781532052088: Books

Grandpa Gordy’s Greatest World Series Games: Falco, Steven: 9780595219148: Books

4 thoughts on “There is Only One

  1. Good afternoon Mr.Fiorentino,
    Do you have any shows of your baseball art and fotos planned for
    Florida? I am a big Mickey Mantle
    Thank you,


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