Collectible Hockey Cards

While the other major US sports, baseball, basketball, and football, have a rabid following all over the nation, hockey tends to have fan bases that are more regional (and as a result, the same is true for collectible hockey cards as well). It’s actually fair to say that hockey is much more popular to the north of the border, where the good folks of Canada view the sport as a religion of sorts. Despite the fact that the game does not necessarily have a mass appeal, the amount of collectible hockey cards that are still an impressive number.

The thing about hockey is that there are a multitude of different leagues operating all over the country. Sure, the NHL is the one that everyone knows, but you have up and coming stars plying their trade in professional leagues, where many of the teams draw crowds that would put some of the big boys to shame. Many of these teams are farm teams of the big guns, which means that the stats of the men that play there are very keenly observed, and what better way to do that than through a trading card?

The History of Collectible Hockey Cards

Collectible hockey cards were first seen back in 1910, when the Imperial Tobacco Company in Canada issued a 30 card set that pretty closely followed the format that we are used to today. At that time, the pro league was known as the National Hockey Association, but that disbanded in 1917, at which time the NHL came into being, albeit only with 4 teams, all of whom were based in Canada.

The league eventually expanded to what is commonly known as the Original Six. This Original Six consisted of the following teams:

  • Montreal Canadiens – 1917 (founded in 1909)
  • Toronto Maple Leafs – 1917
  • Boston Bruins – 1924
  • Chicago Black Hawks – 1926
  • Detroit Red Wings – 1926
  • New York Rangers – 1926

By the 1930’s, the World Wide Gum Company started putting hockey cards in their candy packs. Since the game was still mostl popular in Canada, the bios on the back of the cards were written in both English and French.

Parkhurst Focuses on the Original Six Era

The hockey cards really started to pick up some popularity in 1951, which is when Parkhurst started releasing sets that focused on the legends of the game from the Original Six era. Rocket Richard and the signed Gordie Howe card are considered to be the most valuable to come from these sets.

Topps Enters the Hockey Card Market

Parkhurst continued to produce cards until 1961, at which point Topps, who had already made a splash with their trading cards in the other major sports (Primarily baseball cardsfootball cards, and basketball cards), had essentially taken all the business in the hockey card marketplace.

However, unlike most sports trading cards, Topps isn’t the primary leader with collectible Hockey cards. This title actually goes to O-Pee-Chee, which is a trading card maker from Canada (which does happen to be affiliated with Topps).

Hockey Cards in the 1970’s

That’s not to say that the consumer wasn’t wowed by sets other than those delivered by Topps. Of particular interest to collectors was a set produced by Dad’s Cookies in 1970. The set featured legends of the game like Bobby Orr, Jacques Plante, and Tony Esposito, but what made the cards so special was that the featured players did not wear their team colors, but rather a generic NHL jersey. This little oddity helped to raise the value of the cards in the years that followed.

In sports card collecting, it is the rookie card that seems to hold the most value over the years. This is because they tend to be printed in lower quantities than the big stars of the day. If one of those rookies went on to have a major career, that rookie card would grow in value with each passing goal and assist. What blurred the lines a little here was when the WHA was essentially absorbed into the NHL back in 1979. The biggest name that ever played the game, Wayne Gretzky, had already had his rookie season playing for the Edmonton Oilers in the WHA, but he then had another “rookie” season in the NHL. As you might imagine, his cards from both leagues are still very sought after to this day.

A Sidestep to Mention a Trading Card Turningpoint

In something of an ironic twist, Wayne Gretzky may have helped the popularity of trading cards in a rather roundabout way. In 1991, Gretzky and then LA Kings owner Bruce McNall purchased the T206 Honus Wagner baseball card for $451,000. All of a sudden, people started to realize that all those old trading cards they had saved from their childhood years might actually be worth something. The trading card industry went on the upswing after that point, with hockey cards also thrust into the limelight more than they had ever been in the past.

Modern Day Collectible Hockey Cards

Competition between trading card companies really hit new heights in the 1990’s, which meant that many new kinds of cards were introduced into the marketplace. Among the most notable of these were the magic motion cards made by Score. The picture on the card was essentially a holographic type of image that appeared to move when the card was tilted in different directions. Upper Deck was another company that joined in the battle for trading card supremacy during this period, and on through to today.

Like most other sports cards, collectors usually go out of their way to look for the cards that contain the big names of the game. Rookie and autographed cards are definitely the cream of the crop, as are unique sets likes the one produced by Dad’s Cookies. Sometimes, though, a card can gain value due to the player having a certain level of notoriety. Nowhere is that more prevalent than what happened with the Clint Malarchuck card. His card suddenly shot up in value after he had his throat sliced open in a freak accident during a game. That he survived and was able to come back and play at a later date was nothing short of a miracle, and was also something not lost on hockey card collectors.

Yes, hockey may not enjoy as big of an audience as some other sports, but household names like Gretzky, Lemiuex, Crosby, and Ovechkin have helped make collectible hockey cards a must have for collectors all over the world.

List of Popular Collectible Hockey Cards

The following is a list of collectible hockey cards that are more commonly bought, sold, and traded. For this reason, these are the sets that you should focus on if you are just getting started with hockey collectibles.

  • 1910-11 C56
  • 1911-12 C55
  • 1951-52 Parkhurst
  • 1952-53 Parkhurst
  • 1953-54 Parkhurst
  • 1954-55 Parkhurst
  • 1954-55 Topps
  • 1955-56 Parkhurst
  • 1957-58 Parkhurst
  • 1957-58 Topps
  • 1958-59 Parkhurst
  • 1958-59 Topps
  • 1959-60 Parkhurst
  • 1959-60 Topps
  • 1960-61Parkhurst
  • 1960-61 Topps
  • 1961-62 Parkhurst
  • 1961-62 Topps
  • 1962-63 Parkhurst
  • 1962-63 Topps
  • 1963-64 Parkhurst
  • 1963-64 Topps
  • 1964-65 Topps
  • 1965-66 Topps
  • 1966-67 Topps
  • 1967-68 Topps
  • 1968-69 O-Pee-Chee
  • 1968-69 O-Pee-Chee Puck Stickers
  • 1968-69 Topps
  • 1969-70 O-Pee-Chee
  • 1969-70 O-Pee-Chee 4 in 1
  • 1969-70 Topps
  • 1970-71 Dads Cookies
  • 1970-71 O-Pee-Chee
  • 1970-71 Topps
  • 1970-71 Topps & O-Pee-Chee Sticker Stamps
  • 1971-72 O-Pee Chee
  • 1971-72 Topps
  • 1972-73 O-Pee-Chee
  • 1972-73 Topps
  • 1973-74 O-Pee-Chee
  • 1973-74 Topps
  • 1974-75 O-Pee-Chee WHA
  • 1977-78 O-Pee Chee WHA
  • 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee
  • 1979-80 Topps
  • 1980-81 O-Pee-Chee
  • 1981-82 O-Pee-Chee
  • 1982-83 O-Pee-Chee
  • 1983-84 O-Pee-Chee
  • 1984-85 O-Pee-Chee
  • 1984-85 Topps
  • 1985-86 O-Pee-Chee
  • 1987-88 O-Pee-Chee
  • 1990-91 O-Pee-Chee Premier

What Next?

If you’re interested in adding collectible hockey cards to your collection, eBay is probably your best source for the majority of what you’ll be looking for. Don’t be afraid to reach out to me as well if you’re looking for a specific collectible hockey card.

You may also be interested in learning about non-sports trading cards as well.

Recent Posts