History of Hockey Cards

As with other trading cards, hockey cards got their start as inserts into packs of tobacco and candy around the turn of the 20th century.  Early hockey cards weren’t organized into sets as later cards were, and are very difficult to find in near mint or mint condition.

The production of trading cards declined sharply after World War I, and did not regain momentum until the early 1930’s. In 1933, the first mass produced hockey set was produced by Canadian manufacturer O-Pee-Chee.  O-Pee-Chee produced cards until 1941, when production again declined due to World War II.

As with other major sports cards, hockey cards took off in popularity once again during the early 1950’s. Largely due to the decade-long break in production, sets from the early 1950’s are among the most popular hockey sets of all time; primarily due to the high proportion of rookie cards for players who began their careers during the war years.

ParkieslotAnother Canadian company, Parkhurst, was a major player in the hockey card industry between 1951 and 1957; but was challenged beginning in the mid-50s by trading card giant Topps which began its long run of NHL sets.  By 1964, Topps had partnered with the old O-Pee-Chee company and forced Parkhurst out of the market.  Topps/O-Pee-Chee essentially monopolized the hockey card industry for the next several decades, finally losing their monopoly in the 1980’s.  Hockey cards were almost as badly affected by the ensuing “Age of Overproduction” as baseball and football cards were, and O-Pee-Chee did not survive the decade as an independent company.

OPC and Topps both produced the most sought-after hockey card of all-time, the 1979-80 Wayne Gretzky rookie card.  Valued anywhere from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands, depending on grade, the Gretzky rookie remains an icon for collectors around the world.

Following the 2004-2005 season, the NHL chose not to renew its license with Topps, instead signing a five-year exclusive contract with rival Upper Deck. Upper Deck in turn revived the O-Pee-Chee brand in 2006, and today produces the vast majority of hockey cards under the Upper Deck, O-Pee-Chee, SPX, and SP Authentic brands.

Upper Deck’s The Cup has proven to be a hit among collectors of high-end products or those looking for a big “hit” among the rare autograph memorabilia cards inserted into the $300-500 per pack product

Other entries dot the hockey card periphery over the last two decades including a series of cards featuring mainly minor league and retired players that is produced by In The Game.  Collectors of baseball cards may not realize it, but the history of hockey cards is just as rich.

2016-17 ITG TML President's Choice Blue and White Centennial hockey hobby box
2016-17 ITG TML President's Choice Blue and White Centennial hockey hobby box
$371.96
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1996-97 FLAIR HOCKEY #108 KEVIN HODSON , RED WINGS ! BOX 40
1996-97 FLAIR HOCKEY #108 KEVIN HODSON , RED WINGS ! BOX 40
$3.49
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1996-97 FLAIR HOCKEY # 109 MATS LINDGREN , OILERS ! BOX 40
1996-97 FLAIR HOCKEY # 109 MATS LINDGREN , OILERS ! BOX 40
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1996-97 FLAIR HOCKEY # 117 ANDREAS DACKELL , SENATORS ! BOX 40
1996-97 FLAIR HOCKEY # 117 ANDREAS DACKELL , SENATORS ! BOX 40
$3.49
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1991 Topps Stadium Club 4 Box Lot Hockey Cards
1991 Topps Stadium Club 4 Box Lot Hockey Cards
$59.99
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2016-17 Panini NHL Hockey Stickers Box of 50 Sealed Packs
2016-17 Panini NHL Hockey Stickers Box of 50 Sealed Packs
$44.63
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JAROME IGINLA 02-03 OPC #2 OVERSIZE 3 1/4 X 4 1/2 JUMBO O-PEE-CHEE BOX TOPPER
JAROME IGINLA 02-03 OPC #2 OVERSIZE 3 1/4 X 4 1/2 JUMBO O-PEE-CHEE BOX TOPPER
$2.99
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2002-03 SP AUTHENTIC SUPER PREMIUM GAME JERSEY PETER FORSBERG, COLORADO !! BOX 7
2002-03 SP AUTHENTIC SUPER PREMIUM GAME JERSEY PETER FORSBERG, COLORADO !! BOX 7
$16.99
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2016-17 Panini NHL Hockey Stickers Box of 50 Unopened Packs plus Sticker Album
2016-17 Panini NHL Hockey Stickers Box of 50 Unopened Packs plus Sticker Album
$48.35
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2016-17 Panini NHL Hockey Stickers Starter Kit with 5 Packs plus Sticker Album
2016-17 Panini NHL Hockey Stickers Starter Kit with 5 Packs plus Sticker Album
$11.90
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2002-03 SP AUTHENTIC SUPER PREMIUM GAME JERSEY, SERGEI FEDEROV , DETROIT!! BOX 7
2002-03 SP AUTHENTIC SUPER PREMIUM GAME JERSEY, SERGEI FEDEROV , DETROIT!! BOX 7
$16.99
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2002-03 SP AUTHENTIC SUPER PREMIUM GAME JERSEY, MARKUS NASLUND,CANUCKS !! BOX 7
2002-03 SP AUTHENTIC SUPER PREMIUM GAME JERSEY, MARKUS NASLUND,CANUCKS !! BOX 7
$7.99
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