While 2015 was not quite as tumultuous as 2014 was for hockey cards and collectibles, this was by no means an “off year.” Two highly-touted draft picks made their NHL debut — one causing hockey card sales to skyrocket, the other making an unconventional decision. Two new hockey collectibles books came out. And there were toys…lots and lots of toys.
1. Connor McDavid rookie cards
Not since Sidney Crosby’s debut in 2005-06 have hockey cards been as hot — or as hyped — as they were in 2015. Upper Deck has done everything they could to promote hockey’s next generational talent. Two early releases, MVP and O-Pee-Chee, both had means of redeeming special cards to get a McDavid rookie card. Upper Deck also released a boxed set of cards focusing solely on McDavid. But perhaps the most anticipation has been built around McDavid’s Young Guns rookie card, found in packs of 2015-16 Upper Deck Series One. Speaking of which…
2. Upper Deck Series One sells like mad
Upper Deck Series One and Series Two consistently have strong demand each year because of the good player selection and inclusion of the season’s top rookies. Young Guns rookie cards are found one in every four packs, and there are traditionally 50 Young Guns per series, meaning that it is possible to pull a Connor McDavid Young Guns rookie card once in every 200 packs, on average. Sales of this year’s Upper Deck Series One has been off the charts because it is the first real chance to pull a McDavid RC. Normally, a box of Upper Deck Series One will sell for $65 to $80 online. This year’s boxes started at $99 and are now selling for $110 for a 24-pack box. So great is the demand that hobby dealers (a.k.a the card shops) have been buying up retail boxes normally earmarked for places like Target and Wal-Mart.
3. Eichel signs exclusive signing deal with Leaf Trading Cards
Notice how much Upper Deck has touted first overall draft pick Connor McDavid, but have virtually ignored Jack Eichel. There’s a good reason for that. Eichel signed an exclusive deal with Leaf Trading Cards. While cards of Eichel will still appear in Upper Deck sets, cards autographed by Eichel will only appear in packs of Leaf trading cards — albeit, sans Sabres logo. As Al Muir of Sports Illustrated explained, Eichel signing an exclusive deal with Leaf does take a little wind out of Upper Deck’s sails — they can’t really promote Eichel’s cards in their sets, since he is a spokesman for Leaf and will not sign any Upper Deck cards for the company before they are inserted into packs.
4. Imports Dragon makes NHL figures
For the first time since 2001, a company besides McFarlane toys is making figures of popular NHL players. And by figures, I mean realistic, highly-detailed figures — not the cutesy toys like OYO or Lil’ Teammates (more on those later). Ever since McFarlane got the license to make “The Walking Dead” toys, they’ve all but abandoned making new NHL SportsPicks figures, so Imports Dragon should breathe new life into what was a sagging market. The Quebec-based company debuted both 6-inch and 2.5-inch scale figures in December. (Review of these coming soon.)
5. Even more hockey toys
If you like hockey and toys, then this was indeed a good year. Longtime toy maker Playmobil debuted their NHL hockey figures in October, while both Lil’ Teammates and OYO Sports added goalie figures to their already-existing lines of hockey figurines. Pushing things further, both Playmobil and OYO released hockey rink play sets. The OYO rink is comprised of 681 pieces.
6. Tim Horton’s hockey card set
Coffee and doughnut chain Tim Horton’s is selling packs of an exclusive hockey card set during the 2015-16 season — but only in Canada. Still, this is good news for the card collecting hobby. Selling packs of hockey cards at a cost-effective $1 per pack (with drink purchase) in a national chain exposes hockey cards to those who might not normally seek out cards. Maybe this will even make some new collectors for our old hobby.
7. National Hockey Card Day 2015
National Hockey Card Day continued for the seventh year in Canada, and fourth year in the U.S. NHCD gives fans the opportunity to put together an exclusive set of hockey cards by visiting participating retailers to get free packs of hockey cards. In 2015, Upper Deck upped its game by randomly inserting Young Guns tribute cards of players like Peter Forsberg and Brian Leetch. (NHCD will continue in 2016 in both countries.)
8. Fall & Spring Expo celebrates 25th year
The twice-a-year Sports Card Expo, held in Toronto in March and November, celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2015. After 50 shows, there is no sign of it slowing down as hockey’s premier card and collectible show. The Sports Card Expo consistently features top-tier autograph guests and over 900 tables.
9 & 10. Two new hockey collectible books
February saw the release of a new hockey collectibles book entitled “He Shoots, He Saves,” by hobby writer Jon Waldman. The book covers a multitude of hockey collectibles, from cards to jerseys to autographs (review here). In November, Bobby Burrell released the second edition of his “Vintage Hockey Collector” book. I haven’t had the chance to review it yet, but you can order a copy at his website. Usually, when one book about hockey collectibles is released — not counting Beckett’s annual hockey card price guide, which is just a price guide — it is a pretty big deal. Two books in one year made 2015 one for the books (sorry, couldn’t resist) for hockey collectors.
So, what topped your list in 2015, as far as hockey cards and collectibles go? Was it McDavid, Eichel, Series One, or something else? Leave a comment below. ■