When the Pittsburgh Penguins captured their second title in as many years, it didn’t take long for the Upper Deck Company to continue their tradition of issuing a limited-edition set to celebrate the achievement. Released in August 2017 was this 18-card Penguins Stanley Cup Championship set, featuring the players instrumental to the Pens’ pursuit and capture of Lord Stanley’s mug.
After the modest, fourth-place finish of the 1992 U.S. Olympic Hockey team, and an increasing nostalgia for the 1980 “Miracle on Ice,” Topps issued cards of players from the 1994 U.S. National Team. Most of these players went on to play for Team USA at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, and quite a few went on to have successful careers in the NHL afterward.
Team USA insert cards were found one in every 12 packs of 1993-94 Premier Series Two. If I remember correctly, Series Two came out around February of 1994, the same month the Olympics were taking place, so the timing was right. The set consists of 23 cards. Some of the more notable players in the set are Brian Rolston, Brad Marchant and Peter Laviolette.
In 1983, Walter Hill had a big idea. The 1984 Summer Olympics was set to take place in Los Angeles and baseball cards were experiencing a sharp rise in popularity. Hill and his company, Finder Image International, wanted to capitalize on the interest in both.
“I was pursuing an Olympic license for various products,” Hill said. “My friend at the Coca-Cola Company and I talked about trading cards, and I thought it was a good product, so we worked together to get a license from the Los Angeles Olympics Organizing Committee. Once the proposal was approved, we contracted Topps to manufacture the cards.”
With production help from Topps, Finder Image International issued a set of cards called “History’s Greatest Olympians” in 1983 and 1984. Actually, make that three sets.
One set, consisting of 99 cards, was sold in packs and as a boxed set. A variation of the set, using a different logo, was sold at 7-Eleven convenience stores. A third set, smaller in size at only 48 cards, was printed on packages of Coca-Cola products.
“History’s Greatest Olympians” reads like a who’s who of the quad-annual games from the 20th century: Cassius Clay, Jerry West, Jessie Owens, Jim Thorpe, George Foreman, Dorothy Hamill, Mike Eruzione and more. The back of each card gives a short story about that athlete’s feat of Olympic heroism. With the 2018 Winter Olympics taking place in February, collectors might want to give “History’s Greatest Olympians” another look. The set has enough legends, variations and oddities to make for a challenging – but not impossible-to-complete – series to collect.
Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk.
The role of the enforcer in the NHL was at a crossroads starting with the 2005-06 season. Fighting and physicality were being legislated out of the NHL, as the league was putting an increasing emphasis on speed and skill. But one card company saw fit to put out a set of trading cards — the first, really — that celebrated the enforcer’s role in hockey. Tough Customers, released in 2005-06, showcases 25 of hockey’s most popular — or notorious — tough guys. It’s a neat set for collectors who like cards of “enforcers,” “goons,” and/or “policemen.”
While a lot of hockey cards were made during the 1990-91 season, the 1991-92 season was like a movie sequel: bigger and bolder, with more of everything.
More cards? Check.
Larger sets? That too.
Extra inserts? You bet!
The amount of sets made, and cards to collect, nearly doubled, with companies releasing two or three sets each in an attempt to cash in on the boom. Hockey card revenue from the 1991-92 season, generated from the brisk sales, spiked to $15 million and was even a major cause of the 1992 NHL Players’ Strike.
That’s funny if you think about it, because hockey cards in the 1991-92 season were worth $15 million to the players and owners – money worth fighting over — and yet hockey cards from that year are practically worthless today.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t open up your collection a little bit to some of these “neo-vintage” (don’t call ’em “junk wax”) sets. Maybe you have room in your collection for one, or a few, of these — assuming you don’t have them already. So here is my ranking of every 1991-92 hockey card set.
Almost every season since 2000-01, Choice Marketing has issued a team set of the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The 2015-16 Wilkes-Barre Penguins set is worth a look from hockey card collectors because of the nice design and, more importantly, because many of the players in this set went on to play in the NHL.
This Carolina Hurricanes team set was issued during the 2003-04 season. The cards are quite large, measuring 4.25″ wide by 5.5″ tall and have an unusual matte finish on the front. The 23 cards in the set give us a good look at many of the players who would win the Stanley Cup two seasons later.
The Pocket-Sized Hockey Hall of Fame
If you enjoy card games like “Trumps” — where the highest card wins — or “Go Fish,” but wish they somehow involved hockey, then you should check out Legends International Ice Hockey Trumps Game. It is a new card game from Switzerland that features 40 eye-catching illustrations of the best hockey players from around the world.
Sold as a full deck online, Legends Trumps Game shows your favorite Hall of Fame players like you’ve never seen them before.
It was a frosty Chicago afternoon in late December of 1991. I was on break from school. The “Christmas money” was burning a hole in my wallet. It burned hot enough to make me brave the cold and venture out to the local mall. For those who grew up in Chicago, the mall I speak of was the Brickyard. Back in its heyday, the Brickyard Mall was Chicago’s premier indoor shopping center. It was torn down in 2002 and rebuilt as an outdoor monstrosity, but I digress.
The Osco Drug store at the Brickyard had one side of an entire aisle dedicated to just sports cards. But behind the camera counter is where they kept the good stuff; cards like Upper Deck or Stadium Club, and not the usual 50-cents-per-pack swill like Topps or Score. Behind the counter was a full, unopened box of hockey cards that I had never seen before: Pro Set Platinum Series One.
Man, was I excited! Even though I religiously read Beckett Hockey Magazine, this was the first I had heard of Pro Set issuing a high-end set of hockey trading cards. I don’t recall what they cost, but I think they were around $1 per pack. I eagerly purchased the entire box. I hurried home and opened every pack while sipping hot cocoa, and made two complete, 150-card sets; the good old days indeed.
Now, 25 years later, I think it would be fun to take a look back at the first, last and only set of Pro Set Platinum hockey cards. Continue reading “Review: 1991-92 Pro Set Platinum Hockey”
Pizza Hut restaurants in Chicago offered a five-card set of Blackhawks Legends during the 1998-99 season. I don’t remember the specifics, but I think you had to buy a pizza to get one of these cards. I also think that they gave out a different card each week for a five-week period. I vaguely recall clipping an ad about this offer out of a newspaper.
I also recall that I was two blocks shy of our nearest Pizza Hut’s delivery range. I was living at my college’s dormitory, located in downtown Chicago, and didn’t have a car. I wanted these cards bad enough that I even offered to meet the Pizza Hut delivery driver at the corner of their delivery boundary, but NOOOOO, they’d only deliver to a street address, and not to the corner of Congress and Dearborn.
Fast forward to 2016, and I finally tracked down all of these Blackhawks Legends cards. They weren’t particularly expensive, and a nice collector even gave me the last card that I needed — Bobby Hull — for free. But in all of my years of collecting, I don’t see these pop up too often online or at shows. That said, here is a review 17 years in the making.