Being a collector of oddball items, there was no way I could pass up this 1993-94 Topps Stadium Club proof card of Pittsburgh Penguins legend Mario Lemieux. Measuring 2 7/8″ by 3 7/8″, the proof card is 3/8″ bigger in width and height, showing some of the photo that was ultimately cropped out.
Trading card companies continued to raise the stakes during the 1992-93 season, as the hockey card market continued to boom. Fleer entered the marketplace with its premium “Ultra” set, while Score doubled down, making truly unique sets for the U.S. and Canadian markets. Coincidentally, for the first time in their 25-year partnership, Topps and O-Pee-Chee released hockey sets that were different in design from one another. Meanwhile, Upper Deck continued to thrive, while Pro Set barely limped to the finish line. A lot happened with hockey cards 25 years ago.
However, the biggest news in hockey collectibles at the time was that 19-year old rookie Eric Lindros was going to make his NHL debut. Up until that point, only Score could legally include Lindros in its sets, due to an endorsement deal he signed with Score in 1990. That deal expired once Lindros became an active NHL player. With his debut imminent, but no photo of Lindros in a Flyers uniform readily available, the card companies had to figure out how they were going to include “The Next One” in its hockey card sets.
Here are my rankings of all 13 major hockey card sets released during the 1992-93 season. I count Score Pinnacle “U.S.” and “Canadian” (or “English” and “Bilingual,” if you prefer) as separate sets for reasons I’ll explain later. Also, this list does not include Panini stickers, because most collectors don’t consider those as “cards.” Nor does this list include small sets like McDonald’s, or oddball stuff like Season’s Action Patches.
So, will Upper Deck be number one for three years in a row?
Thirty years ago, on August 9, 1988, the biggest trade in sports was made when the Edmonton Oilers sent Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings in a multiplayer deal that included draft picks and $15 million.
It was the biggest trade in history because it proved that no one was untouchable – not even a superstar player who topped the league in scoring seven of the previous eight seasons, led his team to four championships, won 23 individual awards, held 49 league records and was on the verge of breaking many more.
Gretzky’s move to the second-largest market in North America not only accelerated the growth of hockey in the United States, it sparked the eventual explosion in popularity for hockey cards and collectibles.
Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk.
Out of the Motor City and into the Flames
It’s been a while since I’ve made fun of a bad hockey card — so here are two hockey cards that are bad on many levels.
During the 1980-81 season, Gary McAdam was traded from the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Detroit Red Wings.
McAdam skated in 40 games for the Red Wings during the latter half of the 1980-81 season. So, did Topps use a picture of McAdam as a Red Wing for his 1981-82 hockey card?
When you collect for a long time, you begin to crave unique items that you don’t see all that often. I try to collect every Chris Chelios card that I can find, including offbeat stuff like this 1991-92 Topps Stadium Club proof card. As you can see from the comparison above, the proof (right) is bigger than the standard card. The proof measures 2-7/8″ wide by 3-7/8″ tall — 3/4″ of an inch bigger in both directions. There’s an interesting reason for this.
Life came full circle for Eric Lindros when the Philadelphia Flyers retired 88 – his number for eight seasons in Philly – on January 18.
After more than a decade of icy feelings between him and the Flyers, he received the highest honor a team could bestow upon one of its former players. Lindros joins Bobby Clarke, Bernie Parent, Barry Ashbee, Bill Barber and Mark Howe as the only Flyers to have their numbers retired in the team’s 50-year history.
“This evening has given me a chance to reflect and remember special moments, special people, and of course you, the amazing fans that support the Flyers of Philadelphia,” Lindros said to the sold-out crowd at the Wells Fargo Center, moments before his number was raised to the rafters.
Lindros was an offensively gifted physical player who was just as likely to bring fans to their feet by scoring as goal as he was by delivering a bone-crunching hit. Nicknamed “The Big E” for his 6’4”, 230 lb. frame, Lindros was the Flyers’ team captain for six seasons and was the most dominant forward in the NHL in the mid-to-late 1990s. He was also hockey’s first “investible” player; that is, the player that collectors and speculators would want cards of because of potential future value – much like Shaquille O’Neal was to basketball card collecting around the same time.
Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk.
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.
Welcome to another sporadic installment of “Deja Vu Tuesday,” where we take a look at a hockey card and say “Hey, haven’t I seen that picture somewhere else?” Today, we will examine two hockey cards picturing Hall of Fame goaltender Tony Esposito.
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.
Truth be told, I’ve kind of outgrown the desire to recap the various cards and collectibles that I acquire at shows. Part of it seems like bragging (“Look how much money I spent!”) and part of it seems rather trivial (“Yep, I found that Ilya Bryzgalov rookie card in the quarter box!”). Plus, I’d rather write other articles, like making fun of a horrible hockey card, reviewing the best and worst hockey card sets ever made, re-imagining an old NHL draft, or interviewing a current or former player.
However, in the last Puck Junk Podcast, I *did* say that I would show some of the items that I got at the 2017 National Sports Collectors Convention. So, as promised, here are the highlights of my 2017 National Sports Collectors Convention haul: