After producing no hockey card sets during the 1982-83 and 1983-84 seasons, Topps hockey cards made a comeback in 1984-85. That year, the company released a small, 165-card set. Considering that Topps’ annual baseball set had 792 cards, while their football set had 396 cards, putting out a hockey set with only 165 cards was a very conservative approach. Between the small set size, the set’s relative overproduction and the maddening amount of single-printed cards, the 1984-85 Topps set is perhaps the most disappointing hockey set of the 1980s.
Twenty-five years ago, the hockey card market grew exponentially when three new companies — Upper Deck, Pro Set and Score — joined Topps and O-Pee-Chee, bringing the number of hockey card manufacturers to five. Not only that, but Topps issued a second set of cards, branded as Bowman, while O-Pee-Chee released a set called O-Pee-Chee Premier, giving collectors a total of seven hockey sets that season.
The year 1990 was clearly the start of the “hockey card boom.” No longer were hockey cards just the stuff of specialty shops; now every grocery, drug and convenience store carried hockey cards. Likewise, practically everyone saw hockey cards for their investment potential, hoarding cards of hot rookies as well as established players. The increased revenue even led to the NHL Player Strike of 1992. But overproduction, along with the decline of the market in 1992, led to 1990-91 sets plummeting in value.
Looking back a quarter-century later, it is easy to dismiss the entire 1990-91 season as “junk wax.” Yes, the companies printed tons of cards and flooded the market. Even 25 years later, you can find unopened boxes of 1990-91 cards for around $5 and complete sets for $10 or less. It is kind of sad that newer collectors can buy the cards from my childhood for less than what they actually cost during my childhood.
Just because those sets are “worthless” doesn’t mean they aren’t worthwhile to have in your collection…assuming, of course, that you don’t already have them. And maybe you don’t. Perhaps you are a newer collector, or maybe you didn’t bother with hockey cards in 1990-91. Today, you can pick up a hearty dose of nostalgia, history and rookie cards for less than what a blaster box costs.
That said, here is my ranking of every 1990-91 hockey set. Those of you over 30 can feel free to disagree.
It was the end of an era as we knew it. Actually, it was the end of several eras. The 1989-90 Topps Hockey set marked the last time that Topps was the only game in town when it came to hockey cards in the U.S. It was the fourth, and final, year in a row that Topps issued a 198-card hockey set. And it was the last time Topps would crudely alter photographs of players who were traded over the summer.
If any set could represent the end of an era, it was this one.
Next year, the marketplace would expand, Topps would be overshadowed by newer companies making slicker products, and hockey card sets would balloon to upwards of 500 cards each.
So, let’s take a look back at 1989-90 Topps Hockey, and long for the days when a collector could build an entire set from only one box of cards.
…with your hosts, Sal Barry and Tim Parish.
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Now that the NHL season is over, Sal (@PuckJunk) and Tim (@TheRealDFG) talk about one of their favorite sets of hockey cards: 1971-72 Topps (and O-Pee-Chee). They also touch on the 2001-02 Topps Retro Hockey set, which used the 1971-72 design. Runtime is a (relatively short) 22 minutes. Pictures of the cards they discuss after the jump.
This 8.5″ x 11″ sell sheet was used to solicit the “Limited 165 picture card series” of 1985-86 Topps Hockey to retailers. Unlike the sell sheet used in 1981-82, this one uses four colors (black, blue, red and light blue) instead of just red and blue. It also gave a sneak peek at a new feature for Topps in ’85-86. Continue reading “1985-86 Topps Hockey Sell Sheet”
This simplistic, two-color sell sheet was used to solicit orders for 1981-82 Topps Hockey cards. It measures 8.5″ x 11″ and features a monochromatic photo of New York Rangers goalie Continue reading “1981-82 Topps Hockey Sell Sheet”
46 greats from the ’93 All-Star Game
The 44th NHL All-Star Game, held at Montreal Forum on February 6 of 1993, was the end of an era for the league’s annual best-vs-best game. This was the last time the Wales Conference and Campbell Conference would square off; next season, they were renamed the Eastern Conference and Western Conferences, respectively. It was also the last time the All-Star Game uniforms would feature the familiar black, white and orange palette that had been the game’s color scheme since 1973.
The 1993-94 Stadium Club Hockey set featured a striking, 23-card insert set dedicated to the 1993 All-Star Game. The cards were seeded 1 in every 24 packs of Series One. One side of each card had a portrait of a Campbell Conference All-Star; the other side, his Wales Conference counterpart. Its combination of great players, good portraits and a timeless design makes for a cool insert set worth owning. Continue reading “Review: 1993-94 Stadium Club All-Stars”
What if Topps didn’t always play it safe?
What if Topp was not such a boring company when it came to hockey cards in the 1980s? While Topps made epic-sized, 792 card baseball sets that featured practically every player on a team, including bit players and first round draft picks before they even suited up for a game, their hockey sets were seriously lacking,
In that decade, Topps hockey sets were not much bigger than most non-sports sets, sometimes weighing in at a scant 165 cards. That is, if they even bothered to make a hockey set at all.
Those of us who started collecting hockey in the 1980s will remember when NHL players had to EARN a rookie card. While some exceptional players in the 1960s and 1970s got rookie cards during their rookie season–like Bobby Orr and Guy Lafleur–the 1980s were a different story. A player had to play a full season before they were granted cardboard. Even Mario Lemieux, who rewrote the record books in junior hockey and was drafted first overall, had to play in the NHL for a year before getting a card.
In 2003-04, Topps released an insert set called The Lost Rookies. Found 1 in every 12 packs of Topps Hockey, The Lost Rookies is a “what if” set that depicts 11 superstars on cards from their rookie year–such as Lemieux on a 1984-85 Topps card or Joe Sakic in the 1988-89 set. It is a very cool idea, and a great set for anyone who enjoyed hockey in the 1980s, 1990s or 2000s.
Robitaille and Oates stand out in this sleeper set.
During the 1986-87 season, Topps increased its hockey set from 165 cards to 198 cards. This year continued the trend of 198 cards, as that seemed to be a comfortable number of cards for Topps to handle. Hockey cards were not popular in the United States in the 1980s – remember, there were no Topps hockey card sets for 1982-83 or 1983-84. So, it would not make sense to make their hockey sets as large as say, their annual Football set, which was usually around 396 cards. Continue reading “Review: 1987-88 Topps Hockey”
The set with a split personality.
Featuring a very cool design, the 1981-82 Topps Hockey set was an odd release. Topps’ gimmick from the previous season–the “scratch off puck” to reveal the player’s name–was mercifully not repeated. Instead, Topps resorted to a much different ploy–regional distribution. Continue reading “Review: 1981-82 Topps Hockey”