Hockey card collecting was on a precipice during the 1989-90 season. It hadn’t yet taken the plunge into the abyss of overproduction, inflated prices and rookie cards of practically anyone who got within 10 feet of an NHL uniform — succinctly known as the “Junk Wax Era.” Hockey cards were rapidly becoming more and more popular, accelerated by the trade of Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings in 1988.
Yet, only two companies issued mainstream sets that season. The 198-card Topps set was sold in the U.S. and its near-identical, though slightly larger, cousin O-Pee-Chee sold a 330-card set in Canada.
But if you dig a little deeper, you will find that there were many other cards issued that year that stray from the beaten path — from team-issue cards to minor and junior league trading card sets, to cards printed on the side of food boxes.
Here is a look at the 15 best hockey cards from the 1989-90 season. Keep in mind that most of these cards aren’t particularly valuable, with most ranging from $2 to $5 each — and even that might be pushing it. Anyone with a love of hockey cards and hockey history should consider having these in their cardboard collection.
Collector Daniel Gilchrist has collected everything and anything related to Nikolai Khabibulin for 25 years. He owns several game-used goalie sticks, a game-used jersey and game-used goalie pads once worn by “The Bulin Wall.” He also has dozens of autographs and thousands of cards of Khabibulin, who is — if you haven’t guessed it by now — Gilchrist’s favorite player.
Gilchrist set out on one of his biggest collecting goals in 2016 when he decided to track down all 24 Nikolai Khabibulin logo patch cards from the 2013-14 Upper Deck Edmonton Oilers Collection trading card set. Although the pieces of Oilers logo aren’t from a game-worn jersey, they are still a sight to be seen when assembled. Gilchrist recently talked with Puck Junk about what challenges there were in his quest to collect all 24 logo patch cards of his favorite player.
Sal Barry: How long have you been a hockey card collector?
Daniel Gilchrist: Since I was 14. My family moved from Winnipeg to Edmonton in 1988, a few days after Wayne Gretzky was traded to the Kings. My cousins sent me a care package when we moved, and it had a bunch of hockey cards in it, including a Brett Hull rookie card. That’s how I got started.
SB: How did Nikolai Khabibulin become your favorite player?
Usually, I unveil the honorees right around the time the Hockey Hall of Fame holds it’s induction ceremony, but these past few months have been busy for me. Really busy. (If you read The Hockey News, then you’ve seen what’s been keeping me busy.) Fortunately, we still have a little time left in the year, so without further ado, may I introduce the Puck Junk Bad Hockey Card Hall of Fame: Class of 2019.
Some NHL head coaches had long careers in the NHL, instantly giving them credibility to the players that they mentor. Other NHL head coaches got nowhere near an NHL rink during their playing days, but worked hard and finally ended up in “The Show” behind the bench.
Regardless of their path, it is always fun to see what an NHL head coach looked like during their playing days. So, for a third year in a row, I’ve dug up a rookie card for each and every NHL head coach. For you non-collectors out there, a “rookie card” is usually understood to mean a player’s first card in a mainstream set, like Topps, O-Pee-Chee or Upper Deck, among others.
However, because many NHL head coaches never actually played in the NHL — or if they did, it was only for just a few games — they never got an official rookie card. In their cases, I decided to share those coaches’ earliest-known trading card — even if it was from a minor league or junior league team.
Last year on this date, Chicago Blackhawks legend Stan Mikita passed away. This is the prayer card that was given out at his funeral a week later. The front has a black and white photo of Mr. Mikita, most likely taken at one of the Blackhawks Conventions.
But instead of a prayer on the back, the card has a quote by Mr. Mikita that reads “Keep your feet grounded and always remember where you came from.”
During the past season, several rookies like Elias Pettersson, Rasmus Dahiln, Andrei Svechnkiov and Brady Tkachuk were extremely popular with collectors based on their performance. Add them to the list of players who had breakout performances last season, but rookie cards from prior years like Jordan Binnington, Nikita Kucherov, Dylan Larkin, and Mikko Rantanen. The better a player performs, the higher the demand for — and the cost of — his rookie card becomes.
But collectors can still find several bargains out there, though these players’ rookie cards may not be bargains much longer. Here is a list of young NHLers that can still be considered bargains based on how they have developed with their teams and how they have been received by collectors up to this point.
Yesterday, the Hockey Hall of Fame announced its inductees for 2019. The Hall will honor six new members: Sergei Zubov, Guy Carboneau and Vaclav Nedomansky will be inducted in the players’ category. Haley Wickenheiser is the latest woman to be enshrined. NCAA coach Jerry York and longtime NHL GM Jim Rutherford join the Hall as builders. Except for York, all of these Hall of Fame inductees have had hockey cards issued during their career. Here is a look at each of their rookie cards, their pre-rookie cards (yes, there is such a thing), and the values for each one.
The St. Louis Blues won the Stanley Cup in grand fashion last night, winning Game Seven 4-1 on the road against the Boston Bruins. Goaltender Jordan Binnington shut down Boston’s offense and kept the Blues in it, and Ryan O’Reilly’s four goals in four Cup games earned him the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
For those who are looking to build a rookie card collection of the 2019 St. Louis Blues team — or just want to see what that collection looks like — here is a visual checklist of RCs for every Blues player who appeared in at least one 2019 playoff game.
We’re starting a new, semi-regular feature on Puck Junk called “Zero-Game Goalies,” where we take a look at hockey goalies who got an NHL trading card, but never played in an NHL game. This phenomenon occurs when a goalie gets called up from the minors to be the backup goalie for an NHL team, but never sets foot on the ice during the game. Just being on the bench as a backup qualifies a goalie for inclusion in a set of NHL trading cards, so from time to time you come across a trading card of such a goalie and ask, “Who is this guy?”
Today’s zero-game goalie is Daniel Altshuller, who was a backup for the Carolina Hurricanes.