1988-89 Topps Hockey Cards Set Checklist, Details & Review

Neon and pushpins make this set stick around

The 1988-89 Topps Hockey Card set has a fun-looking design, some notable rookie cards, and a historically significant card, too. This was the third year in a row that Topps released a hockey set with 198 cards. In addition to the 198 cards, there are 33 insert stickers and 16 “box bottom” cards that were found in four-card panels on the bottom of display boxes. 

This set features bright colors and a quirky design elements. Notable rookie cards include Brett Hull, Brendan Shanahan, Joe Nieuwendyk, and Bob Probert. The Wayne Gretzky card is significant because it is the first hockey card to use a press conference photo, as Gretzky was traded from the Oilers to the Kings that summer, and a photo of Gretzky suited up with the Kings was not yet available. 

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2020-21 Upper Deck NHL Star Rookies Box Set Checklist & Review

While at my local Target store the other day, I decided to take a look at the trading card aisle, knowing full well that Target was currently not selling sports cards. But maybe I’d get lucky and find some top loaders or penny sleeves or — hey now, what’s this?

Yes! My local Target had a few of the 2020-21 Upper Deck NHL Star Rookies Box Sets in stock for $20 each. The set contains “one 25-card rookie set per box,” plus one in every 20 sets has an autographed card. 

Autograph or not. I was pretty happy to find this because I haven’t seen any sports cards at Target since May, and $20 for 25 cards seems like a bargain nowadays. And I’ve always been a sucker for boxed sets that focus on a particular subject — in this case, hockey rookies — and that I could just buy and be done with. 

So, let’s take a look and see what goodness $20 will bring me. 

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Every 1993-94 Hockey Card Set Ranked

The 1993-94 season was my favorite year to collect hockey cards. Everything about that season was just so right for me. I was living with my Grandmother and going to a local junior college, so my cost of living was low. I was working full-time at a card and comic book shop, so I could buy new cards at a deep discount. I had just gotten my drivers licence, so I could drive around Chicago to other card shops or local shows to find the last few inserts I needed for a given set. Plus, I was still promoting a monthly neighborhood show, so a lot of times people would bring me cards that I needed. My situation in life made collecting easy for me that year.

As for the cards themselves, the 1993-94 season was the last year before hockey card collecting got out of hand. Packs were still affordable, with most between $1 and $3. (The 1994 NHL Lockout would change that, but that’s a story for another time.) There were really no short prints, other than the odd insert, so sets were fairly easy to complete. There were some great insert sets, but not so many different insert sets like it is today, where you can buy a box of cards and get 40 different inserts across 10 different insert sets. There were five different card companies competing with each other, so they had to try hard to do better than one another.

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For example, Topps finally got with the program and printed its flagship set on quality card stock, with gloss coating and full-color backs. The company also issued the set in two series, so it could include rookies and traded players in their new uniforms later on that season.

Unfortunately, there were some casualties. Pro Set had gone bankrupt in 1992-93, and while it tried to issue a set for the 1993-94 season, its license was revoked by the NHL. The NHL also mandated that companies could only issue two sets per season, so Topps had to jettison its unpopular Bowman Hockey set, while O-Pee-Chee stopped making its own smaller, premium “Premier” set, as the “Premier” name would be used by both Topps and O-Pee-Chee that year for their large, two-series card sets.

One addition to this year’s ranking is how each company included Alexander Daigle in their sets. Daigle was selected first-overall by the Ottawa Senators in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft. Pinnacle Brands — which made the Score and Pinnacle hockey card sets — had worked out a deal with Daigle, so that only they could picture him in a Senators uniform until he played in an NHL game. The other companies could not use a “Draft Day” photo, nor could they use photo manipulation to put his head on a different Senators player’s body. Thus, they had to get a little creative in how to picture that season’s hottest rookie in their hockey card sets that year.

As I have done with the 1990-91, 1991-92 and 1992-93 sets, here is my retrospective and ranking of every hockey card set issued in 1993-94.

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Review: 1988-89 Los Angeles Kings Set

Trading Cards Brought to You by Smokey the Bear

At a glance:
– 1988-89 L.A. Kings Team Set
– 25 cards
– Standard Size: 2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″
– Download checklist

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention sponsored a set of Los Angeles Kings trading cards during the 1988-89 season. Of course, we know this Department best by their mascot, Smokey the Bear. The anthropomorphic bear told us, over the years, that “only you can prevent forest fires.” Since the set bears Smokey’s face on the front, the set is usually referred to as the “Smokey” or “Smokey the Bear” Kings set.  As is the case with most team-issued sets, many lesser-known players — as well as the coaches — are featured throughout.

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Review: 1987-88 Flint Spirits Team Set

The Flint Spirits had a great 1987-88 season. Much of that success was owed to future NHLer John Cullen, who led the International Hockey League in scoring with 157 points (48 G, 109 A) in 81 games, and then led his team in the playoffs with 26 points (11 G, 15 A). Cullen was named IHL rookie of the year. Unfortunately, the Spirits lost the Turner Cup Finals to the Salt Lake Golden Eagles. Still, the team had a pretty good run, as well as a decent set of trading cards. 

The 1987-88 Flint Spirits team set is a typical minor-league team issue, with darkly-lit photos and an underwhelming design. But that’s pretty normal for 1980s minor league hockey cards. 

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The 1990’s Weirdest Hockey Cards

Hockey cards have changed significantly since their inception and even more so since the “modern era of collecting” which began in 1990. Despite all of these changes, not every set issued was a hit from a collector’s standpoint. In that vein, there have been a ton of flat-out weird cards produced, especially towards the end of that decade.  These cards were believed by overzealous manufacturers to be exactly what collectors wanted, only to receive a not-so-wanted reception. With that I would like to share with you some of the weirdest and most unique cards that I have come across from the 1990s:

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Review: 2016 Leaf Jack Eichel Collection

Not long after being drafted second overall by the Buffalo Sabres in 2015, Jack Eichel signed an exclusive deal with Leaf Trading Cards. As a part of that deal, only Leaf products could include cards autographed by Eichel. In late 2016, Leaf released the “Jack Eichel Collection,” a 30-card boxed set that showcases the Sabres’ young superstar. The big draw to the set is that it includes a hockey card autographed by Eichel. Unfortunately, that’s really the only upside to this otherwise mundane set. 

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Review: 2018-19 Upper Deck Pittsburgh Penguins Giveaway Set

At the Pittsburgh Penguins game on January 6, 2019, the team celebrated the 10th anniversary of its 2009 Stanley Cup Championship. (Wow, a decade has passed; I feel so old.) The Penguins invited back many of the retired players from that roster to join with the current players from that team in the celebration. A few of the current players who have moved on to different teams, such as Marc Andre Fleury, sent video messages to be played during the event.

The Penguins and Upper Deck teamed up and gave to each fan in attendance a nine-card set commemorating that Stanley Cup run. Continue reading “Review: 2018-19 Upper Deck Pittsburgh Penguins Giveaway Set”

Review: Chicago Wolves 25th Anniversary Card Set

The Chicago Wolves have been a top-notch hockey team over the past 25 years, winning two Turner Cup Championships in the old IHL and two Calder Cup Championships in the AHL. Many former NHL stars, future NHL stars and minor league legends played for the team over the past quarter-century. Earlier this month, the Wolves issued a trading card set honoring its best players. Like past team sets, the Wolves’ 25th Anniversary team set does not disappoint.

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