Clemente’s Corner: Collecting Hockey Autographs Through-the-Mail

How the Pandemic Turned Me Into a TTM Nut

It was two years ago that the pandemic forced all of us to stay home. Like many of you, I used much of my downtime to do things around the house. It also forced me to organize my card collection.

I can’t say it’s quite as organized as I would like it to be. It was during that process, however, that I refocused some of my hobby energy. I didn’t know what to do with the many junk wax base cards that I had amassed over the decades. Some I gave to charity. Others were given away to trick-or-treaters. Even with that, I had tons left over.

That’s when I discovered TTM – short for Through-the-Mail – autograph collecting. My kids and I decided why not mail cards to former NHL players to see if we could get them back signed. In doing some research online, I realized that there was an entire community out there who have been doing the same thing for years – and with much success. I watched YouTube videos and read blogs where collectors bragged about their returns. I was hooked.

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The Best 2022-23 NHL Game-Night Giveaway Items

It’s the start of the 2022-23 NHL season, where 32 teams play a slate of 82 regular-season games, with the hopes of winning enough to make the playoffs — or losing enough to get a high draft pick. But what better way to draw fans to a meaningless home game on a frigid Tuesday night in February than by giving them some novel trinket that they’ll soon sell on eBay — be it a bobblehead, poster, or the ever-popular magnetic schedule? 

Surprisingly, nearly half of  the teams — 14 out of 32 — are not giving anything away this year. These tended to be either Canadian teams  or U.S. teams in large markets like New York or Boston. 

Of the 18 teams that are having at least one giveaway, nine of them are giving out magnetic schedules. In fact, the Penguins are giving out magnetic schedules TWICE. 

Some of the better items that hockey fans can hope to get at a game this season include a Trevor Zegras action figure,  a Devils-themed Marvel comic book, and a Gritty hula dancer figurine.

Both the Ducks and the Coyotes are giving away something called a “Dad Hat.” If you are a father and know what that is, please let me know. 

The Kraken are giving away a league-high five bobblehead figures this year, while the Red Wings will give away four. The Blues are also giving away four bobbleheads, but all on the same night. I bet that will cause a few fights amongst the kiddos on the drive home. (“No fair! I got the Colton Parayko bobblehad! Why can’t I have the Brayden Schenn bobblehead? Mom!”

Below is a list of the best promotional items that NHL teams will be giving away to help draw fans to games over the season. 

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It’s Puck Junk’s 15th Anniversary!

Earlier this week was the 15th Anniversary of when I launched Puck Junk. After several months of designing and developing, made its debut on October 5, 2007. My first article published on this site was about the 2007-08 Victory Hockey card set, followed by articles about the fake Wayne  Gretzky Indianapolis Racers card, and the 1988-89 Frito Lay Hockey set

The first-ever article on was about the 2007-08 Victory Hockey card set. My opinion on Victory has softened over the years. 

I originally wanted to start a hockey website in 2006, when I got back into hockey card collecting as a hobby. But my job at the time kept me busy and with little energy for any extracurricular activities. When I quit my job in late summer of 2007, I finally had the time to make Puck Junk happen. 

Another incentive for me to start this website was that I — incorrectly — thought that no one would ever give me a chance to write about hockey or hockey collectibles. Starting this website gave me an outlet to do that, but it led to so much more. 

Over time, my writing improved. I became a freelance writer for The Hockey News, Beckett Hockey Magazine, and several other publications — some that are no longer around. I was a regular guest on XM Radio and later on Sports Byline USA to talk about sports collectibles. And in 2015, I got my Master’s Degree in journalism. That was also the year I started the Puck Junk Podcast with Tim Parish.

A lot of my thoughts about running Puck Junk for so long are unchanged from when I reflected on this site’s 10th Anniversary back in 2017, so I don’t want to rehash any of that here. 

Instead, I thought it would be fun to look at some of the old screen shots and site banners from over the years. Admittedly, I did not take many screen shots of this website; I mean, why would I?

But I do have all of this website’s banners, which shows how Puck Junk’s look and feel has changed over the years, and how it has evolved from *just* a hockey card blog to a website about hockey cards, collectibles, and culture. 

Please take a visual stroll with me down memory lane. 

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Clemente’s Corner: 5 Hockey Card Collecting Predictions for 2022-23

October, as far as the NHL is concerned, is all about beginnings. It’s the start of a new season. After a long summer, fans across North America are excited to watch their favorite teams once again.

For those of us who collect hockey cards and memorabilia, it’s the start of a new collecting season. We’re all eagerly anticipating Upper Deck Series 1 to come out, scouring the checklist to see which “Young Guns” cards to gobble up and what will the inserts look like this time.

This is also a time for me to take out the crystal ball and make some predictions for the next 12 months. These are largely based on experience and observation – no guarantees that I’ll be correct – but it is something to ponder as you enjoy the season.

Collectors have already gotten a chance to whet their appetites with Upper Deck MVP, which is both affordable and plentiful (at least at my local Target), if you’re looking for a fun rip before the puck officially drops on the 2022-23 season.  

Here are five things to watch for over the course of the season:

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Clemente’s Corner: Collecting the ’72 Summit Series

The 1972 Summit Series Between Canada and the USSR has Some Great Collectibles

The year was 1972 and the Cold war was in full swing. Relations between the West and the Soviet Union were tense, sometimes teetering on the brink of nuclear war. It was also a time when the USSR dominated international competition, displacing Canada as the world’s hockey power.

Since the Olympics were only open to amateurs in those years, Canada could not field their NHL players. The Soviets, on the other hand, claimed their players were amateurs because they had been employed as military officers. In reality, they exclusively played hockey, skirting the rules and gobbling up gold medals in the process. Canada, upset that it could not use NHLers, withdrew from the 1970 IIHF World Championships.

In 1971, the Canadian embassy in Moscow learned of the Soviets’ interest in playing a series of games after reading an article Soviet newspapers. The negotiations for the series were finalized at the Hotel International Prague during the 1972 World Ice Hockey Championships. The deal included the playing of eight games – four in Canada and the other four in the Soviet Union – and would pit players such as goaltender Vladislav Tretiak against future Hall of Famer Phil Esposito. 

The games – known as the “Summit Series” – were contested between September 2-28. The expectation was that Canada would win given that they featured the world’s best players; a roster that also included goaltender Ken Dryden, defenseman Serge Savard and center Bobby Clarke.

Canada won the series 4-3 after the third game ended in a 4-4 tie. The hero of the series, however, was Paul Henderson, a player who otherwise had a relatively average NHL career. He played in all eight games for Canada, tallying seven goals and three assists. Henderson scored the winning goal in the 6-5 win in Game 8 that won Canada the series.

On the 50th anniversary of that epic series, here’s a look at the collectables, from trading cards to pucks to signed photos, that continue to grab the fascination of hockey fans everywhere.

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Clemente’s Corner: Recapping the 2022 National Sports Collectors Convention

What Was There and What Did You Get?

If you attended the 42nd edition of the National Sports Collectors Convention in Atlantic City, then you’re probably still dealing with sore feet. 

I found myself soaking those dogs a day after walking the showroom floor for seven straight hours. My feet did hurt for a day – but you couldn’t take the smile off my face for days.

In 2020, my plan had been to attend my first National, scheduled to take place that summer in Atlantic City. COVID-19 upended the planet. The event, like everything else, was canceled.

Two years later, I got my chance to attend the NSCC, albeit for a day (on the Friday) following a three-hour bus ride from New York City. I finally got the chance to take in all the buzz and enthusiasm that comes with such a massive show. Aisle after aisle lined with tables made it disorienting at times. I couldn’t even find the exit at one point!

There was plenty of buzz and enthusiasm. Indeed, from July 27-31, all hobby eyes were fixated on the coastal New Jersey resort famous for its casinos. In a summer where I attended both the Toronto Sport Card Expo and Chicago Sports Spectacular, I was truly in awe of the National’s size (750 exhibitors spread out across 460,000 square feet!) and variety of collectables inside the Atlantic City Convention Center. It also seemed as if nearly every breaker and YouTuber was at the show.

I got to see a SCG 9.5 Mickey Mantle 1952 Topps card, a bat used by Babe Ruth and a game-worn autographed Lionel Messi jersey. While the cards, autographs, ticket stubs and pennants for sale at the National was the big draw, it’s also the chance to meet up with friends, talk about the hobby and get away from the realities of everyday life.

In addition to hockey, I collect baseball and soccer cards. In that regard, the show did not disappoint – although hockey typically gets the short end of the stick at the five-day show.

Here’s my recap of this year’s National.

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Visit Puck Junk at the 2022 National Sports Collectors Convention in Atlantic City

Puck Junk will be at the 2022 National Sports Collectors Convention this week in Atlantic City, New Jersey, July 27 to July 31. I will be splitting space with AU Sports (Booths 900/904), located directly behind our friends at Memory Lane (801/805). Here’s a map that shows where I will be at. 


Or, just look for the giant Memory Lane sign hanging from the ceiling near the entrance. I will be set up right behind them.

Drop by my booth, say “hi”, and check out the awesome hockey t-shirts and sports cards that I’ll be selling. 

The National Sports Collectors Convention starts Wednesday, July 27 and runs until Sunday, July 31. Click here for more information about the NSCC and to buy tickets. 

If you do make it to the National, be sure to stop at Booth 900/904, check out what I’ve got for sale, and talk some hockey! 

Love hockey? Join the Puck Junk Facebook Group, subscribe to Puck Junk on Apple Podcasts and  YouTube, and support this site at the Puck Junk Online Shop

Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk

The Great Hockey Card Comeback

The hobby of hockey-card collecting has been reinvigorated by a global pandemic, an abundance of free time and…Michael Jordan? So you might want to dig through your closet to see if you’re sitting on a million-dollar rookie card.

A lot has changed with hockey-card collecting over the past 30 years. Heck, a lot has changed in the past two years. Those small pieces of cardboard we grew up with haven’t been this hot in three decades.

Collecting hockey cards was a modest little hobby until 1990, when it exploded in popularity. “To me, 1990-91 was the peak of the golden era of hockey cards,” said

Jason Masherah, president of Upper Deck, a company that makes trading cards licensed by the NHL and NHL Players’ Association. “You had the culmination of incredible rookies, new licensees, huge print runs and Wayne Gretzky was playing in the United States. That level of interest in hockey cards had never been seen before.”

But by the mid-1990s, hockey cards had settled back down to a niche hobby, more popular in Canada, less so in the U.S., and only really appealing to diehard fans. Then it boomed again in 2020, due in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic.

First, the 2019-20 NHL season was paused while the league figured out how it could operate during a pandemic that had spiralled out of control. Next, people were asked to shelter at home, to help slow the spread of COVID, while governments determined what to do. Concerts, vacations and other plans were cancelled. Many people, with money to spend and no place to go, turned to at-home hobbies. For some, it was drawing, baking bread or working out. Others discovered – or rediscovered – sports-card collecting. “The idle time renewed their interest,” said Joe Daley, owner of Joe Daley’s Sports and Framing. “People had time on their hands, had money to spend and, for whatever reason, got back into the cards they had stored away in their youth and decided they should do that again.”

Daley, a former NHL and WHA goalie from 1968 to 1979, opened his sports-card shop in Winnipeg in 1988 – just before hockey cards first spiked in popularity. And hockey-card collecting hasn’t been this popular in 30 years. “Until the pandemic hit,” he said, “we haven’t seen this type of flurry in the card industry since the early 1990s.”

Continue reading this article at The Hockey News.

Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk.


The 5th Annual Puck Junk Awards

A.K.A. 7 Awards the NHL Needs Right Now!

Every year, the NHL gives its superstars awards to celebrate their talents — from Cale Makar winning the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman, to Auston Matthews winning the Rocket Richard Trophy for leading the league in goals. 

But what about the other guys who contribute to their teams in less obvious, but still important, ways? Why not give out an award to the player who can fight and score goals, or the least-likely goalie to appear in an NHL game? 

Thus, back in 2018, I created the annual Puck Junk Awards to give due the the NHL’s toughest mofo, the most hated player, and heck, even the most-traded player, among others. Special thanks to Puck Junk Podcast cohost Tim Parish for helping with the voting process. 

So here are the 2022 Puck Junk Award Winners! 

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Clemente’s Corner: Go ‘Fourth’ and Collect These Iconic USA Hockey Cards

We’re officially in the NHL offseason. While the league goes into hibernation mode until a new season starts on October 11, there’s still plenty of hockey out there for everyone to enjoy this summer.

The new 3-on-3 league, known as 3ICE, just launched, while card and memorabilia collecting never stops as many of you out there prepare to attend The National Sports Collectors Convention in Atlantic City at the end of the month.  

The dog days of summer get into high gear with the Fourth of July and everything that goes with it such as pool parties, cookouts and fireworks. Of course, America’s birthday is also a great excuse for me at my very first “Clemente’s Corner” to write about some of my favorite hockey cards featuring players in their USA uniforms.

It could be because I am also a big soccer fan, but I do love international hockey competition. I miss seeing NHLers play at the Olympics. It’s for that reason that I am going to rundown my favorite cards featuring U.S. players just in time for Independence Day.

Some of these cards are true gems. Indeed, they are cardboard miracles when you consider how infrequently players have appeared in past sets wearing their national team colors. Here are a few of my favorites:   

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