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American Ice - The Topps Vintage Hockey Collection

  • September 24, 2014
  • Leighton Sheldon

Just a few weeks ago I was contacted by a collector from Canada, and immediately thought I’d be looking at a group of vintage hockey cards. Boy, was I surprised. Never assume anything. That transaction resulted in our company purchasing a collection of several hundred 1960’s Canadian Post Cereal BASEBALL cards. I was surprised again last week when a successful self-employed businessman from suburban Philadelphia called us about buying his card collection. I presumed I’d be looking at a group of old baseball and football cards, but what he was offering was an overwhelming collection of vintage hockey sets and cards. Like the Post Cereal cards from up north, these all ended up here at Just Collect.

It has been a while since I've been able to locate a large hockey card collection, and believe me - it's not due to the lack of searching. Though the hockey card market is admittedly smaller than baseball, the greatest sport on ice has a devoted, demanding and dedicated collecting following whose passion for their sport is second to none. I shall repeat something I said in previous blogs and interviews… not everyone is excited to wake up and go to work. I am, as my job involves vintage baseball and other sports and non-sports cards. A “Find” like this 1950’s through 1980’s hockey card assemblage attests to why I can enjoy going to “work.” The new acquisition contains early Topps editions of the “Original Six” cards. The collector explained that his heart still beat in each and every one of them. In addition to his love of amassing sports cards and collectibles, he owns a collection of vintage automobiles. Cars and cards - just not enough time to devote to both, as his business interests demands the largest amount of his time to maintain success.  Something had to give, so one of the hobbies had to go. He wasn’t in need of money. The collector knew if he parted with one horde of collectibles, he could use the sale revenue to invest in the other, and cut his hobby time in half to boot. He shared with me his thinking, and then his rethinking, of separating himself from the beloved horde of NHL cards he had accumulated over the years, as he loaded them up and drove the 2 hours to our office. During our day long meeting, he painstakingly viewed and described each page of the securely protected cards to me, sometimes on a card-by-card basis. He is a loyal Philadelphia Flyers fan, and took pause whenever he saw one of his favorite “Orange and Black” clad players in the massing of hockey treasures. Believe me, the elapsed time wasn't because he was second-guessing his decision to sell, but rather because he was taking his time to thoroughly explain and awe at the collection. Among the thousands of cards presented, the 1979-80 Topps Wayne Gretzky Rookie Card, “The Great One”, stands out. Equally amazing is a 1957 regular issue of Hall of Fame members Gordie Howe and the late Terry Sawchuk. From Topps Canadian affiliate, O-Pee-Chee are such popular rookie cards as Daryl Sitler, Mike Bossy, Mark Messier, Dennis Potvin and Ray Bourque. We are still in the process of breaking everything down and sending the cards out to PSA. All of the cards acquired in this “Icey-Hot” hockey collection will be available for sale in upcoming auctions this fall. We are anxiously waiting to see how these cards grade out! My astonishment with this group increases with near complete Topps sets from 1957-58 through the decade of the ‘60’s. Collectively, these sets are only missing a total of 40 out of the hundreds of cards printed in their entirety . I mentioned the collector is a Flyers fan, and league expansion in 1967-68, including the Philadelphia franchise, gave him more to collect. More collecting opportunities came with added teams ever since. From the 1970-71 Topps issue right up through the 1980-81 edition, every Topps set is complete. More prominent rookies include a 1965 Phil Esposito, and his former Boston teammate Bernie Parent, an expansion signee with the collector’s favorite Flyers team in the ’68 set. (For Flyers fans, and for fans of the Penguins, Blues, Kings, and now-defunct Minnesota North Stars and Oakland Seals, the ’68-’69 cards were the very first to picture their players). I guess these teams could be called the “Second Six”, the class of first expansion for ’67-’68. There are even a few singles from fellow card makers Parkhurst and O-Pee-Chee, but the vast majority come from the producing giant, Topps, body checking their competition into the boards over the span of printing these beauties. These cards are legacy of a love for the game of hockey. The collector knew it was time to let some others avail themselves the opportunity to own them, and also knew they would bring him an appreciable return. His connection to the cards was still most apparent once the day long meeting resulted in a fair and comfortable price for the cards. Parting with them he felt was worth his while. We were delightfully surprised at this fine “find” of hockey cards, and are always on the lookout for more vintage hockey cards, including the Wayne Gretzky era and before. Like this Philadelphia area fan, dealing with Just Collect will most definitely be “Worth your while.”

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