How long has the “Hockey Card” been around?
Well, the very first variation of hockey cards debuted over 135 years ago dating back to 1879 and 1880 in the form of various card-sized drawings depicting the sport of “ice hockey” or “ice polo”.
By the end of the 19th century, a lot more cards featuring various hockey clubs and colleges from Quebec and New England started appearing. The first sets of cards to actually show named players made their appearance between 1910 and 1913, measuring 1 ½”x 2 ½” and appeared in cigarette packs! These 3 “C” sets featured color portraits of the top players of that era, from the top teams being Renfrew (a club team from Vancouver), Montreal, Quebec, and Ottawa. Anyone who follows the NHL today will surely be familiar with player’s names from these sets including Art Ross and Georges Vezina. However, with the start of World War One, production of these sets came to an end.
By the conclusion of the Great War, the reappearance of hockey cards came to fruition via Victoria and Vancouver who began to produce sets, with other Western Canada and American sets being produced into the 20’s. By 1923, we were introduced to the first National Hockey League set, William-Patterson. The set was comprised of players from Hamilton, Montreal, Boston, Ottawa, and Toronto and graced us with the very first known cards of iconic players such as Howie Morenz, King Clancy, and Aurele Joliat.
As the 1920’s moved forward, more candy and food manufacturers jumped on the hockey trading card wagon, but only one of them really succeeded. Introducing the O-Pee-Chee Chewing Gum Company. Their knack for nicer, higher quality cards allowed them to produce cards until the start of World War 2 at which time, production came to a halt. O-Pee-Chee cards brought us cards with the likes of Charlie Conacher, Toe Blake, Eddie Shore, Ace Bailey and more.
Sadly, hockey fans and collectors would not see any new sets of cards until 1951 with Parkhurst Products being the sole producer for the following three years. Hello Topps and hello again O-Pee-Chee! With Topps joining and O-Pee-Chee re-entering the hockey card industry providing once again superior trading cards, Parkhurst quit hockey card production by 1964. By 1968, Topps ( supplying the US market) and O-Pee-Chee (supplying all of Canada) were North America’s dominant hockey card suppliers. After successfully maintaining their position as a major supplier of hockey cards for almost 30 years, O-Pee-Chee opted to cease production and distribution and handed it over to Topps.
The early 1990’s were not kind to Topps or the hobby market in general due to the mass overproduction and influx of brands to appear, primarily Upper Deck, Score and Pro Set. By 1993, Pro Set’s poor quality compared to the superior competition forced them to opt out. Upper Deck on the other hand, achieved and maintained success with their high quality photography and card stock while many other brands came and went throughout the 90’s.
For many collectors, the 90’s were considered the dark days of hockey trading card collecting. Over production, more sets, and harder to find parallel cards and inserts frustrated collectors trying to acquire every card of their go to player or team. This ultimately resulted in companies producing and releasing more higher end, “limited issue” products.
Fast forward to 2005. Since the NHL lockout of 2005, Upper Deck is the only licensed producer of hockey trading cards. Panini and Topps no longer do hockey and Pacific Trading Cards has gone out of business. In The Game meanwhile produces cards for the CHL junior leagues, the AHL and Hockey Canada and is NOT licensed by the NHL or NHLPA.
As higher end products took over the market and hockey pack prices on the rise, hockey card collecting was slowly fading as it became unaffordable for young ones. Many collectors limited their collecting to strictly one set per year or specific players. In 2015, a step in the right direction was taken. Tim Horton’s formed a partnership with Upper Deck to sell hockey cards across Canada. Awesome looking sets combined with affordability slowly re-introduced the card-collecting hobby to young kids and families.
There are no set rules to card collecting. You collect what you want to collect. Maybe you want to collect every single Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby, or Connor McDavid card produced or maybe your favorite hockey team, be it the Montreal Canadians, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins or Pittsburg Penguins.
Since 2007, Presstine Marketing has made trading card collecting affordable and attainable all the while becoming North America’s #1 selling value variety brand. Whether you are new to collecting, introducing a young one or re-introducing yourself to it, we have something for everyone. Different themed packs and lots allow you to try a little bit of everything at a price that won’t break the bank. Superstars, Hall of Famers, Goalies, Memorabilia (Autograph and Jersey) cards, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 2000’s, we got it all!