Hockey cards, and sports “trading” cards in general, have come a long way since I was a kid (said the old fart). Gone are the days of rock-hard bubble gum (which left you wondering if you were better off chewing the cards), wax pack packaging and dull cardboard picture cards.
Today, the cards have evolved into ultra shiny pieces of art, some of which even contain autographs, pieces of game used jerseys, hockey sticks and goal nets embedded in the card. Some cards even include thin slices of game-used pucks, or are printed on special materials such as canvas or precious metals.
The number of hockey card manufacturers has also grown quite a bit. After the National Hockey League lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 NHL season, the hockey card market changed dramatically. Prior to the lockout, Upper Deck, Pacific, Topps and In The Game Trading Cards were all licensed by the NHL and NHLPA to produce trading cards featuring NHL players and logos. After the lockout, Upper Deck emerged with an exclusive contract from both parties. Upper Deck paid $25 million over 5 years for this deal with the PA. Without licensing. Prior to the 2010-11 NHL season, Upper Deck renewed its license and the NHL and PA awarded Panini with a license. Following the 2013-14 NHL season, Upper Deck gained exclusive rights, and Panini lost its license.
It should be noted that the days of 20-cent packs with 20 cards per pack are long gone. Today most packs come with only a couple of cards and can cost as much as $1.50 a pack or more. I thought I would go do a little research and purchase some of the cards available today. Not much luck, but here is what $100 will buy you today. (A stack about 5 inches tall)
I kinda feel sorry for kids or other collectors that love the cards, as the cost is really limiting the enthusiast. Some of the new innovations, like autographs or jersey inserts help keep the hobby going, and are attractive to any hockey fan, including myself.
Are you a hockey card collector? We’d love to hear about your story.