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The Three Most Valuable Hockey Cards of the Post-War Era
What is considered the postwar era in hockey card collecting began with the 1951-52 Parkhurst Series. With that group, the annual production of hockey cards has gone unbroken to this day. Before that series was produced, hockey cards were produced irregularly and the last major set came out over a decade ago.
Despite the attention given to Wayne Gretzky’s 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee rookie card, there are three cards that were produced in the postwar era that are substantially more valuable. The Trifecta of Hockey Cards consists of the rookie cards of three of the greatest hockey players in National Hockey League History. All three cards are valued by Beckett Hockey Monthly at up to $3,000.
1951-52 Parkhurst #66, Gordie Howe’s initial card. Howe’s first hockey card came five years after his NHL career began. Gordie first played for the Detroit Red Wings in 1946-47 and continued with the team until the end of the 1970-71 season. He returned to professional hockey in 1973-74 with the Houston Eros of the World Hockey Association. Gordie played in the WHA for the duration of its existence, ending with the New England Whalers. He returned to the NHL for one final season in 1979-80 with the Hartford Whalers.
During his long pro hockey career, Gordie Howe won six Hart Memorial Trophies as the NHL’s MVP and six Art Ross Trophies as the league’s leading scorer. He won four Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings and two Avco Cups in the WHA with the Houston Aeros. He remains the only player to play an NHL game while in his 50s and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972.
1958-59 Balls #66, rookie card Bobby Hull. Hull began his NHL career with the Chicago Black Hawks in 1957–58 and continued with the club until the end of the 1971–72 season. In that time, Bobby won the Art Ross Trophy three times, the Hart Trophy twice and won a Stanley Cup with the Black Hawks in 1960-61. For two years, he held the NHL record for most goals in a single season with 58 in 1968-69.
In 1972-73, Bobby Hull became the face of the World Hockey Association when he was signed by the Winnipeg Jets for $1 million. In the WHA, Bobby was a two-time MVP and was part of three Avco Cup winning teams in Winnipeg. When the WHA merged with the NHL for the 1979-80 season, Hull played another NHL season split between the Jets and Hartford Whalers. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983.
1966-67 Topat #35, rookie card Bobby Orr. Orr began his NHL career in 1966-67, so the stats on the back of his rookie card were blank. He played with the Boston Bruins until the end of the 1975-76 season, then finished his NHL career with the Chicago Black Hawks, playing just 26 games over three seasons.
Despite his career ending prematurely due to devastating knee injuries, Orr’s list of accomplishments is long. He still holds the NHL record for most assists in a season by a defenseman (102), most points in a season by a defenseman (139) and highest +/- of any NHL player in a single season ( +124). All three records were set during the 1970-71 season. Bobby is the only defenseman to ever win the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s leading scorer, doing so twice (1969-70 and 1974-75). He has won more Norris Trophies than any other NHL player (8) along with Hart Trophies and two Conn Smythe Trophies.
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