A while back now I did a series of three posts where I selected my top 60 hockey cards. I had a lot of fun putting the list together, and they seem to be some of my more popular posts in terms of hit count, so I thought it would be interesting to do it again now that two years have passed. I've picked up some new cards in that time that have certainly made me re-think my original list, and I'm confident that this new list is a significant improvement over the first.
If you'd like to see what cards I selected last time, two years back, here are some links:
Cards 1 - 20
Cards 21 - 40
Cards 41 - 60
Some cards in that original group will certainly remain in the list, in other cases I'll right some wrongs that have been bothering me for a while now. Going through this again was a reminder in just how difficult an exercise it is. I made an initial pass through each of the 11,800+ cards in my inventoried hockey card collection on Zistle, flagging highlights that I thought had a shot at the list. At that point I was still down to over 150 strong candidates, and the really tough decisions had to be made. Believe it or not I spent hours agonizing over which cards to eliminate and which to keep.
In the end I whittled it down to the required 60, which I'll break into three posts of 20 cards each. Like the first time, the cards will appear in no particular order, just my top 60 overall. For new additions to the list, I'll also show the card they replaced, so that you can either agree or disagree with my call. Here are the first 20:
We'll start off with a card that was on the original list and survived the cut again this time. I have a ton of Gordie Howe cards, but very few that were actually released during his time with Detroit. Of that small group, this is my favorite. I know he spent some time in the WHA, and with Hartford for one final season at the end there, but Mr. Hockey is a Red Wing in my mind, and this card is a classic. 1971-72 Topps is one of my all-time favorite set designs, so this is a good chance to represent that set as well.
Of course Wayne Gretzky's rookie makes the cut again. There are few cards that I can say this about, but I'm certain that even if I was given an unlimited budget to build a hockey card collection with, this card would remain in my top 60. Other than a family or medical emergency, or the threat of losing my home, I can't think of anything that would ever cause me to part with this beauty.
I think this is a reasonable upgrade. Way better photo of Milt here, and we get to see that vintage Bruins sweater in all its glory! Add to that the autograph with the Hockey Hall of Fame inscription and in my mind this card blows the '64-65 Topps out of the water. This card may be a few decades newer, but at least it's still a tall boy so I didn't stray too far with my replacement.
Another classic that survives from the original list. Lindros was projected as the next in a line of superstars, following in the footsteps of Gretzky, Lemieux and Hull before him. I still remember the pandemonium that this and other early Lindros cards created in the hobby at the time. When I got my hands on one of these it was like having a bar of gold, and I kept mine encased in a seriously thick plastic screw-down case. In the long run, the card didn't help with my retirement dreams like I thought it would, but I still like it and appreciate its significance in the hobby's past. For me this may be the defining hockey card of 1990-91, a year in which the hockey card landscape changed more significantly than any year prior.
Probably the best under-$15 hockey autograph I've ever landed. I love everything about this card. The mask on this one is better than the O-Pee-Chee glossy as well.
If any coach deserves a place in this set, it's Bowman. I've got a handful of his cards, but this is my favorite by a long shot. Most wins in NHL history, and 9 Stanley Cups as a head coach. Enough said.
Here's one that might not make many lists, but I just love this card. 500 career goals is nothing to scoff at, but for me Lanny was nothing more than a funny looking character when I started collecting cards as a kid. The red hair, which seemed to match the red Flames equipment, the 'stache, etc. Nevermind that he shared the surname (as well as some traits!) of a certain fast-food-character-turned-pop-culture-icon that was very familiar to me at the time. In this photo he looks like if you photo-shopped a different helmet on him he could fill in as an extra in a Lord of the Rings movie. Lanny may have the most tenuous hold on a spot in the top 60 of any card in this list, but for now he stays.
The first time I did this list I chose 5 cards from the 1979-80 Topps set. Only 3 of those 5 survived to make the second list, and this card is one of them. A really significant event in hockey history, and the birth of four franchises, including my beloved Hartford Whalers, all depicted on one piece of cardboard. What more can you ask for? Everyone who considers their hockey card collection to be at least in part a historical record of the game should own a copy of this card.
Here's a card that just barely made the list. I predict Roenick will be the first to go if I'm crazy enough to try this again in a couple of years, but for now he's included. '90-91 O-Pee-Chee Premier was an amazing set back in the day, and although it's come back down to earth in value like everything else from the time period, it's still a classic set as far as I'm concerned. In fact I like it so much that there will be at least one other card from the set included in this countdown.
As Bobby Orr cards go this isn't one of the most sought after. It's far from the most valuable of Orr's vintage cards. In fact it's not even that difficult to find, even if you're a stickler on condition you can easily track down a NRMT or MINT copy for less than $50. I absolutely love it though, I think it's one of the nicest looking vintage Orr cards out there. Making the card even cooler is the fact that it hit the shelves just months after Orr captured the 1972 Stanley Cup with Boston.
Here's another survivor from the first go-round. To this day this is my one and only TTM attempt, sent out and returned over 20 years ago now. Do I know for sure that this was signed by The Great One and not some assistant who answered his mail? Of course not, but I will always cherish this piece of cardboard nonetheless. It's authentic to me, and if I'm not going to sell it (which I never will) then does it really even matter?
Over the last couple of years I find myself buying more and more vintage and singles, and less and less modern wax. In one sense that's a shame because I may be missing out on great modern cards like this one. I would say this card of Phaneuf delivering a bone-jarring hit is probably my favorite hockey card of 2008-09. Upper Deck flagship is all about the photography and this one does not disappoint. Dion's leg kick makes it look like he just finished some karate move, but the icing on the cake is the repulsed look on the faces of the fans behind the glass. A fantastic piece of cardboard, well done Upper Deck.
In place of the '89-90 Topps Hull, I'm going with his rookie from a year prior. Certainly one of the iconic cards from the late '80s/early '90s junk wax/over-production era. I know it's a classic example of a bad airbrush job, but it is still the rookie card of one of the game's all-time premier snipers! I like this card so much that I also picked up a second, graded copy since the first is in the binder that houses my '88-89 Topps set.
Willie here is one of the most obvious choices from my collection. I firmly believe that every good hockey card collection needs a Willie O'Ree card, and unfortunately there aren't a ton of choices out there. This Parkhurst auto is my favorite, although I wouldn't mind picking up an '08-09 Masterpieces auto at some point to accompany this one.
Another card that may not make many collector top 60 lists, but I've had a soft spot for this Cesare Maniago card since I first got my hands on it a couple of years back. 1973-74 Topps is kind of hit or miss, but there are a few action shots in the set that are just amazing compared to most cards from the decade. There is just so much going on in this picture, from Maniago clearing his crease, to the fans looking over the low-cut glass in the background, to the referee at the far right who appears to be making a delayed call. One of my favorite photographs from any hockey card, period.
Another hold-over from the original list is this Sergei Fedorov Young Guns rookie. This card is from a time when Young Guns rookies were just part of the everyday base set and not short-printed and extremely expensive. Fedorov was my favorite non-Whaler player from my youth, and I still casually collect (more like accumulate) his cards to this day. This was always my favorite Fedorov rookie, and aside from that the '90-91 Upper Deck set deserves a card in this list given how it shaped the hockey card landscape for years to come (still not sure if it was for better or worse).
This is one of the better cards from the 1974-75 Topps set, which I should be knocking off at long last any day now. Old school Canadiens sweater, big smile, and wooden stick with Guy's name on it, what's not to love?
In his place I'm selecting a card that I'm sure depicts the actual card subject, Marty Brodeur's 1995-96 Upper Deck card. One thing I learned while whittling down my list is that I certainly have more than a few cards that depict Stanley Cup-winning celebrations. This Brodeur card is the best of the bunch in my opinion, what a great shot of the Cup shining in all its glory.
Steven Stamkos on the other hand is a very fitting choice. I think he is the premier young scorer in the league today. I think of him as the modern-day Mike Bossy or Brett Hull, just a pure sniper with amazing goal-scoring ability. He earned some major points in my book when he returned to the lineup in a playoff game 7 a couple years back after getting smashed in the face with a puck early. I really hope to see him hoist the Cup one day.
We'll close out this first post with the other 1990-91 O-Pee-Chee Premier card I selected, which like the Roenick RC was also present on my original list. Jagr was a shining star from the first time he took the ice in an NHL game, and what a career he ended up turning in! He's currently sitting at 8th all-time in regular season points. I doubt he'll move up another spot and crack the top 7 given that it would take one really good season or two decent seasons to amass the 70 points he'd need to surpass former teammate Mario Lemieux. With no hockey in sight (come on already!) it seems unlikely. Jagr's Upper Deck and Score rookies are also notable cards (although the Score card is flat out goofy) but I like this O-Pee-Chee Premier rookie best.
So there is the first part of my revised top 60...what do you think? Feel free to have at me in the comments, I'd love to hear your feedback, positive or negative. Also, I would love to see some other collectors put together a top 60 list. I've seen one other, but I would really enjoy seeing what some of the other collectors out there consider their most prized cards. I should have cards 21-40 posted by the weekend, stay tuned...
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