I've really tightened up my focus so far this year when it comes to collecting. When I've ended up with some card money burning a hole in my pocket I've been staying away from packs and random stuff, and instead have been trying to knock items off my want list. In fact, I haven't purchased a single pack yet in 2012 if you can believe that. Anyway this new approach, while maybe slightly less exciting, has already started paying off. A couple of weeks ago I finally finished off what might be my favorite hockey set of all-time, 1979-80 Topps!
I think everyone who collects hockey cards is familiar with this set, so I'll spare you the usual breakdown. I'll just say that it's one of the best designs, and one of the most significant sets, in the history of hockey cards. Even the backs of the cards are amazing, but I'm saving that for a separate post down the road. I figured the best way to celebrate knocking this one off was to scan in all the pages from my binder and show the entire set page by page in this post. If you want to get a better look at any card, just click the image of the page for an enlarged version. For each page I'll pick a favorite card as well. So, without further ado, here's my 1979-80 Topps hockey set:
Favorite Card: 1978-79 Goal Leaders
Card #1 in the set, three Hall-of-Famers, and three 500+ career goal scorers (700+ for Dionne!). Easy decision there...
Favorite Card: The one card missing from the sheet, Wayne Gretzky's RC
The most iconic card in the set by far, and one of the most instantly recognizable hockey cards ever made. Given what even poor-condition Gretzky rookies go for, I highly doubt I'll ever end up with a second copy to go in the album. Besides, if I had another that was in the same condition as most of my '79-80 cards I'd be way too afraid to store it in a simple Ultra Pro sheet!
Favorite Card: Brad Park
Overall I'm very happy with the condition of my set. There are only a small handful of cards that need upgrading. Brad Park here is one of them, thanks to the mystery substance on the front of the card.
Favorite Card: Mike Murphy
I have to say, this is one of the duller pages from the set. I almost went with the original NHL Iron Man, Garry Unger, but instead settled on Mike Murphy here, who was captain of the LA Kings for 7 seasons.
Favorite Card: Wayne Stephenson
I was tempted to go with Borje Salming here, especially since his was one of the final half dozen or so cards I needed towards the very end. Ultimately though, I couldn't go against Stephenson's mask.
Favorite Card: Larry Robinson
As much as it pains me to select a Canadien over Marty Howe and that fantastic New England Whalers sweater, I just love the way this Robinson card looks. The red that's so prominent in the card's border just looks right at home with all that Habs gear.
Favorite Card: Jim Bedard
This is one of my favorite photos from the set. It's an interesting perspective, and the background really shows just how poorly lit many arenas were during this time period.
Favorite Card: Denis Potvin
Denis was about to embark on a pretty nice run of Stanley Cup Championships not long after this card came out...
Favorite Card: Tony Esposito
Wayne Cashman's card has one of my favorite photos, but I like Tony's card slightly more. I certainly was not going to choose card #81, which depicts the Canadiens getting past the Bruins in the Stanley Cup playoffs...
Favorite Card: 1978-79 Stanley Cup Finals
I hate to admit it, but I really like this card. I don't think we'll ever see a team win 4 straight titles again. It still amazes me that the Canadiens and Islanders accomplished this feat back to back.
Favorite Card: Dave Williams
This one was a toss-up between Williams and Reggie Leach, but I went with this great portrait of Tiger.
Favorite Card: Gary Smith
Easy choice here, very few cards in this set could top Smith. I've mentioned this before but I love how different he looks compared to the beginning of the decade:
Favorite Card: Mike Milbury
I went with the hometown team here, but in retrospect I maybe should have chosen John Davidson for his awesome Rangers mask. That's alright, there's another great Rangers mask in the set...
Favorite Card: Wayne Thomas
Yes, I chose Wayne Thomas over Randy Carlyle, Bobby Clarke and Darryl Sittler...
Favorite Card: Ivan Boldirev
Boldirev had a streak of 11 straight 50-point seasons from 1973-74 through 1983-84. In 1984-85 he came one point short of continuing the streak, tallying 49. That was the final season of his NHL career. Maybe not that impressive when you consider the era he played in, but consistent nonetheless. My favorite thing about this card though is the Flames gear.
Favorite Card: Randy Pierce
My gut instinct was to go with Bill Barber for this page, especially since he was one of the last half dozen cards I needed at the very end for my set. I'm going with a bit of a sleeper pick though, card #137 Randy Pierce. This card is both great and terrible because of the photo. Great because the photo itself is one of my favorites in the set. Nice look at the Colorado Rockies sweater, and lots of depth due to the in-focus player and the blurred out referee perfectly positioned in the distance. Terrible because this isn't actually Randy Pierce, it's his teammate Ron Delorme.
Favorite Card: Lanny McDonald
The Dryden card is nice, but I've always been a Lanny fan, and it seems like cards depicting his days with Toronto are just much more infrequent than his Calgary Flames cards are.
Favorite Card: Stan Mikita
One of the great things about this set is that it signifies a changing of the guard. You've got Wayne Gretzky's rookie, but you've also got the final cards of guys like Gordie Howe and Stan Mikita here. Every time I see Mikita's helmet I think of Rick Moranis as Dark Helmet in Spaceballs...
Favorite Card: Bryan Trottier Record Breaker
I wish Upper Deck included Record Breaker cards in their modern-day flagship set. This card pays tribute to Trottier's 6 points in a single period against the New York Rangers the season prior.
Favorite Card: Gordie Howe
I've shown this one a few times before, in fact it's one of my favorite hockey cards of all time. It's amazing just how productive Gordie was at age 51! He played in all 80 games for Hartford in '79-80, scoring 15 goals, tallying 41 points and helping the Whalers make the playoffs. Unbelievable. For the longest time, this (and its O-Pee-Chee counterpart) was the only big card of Howe featured with the Hartford Whalers. Unlike the Gretzky rookie, these can be had for cheap enough that I'll definitely find an ungraded version to throw in the binder someday. I think this is my single favorite card in the entire set.
Favorite Card: Bobby Hull
Along with Mikita and Howe, Bobby Hull also had his final card in the '79-80 set. That there is a face only a hockey mom could love.
Favorite Card: Charlie Simmer
Simmer was a back-to-back 50-goal scorer, and missed the 50 goals in 50 games mark by a single game. This was undoubtedly due in large part to his playing on a line with Dave Taylor and Marcel Dionne.
Favorite Card: Guy LaFleur
I've always liked this card, it's in my top ten from this set without a doubt.
Favorite Card: Mark Howe
Recent Hall-of-Fame inductee on a Hartford Whalers card in a New England Whalers sweater...
Favorite Card: Jean Ratelle
The Hall-of-Famer Ratelle beats out Maruk and Bobby Nystrom. As for Esposito in a Rangers jersey, that is just plain criminal. Jean Ratelle had an impressive 73 points in 67 games for the B's in 1979-80, his second to last season in the NHL. Random fact, it was the 9th season in his career that he played 67 games or more and averaged better than a point per game.
Favorite Card: Mike Bossy
Dave Taylor's is a nice card, but I'm going with Mr. 50-goal guy.
Favorite Card: Rogatien Vachon
The obvious choice here would be longtime Bruins enforcer Terry O'Reilly, but I really like this Vachon card. I always forget that he played two seasons for the Wings, and check out that sweet VIC goalie stick.
Favorite Card: Colorado Rockies
What can I say, I'm a sucker for franchises that no longer exist. I guess maybe it stems from being a Hartford Whalers fan.
It's pretty fitting that I show this card today I guess. In my very last post I focused on a card that signified the WHA's beginning, and this one signifies its end. It's nice to have a card that represents the birth of my favorite hockey team of all-time.
Favorite Card: Stan Jonathan
Stan benefits from a lack of competition, and was selected solely because he's a member of the Boston Bruins.
So, there you have it. This is the oldest hockey card set I've hand collated to date, and probably the single set I wanted to finish off more than any other since I began collecting again back in 2007. It felt great to get these situated in a binder. I'm sure I'll enjoy looking at them for many years to come.
What's your favorite card from the '79-80 Topps set?
A Therapy Blaster - Last week, I obviously needed a pick-me-up. I considered a repack, but instead opted for my second blaster of Series 1. Nothing beats a cardboard pick-me-up...