Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Top 60 Hockey Cards Redux! Part One

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:
Card #1 - 1971-72 Topps #70 - Gordie Howe

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.

Card #2 - 1979-80 Topps #18 - Wayne Gretzky RC

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.

Here's where the tough decisions start.  This 1964-65 Topps tall boy Milt Schmidt made the list the first time around.  It's still a great card, and I want Milt to be included since he's one of my favorite hockey figures, period.  Since my first list a couple of years ago I've picked up a few different Schmidt cards that I like as much or more than this one though, so I'm replacing it on the list with this:

Card #3 - 1994-95 Parkhurst Tall Boys - #22 - Milt Schmidt (Autographed)

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.

Card #4 - 1990-91 Score #440 - Eric Lindros Future Superstar

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.

The last time around I selected this late-'70s O-Pee-Chee glossy insert of Rogie Vachon.  I love the photo but the facsimile signature is my favorite part of the card.  I knew I wanted to replace this card though, because now I have Rogatien's actual autograph:

Card #5 - 2008-09 Upper Deck Masterpieces #MB-RV - Rogatien Vachon Auto

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.

This Scouts card from the 1974-75 Topps set wasn't a terrible selection, but in retrospect I don't think it belongs in my top 60.  Instead I'm going with a different card from the same set:

Card #6 - 1974-75 Topps #261 - Scotty Bowman

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.

Card #7 - 1986-87 O-Pee-Chee #8 - Lanny McDonald

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.

Card #8 - 1979-80 Topps #261 - NHL Entries

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.

Card #9 - 1990-91 O-Pee-Chee Premier #100 - Jeremy Roenick RC

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.

I'm a bit sad to see this 2008-09 Upper Deck Masterpieces Bobby Orr make an exit.  This might be my favorite hockey set to be released since I got back into collecting in 2007, and this particular card shows a moment that is ingrained in the minds of all hockey fans.  The thing is, while the moment is significant, I'm not sure I can really justify that this is one of my top 60 hockey cards.  In its place I'm selecting one of my favorite cards, one that should have been included in the first list:

Card #10 - 1972-73 Topps #100 - Bobby Orr

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.

Card #11 - 1991-92 Pro Set French #101 - Wayne Gretzky Auto

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?

Card #12 - 2008-09 Upper Deck #170 - Dion Phaneuf

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.

Here's another case of a card that I do really like, but that has no place on a top 60 list.  The 1989-90 Topps and O-Pee-Chee sets hold a special place in my heart since they were the first I ever collected heavily by ripping wax.  Another card from this set will be in the top 60 though, so I can replace Brett here and I'll still have the set covered on my list.

Card #13 - 1988-89 Topps #66 - Brett Hull RC

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.

Card #14 - 2006-07 Parkhurst Autograph #87 - Willie O'Ree

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.

Card #15 - 1973-74 Topps #146 - Cesare Maniago

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.

Card #16 - 1990-91 Upper Deck #525 - Sergei Fedorov Young Guns RC

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).

I am not sure what the hell I was thinking when I proclaimed that this '90-91 Score Guy Lafleur was one of my top 60 hockey cards.  True, I do have fond memories of this particular card, but having Guy in this set in anything but a Habs sweater is pretty much criminal.  I think you'll find this selection to be more appropriate:

Card #17 - 1974-75 Topps #232 - Guy Lafleur

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?

After selecting this 2008-09 O-Pee-Chee retro parallel for my original list, it has been brought to my attention by numerous sources that while this is an awesome photo, it is not actually Bernie Parent!  This photo actually depicts Bruce Gamble.  I can't have that kind of shenanigans going on in my top 60 list, so Gamble is out!

Card #18 - 1995-96 Upper Deck #211 - Martin Brodeur

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.

Two years ago Mike Milbury's rookie seemed like a logical choice for my list.  Nowadays, not so much.  Mike is an interesting and sometimes polarizing sports figure, but his NHL career was less than stellar and this airbrushed disaster of a card has no place on my top 60 list.

Card #19 - 2008-09 Upper Deck #245 - Steven Stamkos Young Guns RC

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.

Card #20 - 1990-91 O-Pee-Chee Premier #50 - Jaromir Jagr RC

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...


Casey said...

I agree with all of your replacement entries except for the Milbury. While the Stamkos is a sweet card, Milbury has to be included if for no other reason than HE BEAT UP A FAN WITH HIS OWN SHOE!

shoeboxlegends said...

Casey that is a VERY valid point. Don't worry there are more than a few Bruins still to come in the remaining 40 cards. When are we going to see a Drop the Gloves Top 60?!?!

Casey said...

There better be more B's.

BTW, I love that Milt card mostly because of the sweater, which was the reasoning behind my Schmidt pickup at the Shriner's Show.

Perhaps a Drop the Gloves Top 60 will come along soon...

Hackenbush said...

Being of the vintage variety myself I'm partial to the older guys. I'd put the Golden Jet in place of his son.

shoeboxlegends said...

Hackenbush, I actually agree with you...fear not, the Golden Jet will be making at least one appearance later in the list!

Anonymous said...

I love these posts.

Have to comment on a bunch of these. I've never collected vintage Topps from any year where there was a matching OPC set, but there are enough differences in '71-72 that I may have to start. The Howe is great.

It's cool that the facsmile auto on the '77-78 insert set actually resembles Rogie's real auto.

I like the Orr Masterpieces card, but the '72-73 is my favourite, as well. 1966-70 are obviously in the ballpark, as well.

O'Ree has a great signature. That's a neat card.

The Fedorov was every bit as big as the Lindros in early 1991. Those were going at $20 a pop.

As to the not-Bernie, I can't believe I never knew that was Gamble, and I have no idea who the Leaf is and I should. It might be Bill MacMillan? How did you find out it wasn't Bernie?

shoeboxlegends said...

Thanks 1967ers! As far as the Gamble goes, I've gotten a couple of different comments on previous blog posts over time that shed light on the card. The most in-depth was a comment from reader 'dsd'. Here are his words verbatim (notice you were correct about the Leafs player!):

"An interesting thing about your #27 card - the Bernie Parent retro card. It's a great pic - but it isn't Bernie, it's Bruce Gamble. Every picture I have researched of a Flyer goalie wearing #30 and this mask (called the '3/4 fibrosport' by mask fans) is Gamble. I don't believe Bernie got a fibro until he joined Plante with the Leafs. The Leaf player, Bill MacMillan, places this picture in the 1970-71 or 1971-72 season. Gamble and Parent each wore #30 before and after they switched teams.

This mistake is common - - the hockey hall of fame also identifies this picture as Parent. Even Parent's website mistakenly has a picture of Gamble on it. If you're into masks (I am) you can match this mask to Gamble as a Leaf or Flyer but not Parent. The other thing is the make of the stick and the taping. Bernie used Sherwoods and taped them a specific way. The make (CCM) and taping style matches Gamble in this pic."

Justin said...

I never really liked the 1990-91 OPC Premier set growing up but I recently picked up the set in a lot and I finally started to appreciate it. Great post, can't wait to see the rest!

Anonymous said...

Ah, that last comment was me, I forgot to check off my Wordpress account. Whoops.

shoeboxlegends said...

Hah, no problem, thanks for the comment! I should have the next batch of 20 up sometime over the weekend!

Anonymous said...

are all Hartford whalers and Quebec nordique cards valuable.

shoeboxlegends said...

Hi Kaylee, unfortunately almost none of them are. In this day and age you practically have to have been produced before 1970, or have an autograph or game used swatch to be valuable. To me though, they're priceless!

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