NHL Hockey Trading cards have been around for over a hundred years and key cards have seen a spike in value recently. In the 1890s, tobacco companies produced the first hockey cards to advertise their goods, which featured illustrations of players and were typically produced in small sets. Some early examples of classic hockey cards include those featuring players from the Montreal Canadiens, one of the NHL's oldest and most successful teams.
For the next few decades, cards appeared from various companies, but they didn’t see a resurgence until after World War II. In the 1950s, the hockey trading cards started to rise in popularity and value. This was due in part to the success of other sports cards, such as baseball cards. Companies like Topps and Parkhurst began producing larger sets of hockey cards, and more fans began to collect them. Another surge in popularity happened in the 1980s with the rise of Wayne Gretzky, a legendary hockey player whose trading cards are now among the most valuable around.
Like other sports trading cards, limited edition sets, autographed cards, and cards with elements of game-used jerseys are a few examples of special hockey cards that have an enormous value to collectors and are highly priced at auctions. Although Upper Deck has an exclusive contract with the NHL to create ice hockey cards, Panini and some other publishers produce some special hockey cards, too, all of which are becoming increasingly valuable to collectors as the hobby grows.
A few famous hockey cards with high value include::
- In December 2021, a PSA 10 Gem Mint copy of the 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky rookie card sold for $3.75 million, which is generally believed to be the most valuable hockey trading card around. Many other Gretzky cards have increased in value since this record sale.
- In February 2021, a BGS 10 Pristine 1966-67 Topps Bobby Orr rookie card sold for $276,000.
- In June 202, a PSA 9 Mint copy of the 2015 Upper Deck The Cup Connor McDavid Rookie Card #197 sold for $135,811.
The value of a hockey trading card depends on a number of factors. The rarity of the card, the condition of the card, as well as the player featured on the card are all important considerations. Vintage cards from the early days of hockey are often the most valuable but, as the Wayne Gretzky cards show, that’s not a firm rule. To ensure accurate valuation of hockey trading cards, they should be professionally graded so a third-party can help determine their current value. While prices fluctuate on all trading cards, cards with a professional grade are most likely to retain their value.
The NHL Hockey Card collecting hobby has become more popular through the years, and various websites and forums online help connect card collectors with one another so they can discuss the value of their collections or buy and sell cards directly. There are many dedicated collectors out there continuously making new purchases and searching for the perfect cards to add to their collection.