Hockey card collecting is a generic term for a hobby that involves collecting trading cards with a hockey related subject. They typically consist of pictures of a player with statistics or other information on the reverse. Hockey cards also began to appear early in the 20th century. Cards from this period are commonly known as cigarette cards or tobacco cards, because many were produced by tobacco companies and sold as inserts in packages of cigarettes. During the 1920s, some other food and candy companies started to experiment printing hockey cards to help market their products, but most production was effected by World War I and II.
O-Pee-Chee has been the main brand over the years, stopping production only for World War II. The next Hockey card boom appeared during 1951-52, with card sets issued by Shirriff Desserts, York Peanut Butter and Post Cereal. Toronto’s Parkhurst Products Company began printing cards in 1951, followed by Brooklyn’s Topps Chewing Gum in 1954-1955. O-Pee-Chee and Topps did not produce cards in 1955 or 1956, but returned for 1957-58.
O-Pee-Chee and Topps remained as the top dogs during the 70s and 80s producing seta each year. Several more companies produced sets to include and market their products but no other card company really tested the hockey card market till 1990. During the 1990-91 hockey season, Score and Proset produced sets and brought back the hockey collecting frenzy. This turned out to be a major turn in the hobby that caused a lot of commotion and attention, the Gretzky Rookie card began to soar into the triple digit value and now everybody was turning to the hobby as an investment. However a surplus of collecting product resulted in the value of most sets of this generation to bottom out, and now you can pick up these cards for a dime a dozen.
During the mid 90s, card collecting took a twist and card companies began to recognize that people wanted cards that would retain some sort of value over the years, so a lot of attention was spent on the insert market. Cards were now being generated with parallel versions, serial numbers and autographs. This eventually led to the card craze of today which is putting memorabilia inside them. Card companies have resorted to adding real authentic hockey material such as jersey, pucks and sticks inside the cards. Where will the hobby turn to over the next few years is uncertain but it definitely has been interesting collecting over the past few years.