The world of collecting has made a dramatic transition over the years. None more so than that of the bubblegum card collector.
Photos, equipment, posters and the like are pretty easy to trace and authenticate. The origin and history of hockey cards fall in the same category. Condition, player, age and type of card make putting some value on the piece relatively easy.
As I started to write this piece, I referred to a hockey price guide catalogue. This 748 page book has priced cards to the year 2004. What caught my immediate attention was the split in decades. From the years 1879 to 1989 it covered 117 pages of data. The other 600 pages covered to the year 2004 from 1989. Those years where referred to as the boom years in the hobby.
In the 60’s when I ripped open a pack of cards, the gum was instantly in my mouth. I’d proceed next to see how many Leaf cards I’ve added to my collection. Then I’d casually see what other players came in the pack. I’d need some of these to try and complete my set at home.
By the year 2000 my children started to take an interest in collecting hockey cards. Wow what a difference in experiences! First the cards came vacuum sealed in a pack and it contained no gum.
Older packs that contained gum started staining some of the cards and taking away some of the value. So to prevent that they removed the gum. The cards seemed to be made of a synthetic product with a glossy sheen to them and the players image was digital. No longer was that glorious smell of bubblegum a part of the pack opening experience.
My cards would end up in a shoebox. The game users and traders in a bundle wrapped in an elastic band. A spoke in the wheel of my bike would be a home to a few. My kids would open the packs with a price guide handy. Each card would be immediately valued then placed in order of significance. The valuable cards would be placed in a plastic holder to protect the card. The rest would be placed in a binder with plastic sheets to help complete a set and also add some protection for the cards. The traders made their way into another binder also with plastic sheets to protect them. For transporting to school or a rink, some cards ended up in a plastic case.
I could go a whole year and not complete a set. My kids could buy a box of cards that guaranteed at least one complete set if not 2. My cards would be worn and have rounded corners from excess play at the schoolyard. My kids cards never came out of the plastic sheets or holders. Only tradable cards came out of the house and encased in plastic protection. In comparison, I had 1 to 3 sets to complete if need be. Opee chee, Parkhust or Topps.
For the year 2000, kids could collect well over 100 sets, subsets, specials etc. Is it any wonder kids and adults alike have given up on this part of collecting? The greed of the industry has destroyed a generation of kids to carry on this 100 year old tradition. From 1990 on, most of these gimmicky sets (I want to refrain from using the word junk) are worthless. It would be fine but the cost to some collectors paying 10 to 30 dollars a pack for some of these sets, well its so sad. Cards like Brett Hull, Joe Sakic, Jaromir Jagr to name a few, have maintained some small value. But these are HOF players (Jagr still playing) and command no where near what they once did. Why is this?
The simple answer is because the value of these players careers was priced into there rookie cards. Anyone who follows the market will understand this; cardboard options. The collector is paying a huge premium for the players card in hopes they have a HOF career.
So to jump start that, some smart thinking card companies decided to start producing minor league, junior, international card sets to lay claim to the players first card. Some genius in the USA decided to edge out his card company competitors with the inclusion of a piece of a cut up Babe Ruth game used bat in the card packs.
As you can see, stupidity and greed has no boundaries as the same was done here in Canada with a set of George Vezina goalie pads.These signs of desperation to make money should be enough to discourage people away from companies like this. Also the pieces of whatever it is in the pack are worthless.
Don’t take shortcuts. Collect for the sake of collecting a player or team you admire. The easy money has been made in this end of the hobby. I’ve been collecting for over 50 years and I still need cards. I’ll be looking until the day I die. I know the Leaf cards I need to complete my sets.
My kids gave up card collecting very quickly. They are huge Leaf fans however. At least something good came out of all of that!