Rare hockey cards in pristine can fetch $50,000 or more, but how do you know whether you’re old stash is worth more than it’s weight in gold or just chump change?
Well, there are a few key points to consider:
The Three Main Factors That Affect Your Hockey Card’s Value
1. Condition and Grading
One of the most important factors for a card’s worth is its condition. Even rare cards can be worthless if they have heavy creases, stains or discoloration. Condition is generally graded on its surface, edges, corners, print quality, and centering. Depending on who you ask, the edges are considered most important, but really for a card to be in mint condition it’ll need to retain its glossiness, have sharp edges, great print quality and be well centered.
Grading applies to cares which are very rare/valuable. When a card has a certain rarity, it will be worth more when graded. Grading is simply the process of having a company verify the condition of a card and assign it a grade. There are several different companies each with their own scale, but one of the most popular is the Professional Sports Authenticators (PSA). Their grading scale is below for reference:
PSA Grading Scale
GEM – MT 10 Gem Mint
Near perfect card. All corners are perfectly sharp, the graphics are in full focus, and the gloss is intact. While cards in this category may not be stained, small printing imperfections are allowed provided they do not affect the card’s aesthetic appeal. Centering should be 55/45 to 60/40 percent on the front, and 75/25 on the back.
MINT 9 Mint
These cards are in superb condition, with only one of the following flaws:
- A slight wax stain on the back; or
- A minor printing imperfection and/or slightly off-white borders.
Centering must be 60/40 to 65/35 or better on the front and 90/10 or better on the back.
NM – MT 8 Near Mint-Mint
These cards look like MINT 9 at first glance, but show the following on closer inspection:
- A slight wax stain on the back;
- A little fraying at one or two corners; or
- A minor printing imperfection and/or slightly off-white borders.
Centering should be 65/35 to 70/30 on the front, and 90/10 or better on the back.
NM 7 Near Mint
Near mint cards show light surface wear when one looks at them closely. They may exhibit slight fraying of the corners, with a picture that is slightly out of focus. Small printing errors are acceptable, as is slight wax staining to the back of the card. The gloss should be mostly intact. Centering must be 70/30 to 75/25 on the front, with 90/10 or better on the back.
EX – MT 6 Excellent-Mint
Cards may have visible wear on the surface, or a clear printing mark that doesn’t affect aesthetic appeal. If scratches are present they should only be visible on close inspection. Corners may have slight fraying, while the picture focus may be slightly out-of-register. Cards in this category may further show some loss of gloss, very slight notching on the edges, and slight off-white coloring to the borders. Centering must be 80/20 or better on the front and 90/10 or better on the back.
EX 5 Excellent
These cards may show minor rounding on the corners. Printing defects or surface wear and loss of original gloss becomes more noticeable. Picture focus may be slightly out-of-register, with light scratches visible on closer inspection. However, this should not detract from the card’s appeal. Centering should be 85/15 or better on the front and 90/10 or better on the back.
VG – EX 4 Very Good-Excellent
Cards have slightly rounded corners, with modest but noticeable surface wear. While some original gloss is still present, cards may have light scuffing or scratches, and a slight crease may be seen. Centering should be 85/15 or better on the front and 90/10 or better on the back.
VG 3 Very Good
These cards have corners that are somewhat rounded, with some surface showing. This may be accompanied by light scratches or scuff marks. Picture focus may be somewhat off register, and edges may show wear. Some gloss is still present and creases may be visible. Additionally, cards may show printing defects, slight staining on the front, and clear wax stains on the back. Centering should be 90/10 or better on both sides.
GOOD 2 Good
Cards with a “GOOD 2” rating show more rounded edges with obvious surface wear. The following may be evident on the card:
- light staining; and
Additionally, the card may be slightly discolored, creased, and without gloss. Centering should be 90/10 or better on both sides.
FR 1.5 Fair
These cards may show such extreme wear on the corners that the image framing is affected. The surface will be worn, with no gloss. Although the card may have heavy creases, it must be fully intact to be graded. Centering must be 90/10 or better on both sides.
PR 1 Poor
These cards are similar to “FR 1.5s”, but may be so damaged that they have lost their aesthetic appeal completely. This includes creases that nearly break through the card, extreme staining, and discoloration, making it difficult to see the card’s content.
2. Rarity and Scarcity Value
Obviously, rarer cards will be more valuable. This is the simple effect of supply and demand and is what makes the cards from the 80’s and 90’s have such low value (more on this later). Unique cards, limited time runs, signed cards, rookie cards, vintage cards, and other rare cards are all worth more simply because there weren’t many to begin with and many of those that were manufactured have been lost.
3. The Subject’s Accomplishments and Popularity
Stars and legends will always fetch a higher price than unknown players, no matter how rare. Short-term performance and negative publicity may cause cards to fluctuate because of this. Once a player retires however, their performance and stardom is often solidified. This means hockey legends are often immune to price fluctuations.
Are Trading Cards a Hobby, an Investment or Both?
Most hockey card collectors collected as a hobby and not as an investment. This is important when it comes to setting expectations for the value of your collection. Card collectors have very different mentalities when it comes to collecting as a hobby vs an investment.
Those who see collecting as an investment will often purchase cards based on their likeliness to increase in value over time, they don’t collect their favorite players or teams, but instead look for cards with high scarcity. If you were/are this type of collector, you’ve likely got a few cards that are worth something.
Hobby collectors are only in it for the fun. They usually look for their favorite teams or players, but don’t consider how valuable a card may be in the future. If you’re this type of collector, you may have a valuable card, but the chances are slimmer since you weren’t specifically looking for valuable cards.
Then there are hybrid collectors. These are the hobbyist who love to collect their favorite team, but also look for cards that are rare and could be worth something down the line. These types of collectors may have a good chance at owning a valuable card.
Vintage Cards are Most Valuable
Like any memorabilia, vintage hockey cards are the rarest and most valuable. Note that vintage cards are considered to be cards produced before 1980. The 1980’s and 1990’s saw a surge in popularity for trading cards, which meant that many cards from this era were worth very little. This isn’t to say that all cards from the 80’s and 90’s are worthless. In fact, the opposite is true.
As you’ll see below, there are a few 80’s and 90’s cards that can fetch you thousands of dollars. If you’ve got an old deck lying around, look through it and check on one of the many online hockey card pricing guides to see what their worth. You may be surprised by what you find!
If you discover that your cards aren’t worth more than a few dollars, maybe it’s best to hold on to them and instead consider the sentimental value they may have. Your collection likely has a few great stories to tell and it may even be something to pass down onto your children!
The 15 Most Valuable Hockey Trading Cards
- Wayne Gretzky: 1979 O-Pee-Chee – $50,000+
- Bobby Orr: 1966 Topp – $40,000+
- Gordie Howe: 1951 Parkhurst – $15,000
- Maurice Richard: 1990-91 OPC Premier – $15,000
- Mario Lemieux: 1985 Topps – $14,000
- Gordie Howe: 1954 Topps – $13,000
- Bobby Hull: 1958 Topps – $13,000
- Georges Vezina: 1911 Imperial Tobacco – $13,000
- Jacques Plante: 1955 Quaker Oats – $13,000
- Guy LaFleur: 1971 O-Pee-Chee – $12,000
- Bobby Orr: 1966 Topps USA – $10,000
- Sidney Crosby: 2005 SP Authentic – $5,000
- Alexander Ovechkin: 2003-04 SP Authentic – $2,000
- Terry Sawchuk: 1951-52 Parkhurst – $1,500
- Patrick Roy: 1986-87 Topps – $300
So, if you’ve got a collection that’s collecting dust, pull it out and see what you’ve got. There may be a few valuable cards there and if not, it’s worth it to experience the nostalgia of looking at your old collection.
If you’re just getting into collecting or want to hold on to your collection, make sure to invest in the necessary products to protect you cards and keep them in as high condition as possible.
If you’re new to collecting, a quick tip is to pick up as many rookie cards as you can, you never know when a player may blow up and it’ll give you a better chance at owning a valuable/rare card. Also be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest trading card news and some epic giveaways!