Heavily Used Cards. Not For Sale.
Updated: May 16
Some of my favourite cards are survivors of my childhood collection. They're a bit on the rough side, with scars from countless games of flips and knock-downs, or from being carried back and forth to school in a rubber-banded deck at the bottom of my book bag. But all those cards with dinged and rounded corners and heavy creases are an important part of my collection.
I had already been collecting cards for a while when the 1990-91 boom hit. That year, card dealers started appearing at our local flea market. (We never had card shows in St. John’s.) That was the first time I saw cards stored in plastic pages inside a binder. It was also the first time I saw a Beckett price guide and became aware that my cards might hold some value. At the time, my collection lived in stacks, held together by rubber bands, inside a Nike shoebox. My slow transition to better storage was about to begin.
But for a lot of my cards, the damage had already been done. So I didn't need to worry about keeping them in nine-pocket-pages or top-loaders. Instead, I just kept them wrapped in those rubber bands. Looking back, I’m glad I did. It’s nice to be able to pull out a stack of cards to flip through without obsessing over their condition.
Here are some of the true artifacts of my collection. None are candidates for PSA grading, which is fine by me. I could never part with them anyway.
1981-82 OPC #106
This is one of my favourite Gretzky cards. 1981-82 OPC was the first set of cards I ever collected. That was the first year my father brought home packs of cards from the local store for me to open. I was six at the time and didn’t know a whole lot about hockey, but I knew who Wayne Gretzky was. He was everywhere.
This particular copy was likely carried around in my pocket at one point. It has everything: bent corners, a crease through the middle, and even some staining.
But even in top condition, this is a very tough card to find well-centered. The majority seem to have that same 65/35 centering that my original does.
1981-82 OPC #125
Wayne Gretzky - Super Action
The other Gretzky card from my first set that I’ve always liked. It’s such an odd picture of Gretzky. Notice how closely it resembles the generic player image on the back of the card!
1984-85 OPC #385
Steve Yzerman - Rookie Scoring Leader
I never had a Steve Yzerman rookie card (RC) in my childhood collection, but I did have his Rookie Scoring Leader card, which I thought was pretty cool. Despite the paper loss on the back of this card, you can still make out the stellar list of rookie scorers from the 1983-84 season.
1984-85 OPC #185
Doug Gilmour RC
I'm pretty sure I traded for this Doug Gilmour RC, since I never would have written on the back of a card myself. When trying to complete a set, condition was not overly important to me. That’s obvious from the pen mark, wrinkles, and creases on this card. Let alone the staple holes!
1984-85 OPC #259
Chris Chelios RC
I may have been missing the Yzerman RC from my collection, but as a Montreal fan, I made sure I had a copy of this Chris Chelios RC.
Chelios quickly he established himself as one of the best hitters in hockey, which made him a lot of fun to watch. And who can forget the 1989 playoffs when Philadelphia goalie Ron Hextall, knowing his team would lose the Wales Conference final to Montreal, decided to take his frustration out on Chelios!
1985-86 OPC #9
Mario Lemieux RC
I was ten-years-old, sitting in my grandparents' living room, with a bottle of Pepsi and a bag of chips (ketchup, probably), when I traded for my Mario Lemieux RC. Of course, I had no idea what a RC was at the time. I only heard that term for the first time in 1990.
I had stopped at the corner store on my way to their house after school, using the $5 my parents had given me to load up on snacks and cards. In one of my packs I found the Pelle Lindbergh memorial card from this set. My cousin was a big Flyers fan, and he really wanted that Lindbergh card! I think it was a fair trade.
1985-86 OPC #102
Mats Naslund was my favourite player as a kid. I was a Montreal Canadiens fan, and Naslund was their best offensive player. He wasn't a league superstar like Guy Lafleur had been, but was he ever fast and fun to watch.
I’ve always liked when the image selected for a card is well-suited to the card’s design. This is a great example of that. Some serious creasing and rounded corners on this one!
1975-76 OPC #140
Where this card came from is a bit of a mystery, but it had to have been in a trade with one of the kids at school. Every now and then someone would have cards that were given to them by an older brother. Cards I had never seen before.
Either way, I’ve always liked this card. It features the work of the infamous Topps/OPC airbrush, which put Dionne in a Kings jersey, even though he had yet to play a game for Los Angeles. This is one of the better airbrush examples. It definitely helps that the Kings logo is hidden in the picture. Butchered team logos are usually a dead giveaway of the airbrush.
It’s shocking to me how little attention Dionne gets from collectors. He remains the sixth highest scorer in league history with 1,771 points.
1986-87 OPC #53
Patrick Roy RC
For some reason, my local convenience store did not carry hockey cards during the 1986-87 season. I never figured out why. But it meant I didn’t have cards from this set in my childhood collection. Except for one.
I traded for this card a couple of years later. I was in my friend’s basement, working out a deal for 1988-89 or 1989-90 cards when he pulled this card out of his collection. (He was a Montreal fan too.) I had never seen a card from this set before, let alone the Patrick Roy card!
When he said this card was a double (or, as we called it, a trader), I had to have it. I probably gave him every double I had for this one card, and it was well worth it.
Roy’s RC was the only card from this set that I owned for a long time.
1987-88 OPC #163
Patrick Roy was a huge part of my collection, and since I missed out on the 1986-87 OPC set, this was the first Roy card that I owned.
When I started collecting, an uncle told me I should always put the goalie for a team on top of the deck. So that’s what I did. The wrinkles on the right border of this Roy card are undoubtedly from the rubber bands used to keep my stack of cards together.
1987-88 OPC #217
I’ve always liked goalie cards, especially when the photo captured the goalie in his ready position, waiting for a faceoff to get the play started again.
This Dan Berthiaume card is a great example from the 1987-88 OPC set.
1990-91 OPC-P #50
Jaromir Jagr RC
People often think that every card from the 1990-91 season was taken from a pack and put directly into a nine-pocket page or a top loader. Clearly that wasn’t the case with this Jagr RC.
To be fair, this card had a factory crease along the top border (better seen on the back of the card) when I pulled it from the pack. So I guess I was never too concerned about its condition after that.