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Lost Rookie Cards

Updated: May 16, 2023

If you collected hockey cards in the 1980s, the perfect insert set to transport you back to those years is the Lost Rookie Cards (LRC) set from 2003-04 Topps.

This set poses a simple question: What if Topps and O-Pee-Chee (OPC) sets from the 1980s had featured NHL rookies in their actual rookie seasons? (That's been the norm in the hockey card world since 1990.)

Imagine if Mario Lemieux's rookie card had appeared in a 1984-85 Topps Update set? That would have been way better than waiting for the 1985-86 set, right?

Instead of waiting until October of 1986 to pick up Patrick Roy's first O-Pee-Chee card, we could have gotten our hands on it in April, right at the beginning his amazing playoff run!

2003-04 was the last year that Topps produced hockey cards. Interestingly, they chose that year to release a Topps Traded set, their first mid-season update in a while. Perhaps that's where the idea for the Lost Rookie Cards came from. Either way, the result was a set that presented a wonderful what-if scenario. Below are the key cards included in the set, and my take on what could have been.

Mario Lemieux

I hate to say it because I'm a huge Lemieux fan, but the LRC would have been a massive improvement over the original, mainly because the 1984-85 design is far superior to that of 1985-86. And just think how exciting it would have been to have this card while following Lemieux's nightly heroics as he closed in on 100 points in his first season.

Mario Lemieux - LRC (1984-85 Design) and 1985-86 OPC Rookie Card

Patrick Roy

Once again, the 1985-86 design falls short of 1986-87. The multiple border colours really make the 1986-87 cards pop. So from that point of view, I prefer the real Roy rookie. Again, though, I would have taken the LRC if it meant having this card in my collection while Roy was backstopping the Montreal Canadiens to their surprise 1986 Stanley Cup.

Patrick Roy - LRC (1985-86 Topps Design) and 1986-87 OPC Rookie Card

Steve Yzerman

This one is a bit strange, only because there was no 1983-84 Topps set. That was the first of two years where O-Pee-Chee produced its own hockey cards. Regardless, this is an interesting change. I really like the 1983-84 O-Pee-Chee set design. It's not quite as memorable as the 1984-85 design, but it's close. Also, the LRC would have given the 1983-84 set a legitimate cornerstone rookie card, something it sorely lacks. (Sorry, Bernie Nicholls fans!) But it's hard to beat the original.

Steve Yzerman - LRC (1983-84 OPC Design) and 1984-85 OPC Rookie Card

Brett Hull

I really like this one. The design of both sets is strong, but the drastic change of Hull being featured as a member of the Calgary Flames instead of the St. Louis Blues is the win for me. Especially considering that his 1988-89 rookie card is a classic air-brush anyway!

Brett Hull - LRC (1987-88 Topps Design) and 1988-89 OPC Rookie Card

Ron Francis

This one is a huge improvement. The 1981-82 Topps design is much stronger than 1982-83 O-Pee-Chee. Plus, not many cards at the time featured players in their home white jerseys, which is another interesting twist. It was not until 2005-06 that the NHL switched to teams wearing their white jerseys on the road.

Ron Francis - LRC (1981-82 Topps Design) and 1982-83 OPC Rookie Card

Joe Sakic

Besides the superior set design of 1988-89 Topps, this change would have had a massive impact on where Joe Sakic's rookie card ranks in the hobby. As part of the massively over-produced 1989-90 O-Pee-Chee set, Sakic's rookie card does not garner the attention a player of his stature deserves. Sakic's original rookie card is definitely one that could benefit from a better photo.

Joe Sakic - LRC (1988-89 Topps Design) and 1989-90 OPC Rookie Card

Overall, Topps did a great job with this set, in particular with the photos selected. They all capture the player's rookie season perfectly. From the plain white mask that Patrick Roy only wore in his first full season to Sakic's original number 88. Well done!



Here is the full list of 11 cards featured in the Lost Rookie Cards set:

  • LRC-BH - Brett Hull (1987-88 Design)

  • LRC-BS - Brendan Shanahan (1987-88 Design)

  • LRC-CJ - Curtis Joseph (1989-90 Design)

  • LRC-EB - Ed Belfour (1989-90 Design)

  • LRC-JR - Jeremy Roenick (1989-90 Design)

  • LRC-JS - Joe Sakic (1988-89 Design)

  • LRC-ML - Mario Lemieux (1984-85 Design)

  • LRC-MM - Mike Modano (1989-90 Design)

  • LRC-PR - Patrick Roy (1985-86 Design)

  • LRC-RF - Ron Francis (1981-82 Design)

  • LRC-SY - Steve Yzerman (1983-84 Design)




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Marc J
Marc J
Oct 21, 2022

Great article. Very little information on this set. Do you know how many were produced?

Oct 22, 2022
Replying to

Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it.

I honestly have no idea how many of these cards were printed, but I have been monitoring eBay for a while and they are not always available. You need to keep an eye out for them. I actually submitted the Lemieux card from this set to TAG Grading as part of an early adopter submission. We'll see how that goes. 😊


Andrew Borody
Andrew Borody
Dec 27, 2021

I was so excited when I found out this set existed. As a big Yzerman fan, it was so cool to see an alternate rookie card. Much cooler than what O-Pee-Chee did with their 1992 alternate rookie set.

Dec 28, 2021
Replying to

I agree 100%. Much more interesting than simply reprinting RCs with alternate photos as OPC did for their 1992-93 set.

I am seriously considering getting the six Lost Rookie Cards from this post graded, once PSA goes back to reasonable pricing.

Thanks for the comment!

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