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Don’t Sleep on Hockey Cards – Get In the Know!

It seems as if all you ever hear in the sports card world is the vast opportunity in basketball, football and baseball. There is plenty of opportunity there, but with everyone’s eyes focused on those three sports, might be time to consider hockey. There is a great opportunity approaching and it’s time to get in early.

Hockey is largely overlooked; however, it is a market that is showing signs of growth. Whether it be a rapid increase in card prices, stemming from an impressive single-game performance, or the surge in prices of vintage cards like Gretzky, Orr, and Hull. I believe all signs point towards, hockey is coming quicker than you might expect. 

The goal of this article is to provide you with the basic knowledge of the hockey card market. From what cards to buy, to what types of players and situations to be intrigued by, to picking up trends, before they become a trend. Let’s get to it, shall we?

Sets To Buy:

Like the main-stream markets of basketball, football and baseball, there are primary sets. These are the sets that are in demand and are usually the first to move in price, or at least the most likely to move at some point as a player’s value increases.

In hockey, you want to stick to Upper Deck products. They have the NHL license. It’s like how you buy Topps in baseball, not Panini. The sets to focus on are Upper Deck Series 1 & Series 2 (UD S1 & UD S2). These contain the Young Guns cards, “true” rookie cards. The second set to focus on is SP Authentic (SPA), which contains the hard-signed Future Watch Autos. 

Upper Deck Series 1 & Upper Deck Series 2 are like the Prizm of hockey. SP Authentic is a higher end product and is equally sought after for its rookie autographs which are #/d /999. SP Authentic also has Future Watch Auto Patches, which I personally think are undervalued since they are numbered to 100, vs 999 like the standard autographs, think RPA (rookie patch auto).

The other set to focus on is “The Cup”. This is the National Treasures of hockey, a super high end product featuring a multitude of numbered cards and autos. The go-to cards for this set are the RPA’s, which will be numbered to 99 or 249.

Sets To Watch:

As of now, the hockey market isn’t big enough to drive prices up on less in-demand sets. However, with the market growing and some of the higher-end players Young Guns, Future Watch Autos & The Cup RPA’s increasing in value, there are certain sets that may be worth looking out for. Here are a few that come to mind.

O-Pee-Chee-Platinum (OPCP) is interesting. This is not an Upper Deck product, but I believe the colour (im Canadian) parallels may intrigue new collectors and investors since UD S1, UD S2, SPA & The Cup lack parallels. There are some signs of the lower value cards from that set increasing in value as well, as more money comes into the hobby, further driving up the parallels. 

Ultimate is a bit more affordable version of The Cup. They have nice RPA’s and feature the highly sought after 1/1 Rookie Auto Shields. As The Cup continues to increase in price, Ultimate may be something to keep an eye on.

Stature is something that has peaked my interest. It is an affordable set, similar in price to UD S1 & S2, but the cards look so nice, as if they were a high end product at a much lower price point. This set includes many parallels as well. It seems everyone likes this set, and although brand new, I would not be surprised to see it pick up steam if the hockey market continues to grow. .

Sets To Avoid (For Now):

Allure is a brand new product, I personally do not like the look of them, and other Hockey fans seem to have a similar view point as myself, not recommend.

O-Pee-Chee is like O-Pee-Chee-Platinum, but with paper stock, not very desirable or collected product right now. Think Baseballs paper First Bowmans vs the First Bowman Chrome cards.

The Positions & Their Popularity:

This is a very simple concept. As of now, goalies are like pitchers and catchers in baseball or the D-Line in football. They tend to not retain value, more common is for them to maintain price with solid performances.

Defense are interesting. They remind me of wide receivers in football. No hobby love… until recently. This year featured 2-star defenseman, and solid playoff performances have increased the prices of a couple of defensemen in the league. It seems as if the hobby may be starting to accept D-Men.

Forwards are the cream of the crop for investing. They are like your home run hitters in baseball, point and shooting guards in basketball, and quarterbacks in football. They score the most goals and get the most points, thus contributing the most offensively, just like all these other popular positions in the other sports.

So What Types of Players to Buy?

I would always suggest looking at the high goal-scoring, high point-scoring forwards first. They are the most sought after and quite simply, make the best investments. Examples would include guys like Connor McDavid, David Pastrnak & Alexander Ovechkin.

For defensemen, if you believe the market will continue to shift, look for high-point getting defensemen, preferably ones who score goals. Think Miro Heiskanen, Cale Makar & Quinn Hughes.

For goalies, starters don’t tend to see gains even with solid play. As of now, the only money to be made in goalies seems to be targeting back-ups who have a chance to play a fair amount and put on a show, or maybe even take on the starting position. Just recently Thatcher Demko of the Vancouver Canucks gave up 2 goals on over 120 shots in 3 games. His raw Young Guns went from $7.00 to almost $40.00. Even more impressive was from the year prior when back-up St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington took the rains in what would end in a successful Stanley Cup run for the St. Louis Blues. His raw Young Guns was $2.00 to $3.00 going into the playoffs, and came out at over $70.00! Back-up goalies seem to be well collected, and when they perform, so do their card prices. It is just a matter of luck, patience, and maybe a little eye for a skilled netminder.

Situations To Focus On:

Like all sports, championships sell and increase card prices. If you’re holding cards of guys who have and are contributing to a deep Cup run or win, you will likely be in a good position. I had a couple of Elias Pettersson PSA 10 Young Guns. My entry was $200.00 and I unloaded one at $400.00 when they and him were performing well, however, they ultimately ended up losing.

Key contributors to a team will always be in the spotlight, and so will their cards. Guys who lead a team in goal scoring and point getting usually receive lots of hobby love. Think Nathan MacKinnon or Connor McDavid.

Break-out players have been seeing more and more surges in price after solid performances. Yes, these examples were during the heat of playoff hockey, but they are impressive and are starting to show a trend. Dominik Kubalik had his raw Young Guns increase from $20.00 to $70.00 at its peak after a 2 goal and 5 point night. Anthony Beavillier had his raw Young Guns spike from a $2.00 common card to over $12.00 after consistently impressive performances and stellar play from his team, the New York Islanders.

Under-priced guys are common, especially throughout a season, when their performance is on the verge of being recognized. Nathan MacKinnon was a highly touted player for his 2013-2014 rookies season, and his prices reflected that. A bit into his career he had a couple of un-impressive seasons, and his card prices also reflected that. However, this season, he put up impressive numbers and his team, the Colorado Avalanche, were contenders for the Cup. It took people some time to catch on, but you could have had his PSA 10 Young Guns for $250.00, and it got above a $1000.00.

The End:

Opportunity is everywhere, and a seemingly growing hockey market will only amplify that. Do your research, and don’t sleep on hockey!

Written by Kohl Johnson
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