The Most Valuable Hockey Cards of All Time

Hockey card collecting has a long and storied history dating back to the early 1900s. What started as a modest hobby enjoyed primarily by die-hard hockey fans exploded into a booming industry in the 1990s, driven by the emergence of superstars like Wayne Gretzky and a sudden influx of enthusiasts.

While the fervor eventually settled down, the hockey card market surged to new heights in recent years. The COVID-19 pandemic left sports fans with more disposable income and free time, and many turned to card collecting to fill the void of cancelled seasons. Nostalgia for the glory days of hockey and the thrill of the chase for elusive cards further fueled the spike in interest and prices.

Today, the most prized hockey cards routinely sell for six and even seven figures at auction. Whether it‘s a pristine rookie card of a legend like Gordie Howe or Bobby Orr, or a modern-day phenom like Connor McDavid or Sidney Crosby, these cardboard time capsules of hockey history are some of the most sought-after collectibles in the sports world.

Join us as we count down the 13 most valuable hockey cards ever sold:

13. 2015 Upper Deck The Cup Connor McDavid Rookie #197 || $228,000

Kicking off the list is a card of a player who may well top it one day. Connor McDavid, drafted 1st overall by the Edmonton Oilers in 2015, is on a trajectory to be an all-time great. The 25-year-old center already has 4 Art Ross Trophies as the NHL‘s leading scorer.

His 2015 Upper Deck The Cup rookie patch auto (RPA) is serial numbered to just 99 copies. Featuring a three-color patch and on-card autograph of the budding superstar, PSA has graded only three examples as a perfect 10. One of those pristine specimens sold for $228,000 in July 2022.

12. 1985 O-Pee-Chee Mario Lemieux #9 || $78,000

Next we have the Canadian rookie card of one of the most dominant players ever to lace up a pair of skates. Mario Lemieux burst into the NHL in 1984 with the Pittsburgh Penguins and captured the Calder Trophy as the league‘s top rookie.

"Super Mario" lived up to his billing with six Art Ross Trophies and three Hart Trophies as NHL MVP. His 1985 O-Pee-Chee rookie is one of the era‘s most iconic cards. A PSA 10 copy sold for $78,000 in February 2021.

11. 2005 Upper Deck The Cup Sidney Crosby #180 || $75,000

Sidney Crosby was the NHL‘s biggest star of the 2010s, captaining the Pittsburgh Penguins to three Stanley Cup titles. Sid the Kid‘s decorated career started with a bang as he notched 102 points his rookie year.

Crosby‘s true rookie cards were produced in the 2005-06 season. His most desirable is the 2005 Upper Deck The Cup RPA serial numbered to 99 copies. A BGS 9 with a perfect 10 signature netted $75,000 in May 2022.

10. 1951 Parkhurst Gordie Howe #66 || $31,200

Gordie Howe needs no introduction. Mr. Hockey was a 23-time NHL All-Star selection and held the records for most goals and points until a kid named Gretzky came along.

The 1951 Parkhurst set marks Howe‘s first appearance on a mainstream hockey card. The crude printing process makes high-grade copies extremely condition-sensitive. Of the 120 examples graded by PSA, only three have rated higher than the PSA 8 that fetched $31,200 in December 2019.

9. 1958 Topps Bobby Hull #66 || $87,000

Bobby Hull revolutionized the game as one of hockey‘s first true power forwards. The Golden Jet‘s blistering slap shot terrorized goaltenders on the way to 610 career goals, the most by any player at the time of his retirement.

Hull‘s 1958 Topps rookie card is an iconic piece of vintage hockey memorabilia. While over 500 have been graded by PSA, only 14 have rated at PSA 8 or higher. One of those PSA 8s commanded $87,000 in February 2021.

8. 1911 C55 Georges Vezina #38 || $56,400

Georges Vezina laid the groundwork for modern goaltending in the early 20th century. The first netminder to drop into a crouch to make saves, the trophy given to the NHL‘s top goalie each season is named in his honor.

Vezina‘s 1911 C55 card is one of the earliest hockey cards known. The fragile paper stock makes high-grade examples exceedingly rare. The lone SGC 9 specimen hammered for $56,400 in December 2019.

7. 1951 Parkhurst Maurice Richard #4 || $75,000

A three-time Hart Trophy winner, Maurice "The Rocket" Richard was the sport‘s preeminent superstar of the 1940s and 1950s. He was the first NHLer to score 50 goals in a season and 500 in a career.

Like the Gordie Howe, Richard‘s true rookie card is found in the 1951 Parkhurst set. Of the 63 sent to PSA, just a single example graded higher than the PSA 8.5 that realized $75,000 in July 2022.

6. 1923-24 V145-1 Patterson Bert Corbeau #25 || $31,070

One of the hobby‘s most fascinating cards, the 1923 V145-1 Patterson set originally included 40 cards. However, card #25 featuring journeyman defenseman Bert Corbeau is nearly impossible to find, as the card was short-printed to the extreme.

Why exactly remains unclear a century later. One theory suggests the die used to produce the card broke early in the print run. Regardless, a lucky collector shelled out $31,070 for a PSA 2 example of the legendary rarity in August 2016.

5. 1951 Parkhurst Terry Sawchuk #61 || $24,000

Arguably the greatest goalie in NHL history, Terry Sawchuk backstopped the Detroit Red Wings to three Stanley Cup titles in the 1950s. His 103 career shutouts still stand as the NHL record.

Sawchuk‘s 1951 Parkhurst rookie is one of the key cards of the era. A PSA 8 copy, one of only 18 to grade that high with none better, brought $24,000 in July 2021.

4. 1966 Topps USA Test Bobby Orr #35 || $276,000

Bobby Orr revolutionized the defense position with his speed and scoring touch. Winner of a record eight straight Norris Trophies as the NHL‘s top defenseman, Number 4 also captured three consecutive Hart Trophies as league MVP in the early 1970s.

Orr‘s 1966 Topps USA Test rookie card is one of the hobby‘s true treasures. Produced in far more limited quantities than his standard 1966 Topps card, a Beckett-graded Pristine 10 fetched an astounding $276,000 in February 2021.

3. 1913 Fleer Showcase Wayne Gretzky #MU-5 || $23,400

We‘ve officially entered Gretzky territory. The Great One needs no introduction as hockey‘s unquestioned GOAT. His 1913 Fleer Showcase card packs a visual punch with a green-hued action shot of the legend.

Part of Fleer‘s Precious Metal Gems insert, this card is serial numbered to just 10 copies. An SGC 9 example sold for $23,400 in July 2020.

2. 1979 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky #18 || $1,290,000

Here it is, the undisputed holy grail of hockey cards. Gretzky‘s 1979 O-Pee-Chee rookie is the most iconic card in the sport, picturing a fresh-faced 18-year-old WG before he re-wrote the NHL record book.

While it originally hit shelves as just another card in the set, high-grade copies now routinely sell for seven figures. A PSA 10 stunned the hobby at $1.29 million in December 2020, with the same card reportedly turning down offers as high as $3.4 million since. It‘s only a matter of time before this king of cardboard sets a new record.

1. Future Most Valuable Hockey Card || ???

Hockey card values have skyrocketed in recent years, part of a larger surge in the sports card and memorabilia market. With deep-pocketed collectors viewing these cards as investment-grade assets, the ceiling keeps rising higher. It seems inevitable that a hockey card will one day surpass the $6.6 million 1909 Honus Wagner baseball card as the most expensive sports card of all time.

Will it be a PSA 10 Gretzky rookie? Or perhaps a one-of-one modern marvel featuring a signature and game-used equipment of a latter-day legend like Alexander Ovechkin? Only time will tell, but the future looks bright for the booming hockey card hobby. Happy collecting!

Hockey Card Collecting FAQs

Q: What is the best way to determine a hockey card‘s value?
A: Several factors influence a hockey card‘s worth, including the player featured, scarcity, condition, and age. Consulting a trusted price guide like Beckett or getting the card professionally graded by PSA, SGC, or Beckett can help determine an accurate valuation. Examining recent sales for the same card in similar condition also provides helpful market context.

Q: How can I protect my valuable hockey cards?
A: Condition is critical for maximizing a hockey card‘s value. Always handle the card carefully by the edges and consider placing it in a soft penny sleeve before inserting it into a rigid toploader for added protection. For the most prized pieces of a collection, sending the card to be professionally graded and encapsulated by a respected company like PSA provides the ultimate peace of mind.

Q: Is now a good time to start collecting hockey cards?
A: The hockey card market is as hot as ever with values steadily rising and major auction houses regularly setting new records. For collectors, this is an exciting time to get involved in this thrilling hobby. Focus on acquiring rookie cards of Hall of Famers and rising young stars in the best condition possible. With some savvy purchases and a little luck, you could be sitting on the next record-breaking hockey card.

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