I recently launched the Unopened Archive to document all the unopened vintage sports card photos across the four major sports. My goal is to educate collectors and preserve hobby history. Despite items from my current collection, archives of photos taken at shows through the years, and bugging friends, finding images of vintage hockey feels like looking for a live dinosaur. It turns out vintage hockey unopened product is nearly as extinct. But why is there so little vintage hockey unopened product on the market?
First, let’s talk about source material. The best hobby resource on vintage hockey unopened products comes from Bobby Burrell and Roger Cunha. Their Hockey Wax Pack Collector’s Price Guide has an incredible collection of over 350 photos between 1933 and 1993. It is, as the cover states, the best book on vintage unopened hockey material. However, even this guide doesn’t have photos of everything.
My other primary resource for researching vintage unopened products is Mark Murphy’s The World’s Best Unopened Pack, Wrapper & Display Box Guide. His introduction to the hockey section speaks volumes about the situation.
Unopened hockey from the 1950s and the 1960s is almost non-existent. Thanks to a friend in Canada, we obtained a few pictures of Parkhurst wrappers from the 1950s and 1960s, which belong to the owner of the company. I believe there are some unopened packs and boxes in existence, probably somewhere in Canada. But since the factory only made a fraction of the product compared to American cards it is super scarce.
So finding vintage hockey unopened products, even wrappers or empty boxes, is almost impossible. And if you take a look at major auction house records, which are almost your only option for this sort of stuff, everything before the 1974-75 season is a high-roller’s game when a random item emerges.
I had a great chat with Bobby Burrell after I reached out to buy his books and asked if it was just a case of low print runs. He responded that yes, the print run was a factor, but every kid in Canada collected hockey cards, almost exclusively, so not much of an already low print run was left unopened. It also looks like no one hoarded it either since the run-up in prices would have motivated some dealers to cash in. He added that between 2000 and 2015, he and some friends recorded videos ripping vintage products at the Toronto Expo, items like 1954 Topps and 1957 Parkhurst. So what little that was out there has been slowly ripped and taken off the market.
Vintage hockey packs are so rare that PSA doesn’t even have a set registry for packs before 1960. And the 1960-1969 Topps Wax Packs – Any Series registry only has three collectors participating, and combined, they only have three different packs. The 1970-79 Topps Wax Packs registry has a few collectors who have completed the run, likewise for the 1970-79 O-Pee-Chee Wax Packs registry. Earlier than 1969, I count a total of 76 graded packs in the Pop Report, and 38 of those are 1968 or 1969 packs. There are many GAI packs out there, but no accurate records exist for those counts anymore.
The bottom line is that if you’re interested in collecting vintage hockey unopened packs, you need to have both deep pockets and a lot of patience. These items just don’t come up for sale that often; Topps/OPC/Parkhurst printed so little, and kids opened most of it. However, if you want to see photos of vintage hockey packs and boxes, you should pick up Bobby Burrell’s books and continually check out the Unopened Archive, as I’m updating it a few times a week. And, if you have any vintage hockey unopened photos, please reach out to me here or over on Twitter.