The 1966 Topps Hockey Series 1 pack held Bobby Orr’s rookie card that hobbyists consider a Top-200 card of all-time is one of the most sought-after hockey cards in the market today. But Topps also made a USA Test hockey set that they printed in minimal numbers that year. And it’s the USA Test Bobby Orr card that’s really the crown jewel of 1960’s hockey cards. In this article, I’ll run down some details about the 1966 Topps USA Test #35 Bobby Orr rookie card.
First, let’s cover the regular 1966 Topps hockey set. It has the same color TV design that Topps used for its football set that year. The set has 132 cards that show the player’s name, position, and team on the bottom of the front of the card. The backs have regular biographical information and a french translation of the player’s biography. Here is an example of a Bobby Orr Topps rookie.
The USA Test release only has 66 cards and was distributed in the United States in far lower numbers than the regular release in Canada. It’s considered the first official hockey release issued exclusively by Topps for the US market. The significant differences are that the USA Test has a slightly lighter shade of wood grain borders on the front, and the card backs are only in English. The Topps USA Test cards often have a white stripe on the right side of the card too.
Both cards are tough to find in higher grades because of the wood grain border going to the edges of the card and highlighting imperfections. PSA has graded 1100 regular 1966 Topps Orr rookie cards and only 113 of the USA Test Orr rookie cards. The regular release has a single PSA 9 and 47 PSA 8s (and 1 PSA 8.5), while the USA Test card is a Pop 2 in PSA 9 with 8 PSA 8s (and 4 PSA 8.5s).
In terms of sales prices, these cards are absolute monsters. A PSA 1 of the regular 1966 Topps Orr rookie card sells for around $2000 these days. The last PSA 7 sold for just over $24k, and a PSA 4 just sold for $6600 back in October 2021 as well. The USA Test samples sell for even more, with the last PSA 7 selling for $33k in February 2021, a pair of recent PSA 6 sales around $17k, and a PSA 2 selling for $4600 in November 2021. A pure comparison of prices is a little tricky since only a few samples of each sell each year, but the USA Test cards tend to sell for only around 25-50% more despite being significantly more scarce.
The 1966 Topps Hockey USA Test set distribution is a little less clear. Lelands, who auctioned the rare USA Test box pictured below (sold for $8k in September 2017), mentioned that Topps distributed it in only a few small pockets of the lower 48 states. Some collectors believe Topps primarily distributed the cards in Southern California (rumors of ice cream trucks having them) and South Carolina. However, others contend some were also available in Brooklyn candy shops. Only a few of these boxes that housed the Bobby Orr USA Test rookie card are known in the hobby, and the auctioned box was the first to change hands publicly.
Bobby Burrell wrote that the wrapper is actually a cello wrapper and the code on it identifies it as a 1967 release (the number is just one behind the 1967 Topps football release). So he believes the USA Test set was released later than anticipated by Topps, perhaps because of Orr’s popularity.
When you couple Orr’s popularity as one of the greatest hockey players of all time with his rookie card being in a test set, it’s not super surprising when, back in 2019, the PSA 9 card I pictured earlier sold for $204k. The card has a great look and, as a test issue, a great story too.
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