Gordie Howe’s 1951 Parkhurst card is the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle for hockey collectors. The combination of Parkhurst’s inaugural release and the rookie card of the man known as “Mr. Hockey” (often regarded as Canada’s Babe Ruth) makes this particular card incredibly desirable for collectors.
Gordie Howe had every hockey record before Wayne Gretzky. He entered the league as an 18-year-old rookie and played his first 25 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings. He later came out of retirement to play six more seasons in the WHA. Howe was a 6x MVP, played in over 20 All-Star games, and won 4 Stanley Cups.
The 1951 Parkhurst set featured just 105 cards from the original six teams; Red Wings, Maple Leafs, Canadiens, Blackhawks, Rangers, and Bruins. The featured players on the cards were small, postage-stamp-sized against an off-white background with blank backs. From a collector’s perspective, the set is extremely condition-sensitive. That’s because around 20 uncut-sheets were stacked on top of each other and then…wait for it, “they used a guillotine to cut the cards,” according to Bobby Burrell, who wrote Vintage Hockey Collector. The cards were then mixed in a cement mixer for randomization before packing. They did try and remove damaged cards before putting them in packs, though. Additionally, the paper is ultra fragile and fades easily.
In particular, the Howe card’s desirability in the 50s, combined with the condition sensitivity of the development process, means there aren’t a lot of high-grade cards. Of the 464 PSA has graded, there is 1 PSA 9, 2 8.5s, and 32 8s out of 464 graded. In fact, 313 of all the PSA-graded Howe rookies are PSA 4 or lower. Given Howe and the Parkhurst set’s popularity, PSA 1s are approaching $5k with 8s selling for ~$46k, after making a 5x increase since 2016.
Given the popularity of the card and condition, collectors should be wary of counterfeits. A counterfeit card is probably pretty dark, and the front will have different wear and conditioning. Cardboard Connection says you should be able to feel the difference in the card stock; they will feel a little thinner. Lastly, they point out the text won’t be as sharp. Parkhurst did reprint the card in 1993, but there is print on the back of that version.
Gordie Howe was a hockey legend, and his 1951 Parkhurst card is perhaps the most iconic vintage hockey card, given a run in status only if you consider Wayne Gretzky’s rookie a vintage card. For more sports card news and info, follow Post War Cards on Twitter.