Hockey card collecting sees spike in hobby not seen since the 1990s
BROCKVILLE, ONT. -- Hockey card collecting has seen a huge rise in popularity over the past few months, with a few rare cards selling for six figures, like the Wayne Gretzky card that recently sold for $1.3 million.
But not all cards are considered equal, with common cards only worth pennies on the dollar.
Barry Cassleman has been collecting for as long as he can remember and now runs Fitz 8 Hockey Cards, helping others find value in their old cards.
"The key to look for is the first or second year cards of the hall of famers. So, obviously, the no-brainers: Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Marcel Dionne, Guy Lafleur, Mario Lemieux, Grant Fuhr just to name a few. Those are the key cards," Cassleman said.
He thinks the COVID-19 pandemic has played a role, with people cleaning out basements and coming across binders of cards from decades ago.
"I think it's a case of supply and demand. There's just more people in the hobby, people had more time on their hands, couldn't travel. These rare rookie and hall of fame cards just took off," Cassleman said.
Superstar cards from those older 1980s sets can also fetch big dollars.
"A Mario Lemieux rookie was selling in September and October for five hundred bucks roughly, and this is like an 8.5 out of 10, and one just sold three days ago for just under $7,000," Cassleman said.
"Ninety-eight per cent of your cards are worth a little bit but not very much. The keys are the rookie cards, the hall of famers and that's what you've got to isolate," Cassleman added.
For example, a complete Pro Set series of 400 to 500 cards from the early nineties is only worth about $20.
Stars like Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin have pulled more people into the hobby, with those rookie cards now going for up to $4000.
"The current cards are just unbelievable what they are doing with them," Cassleman said.
Justin Elliott dabbled in the hobby for years, recently getting back into it with his sons, saying it's easy to get started.
"You can start off by buying boxes or even going to Walmart and buying packs. You can spend $7 from a pack up to $1400 for a tin and that tin has one pack of hockey cards with 6 cards in it," said Elliot, the winner of a $1400 tin in a raffle, which included rare autographed and game worn jersey cards.
Keep an eye out for fakes, however. Cassleman bought a rookie Gretzky card and it ended up being counterfeit and worth only $10.
When it comes to cards that are worth money, Cassleman says it's best to get them graded from 1 to 10.
"For example, my Mario Lemieux that I have as a raw card, and a raw card means ungraded, it was probably worth 50 to 100 dollars. If you get it graded, a PSA 10 rookie just sold recently for over $100,000," said Cassleman. "There are a number of graders out there; PSA, in my opinion, is the best. They're located in California and there is a PSA Canada in Halifax and they act as the middle person for you."
"I have a Connor McDavid PSA 10 and it's gone from less than $1000 four months ago and it's now selling for $4000," added Casselman.
The best pricing reference is through eBay sold listings online. Beckett Magazine is also a great resource.
For Elliott, it's all about finding that unique card.
"It's exciting. There's a thrill to it. Especially my boys, they like the box breaks so we all watch it together, we put it on the TV and turn it on and exciting to see if we're going to get anything or any cards and they've hit a few good ones and just to see their excitement is great," said Elliott.
And he learned the hard way about his older collection.
"I had shoeboxes full of Upper Deck from the early nineties and I went back when I saw the recent surge and yeah, nothing great in there!"