Narrow Escape: Vintage Cards Being Sold to Aid Flood Victims

A Canadian family is hoping a decades-old collection of hockey cards can help ease at least a little of the pain of losing virtually everything they had in the historic Maurice Richard rookie card 1951-52 ParkhurstAlberta flooding of last June.

Craig James is selling a group of 56 graded 1951-52 Parkhurst cards including a Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard rookie card on behalf of his stepfather, who collected them as a child.  They are up for auction, each card being sold individually, on eBay.

The story is one of a narrow escape for his 75-year-old dad and his mother, who lived in High River, one of the hardest hit areas during what became one of the worst natural disasters in North American history.

Cars in flood Alberta 2013James was following reports of the flooding from his home in Vancouver, conversing with his parents as the water began approaching their home.  James’ stepfather had gone down the street but became trapped in a waist-high stream of water and mud which was now flowing freely, carrying vehicles along with it.  Emergency responders weren’t able to get there so James sprang into action, eventually getting an offer of help from a complete stranger. Eventually, an excavator plucked his step dad from the water but that was only part of the battle.

Flood waters

Things happened so quickly, the couple lost most of their belongings and hundreds of thousands of dollars in assets.  They left the area and only recently was their home deemed habitable again.

The Parkhurst cards, which had followed James’ stepfather across Canada as he pursued his career and life changes, were one of the few possessions he had left.

Alberta flooding“The cards would have been lost to the mud too, had he not brought them out to me just a few months earlier to be graded and sealed,” James said.  “(They were) one of the only things that meant anything to him that wasn’t destroyed.”

James sent them to KSA, a popular Canadian grading company. They are in very respectable shape for their age, with many grading between 6 and 8.  In addition to the Richard, there are rookie cards of Doug Harvey (KSA 7), Ted Lindsay (7), Marcel Provonost (7) and Alex Delvecchio.

All funds will go to help offset some of the costs incurred to replace and rebuild what was lost in the flood.  You can see all of the cards up for bid here.

James chronicled the story of his stepfather’s Parkies, a tale with which thousands of collectors of vintage cards across the continent can relate.  It’s reprinted here:

In late 1951, ‘D’ was not all that different from the average 14 year old young man growing up on a family farm in central Ontario; riding the bus to school in Port Perry with his friends every day. When not playing hockey at the lake, or for the team in town, he was listening to games featuring countless future Hall of Fame players – Richard, Howe, Harvey and Lindsay, among other legends from the ‘Original Six’. It was a good place, and great time to be a hockey fan. 

Bubble gum cards were very popular in North America during the 1930’s; however they were all but forgotten because of war-time rationing in the 1940’s. In 1951, hockey cards were reintroduced by Parkhurst Products – a Toronto confectionary company that produced a number of hand-size picture cards, for a variety of sports. A pack featured both a stick of gum, and a stack of 5 cards; all for a shiny nickel. The 1951-52 Parkies became the first popular cards of many of the game’s heroes, after a 10-year absence since the 1940-41 O-Pee-Chee series. 

1951-52 Parkhurst hockey cardsNot unlike fans and collectors of today, ‘D’ feverishly sought to obtain all the cards he could – especially his (despite the Ontario roots) precious Canadiens. But growing up in a rural setting meant no convenience store at the end of the street, no mall to run to, and eBay was still a number of decades away. For months, his lunch hour routine often consisted of a walk from school to the store downtown – 25 cent allowance in hand, picking up as many packs as possible. After a quick look for a hard to come by card, furious negotiations and epic trading sessions with his fellow collector pals would follow. Limited funds, time and access meant ‘D’ had to trade for many of the cards he sought. Despite his efforts, he was never able to obtain all 105 cards. 

Hard work on the homestead was not just a way to earn an allowance; it also taught many valuable life lessons. Having very little placed a great deal of importance on those things you sought to obtain. When a goal was finally realized, you were greatly appreciative and held the item in the highest regard. It was certainly a far cry from the disposable age we live in today, and the rationale stuck with him. 

Call it the collector mentality or finding a personal attachment. These early lessons kept the cards very well looked after, out of bike spokes, away from the grubby mitts of little brothers / children / grandchildren, and in “D’s” possession for over 60 years! Not many teenagers have the foresight to see the possibility of future value, but he realized early on that these new Parkies might be something significant and were worth respecting. 

Eventually the novelty fades and the next season / sport approaches; and the cards make their way to a dresser drawer – untouched and boxed for over a decade. ‘D’ never forgot the cards, and in the 60’s, had them sent west. For 50 years, they have made their way from province to province, and city to city, following ‘D’ wherever his travels took him. There were a lot of meaningful items back on the farm, but lugging armoires and credenzas was much less practical than a small box of his 70+ memories. Sadly, his old comic books never made it. 

In the 80’s and 90’s, ‘D’ would often be approached about the set, and after continued pestering, would finally be persuaded by a co-worker to part with a few. This would bring the set down to 56 cards; finally out of the box, and behind plastic protection. 

It is not often you come across an opportunity to acquire a piece of history. Especially one that has survived so well, and from the original owner. After more than 60 years of pleasure, ‘D’ says “there comes a time when you’ve just got to scale back”. So for the first time, the entire KSA graded and documented 56 card collection is being made available.