As the 1950s gave way to a new decade, the NHL was picking up steam and card makers had finally caught up to the biggest stars in the game. No longer playing catch-up from the Forties, when card sets were limited, Parkhurst and Topps were able to issue hockey rookie cards in the year after a player’s debut during the 1960s. Some of the biggest stars the game has seen made their first cardboard appearances during that decade of transition, and these 10 are among the most prized.
1960 Topps Stan Mikita
When center Stan Mikita joined the Chicago Black Hawks in 1959, it had been 21 years since they won their last Stanley Cup championship. At the end of his second full season, Mikita caught fire to score six playoff goals and help Chicago nab a along-awaited title. The next year, he solidified his status as a superstar and became one of the greatest centers of the Sixties.
Mikita’s 1960 Topps rookie card can bring $500 or more in graded NM condition with mid-grade examples about half that.
1961 Parkhurst Dave Keon
Dave Keon crashed the Toronto Maple Leafs’ lineu p in 1960 and scored 20 goals en route to winning the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie. He never looked back, reeling off six consecutive 20-goal season to start his career and finishing with 365 over a 22-year career.
His rookie card is part of the 1961 Parkhurst set and a few are usually on eBay at prices ranging from $100 to nearly $1,000 for a high-grade example.
1964 Topps Gary Dornhoefer
Right winger Gary Dornhoefer had just come off his third uninspiring season with the Boston Bruins when the Philadelphia Flyers took him with the 13th overall pick in the 1967 expansion draft. Dornhoefer never looked back, developing into a prototypical Philly brawler and helping the Flyers to back-to-back Stanley Cup trophies before retiring as the franchise’s second-leading all-time scorer in 1978.
1965 Topps Yvan Cournoyer
Yvan Cournoyer is one of only two Montreal Canadiens to win the Stanley Cup every season of his tenure as captain of the team, with Maurice Richard being the other. That’s even more of an accomplishment when you consider that Cournoyer spent the first five years of his career in coach Toe Blake’s doghouse as a defensive liability. Once new head man Claude Ruel put him in the starting lineup for the 1968-69 campaign, though, Cournoyer reeled off four 40-goal seasons in six years.
His 1965 Topps rookie card is a little hard to find. Expect to pay $100 and up for decent examples.
1965 Topps Phil Esposito
Center Phil Esposito made his NHL debut for the Chicago Black Hawks in 1964, but he didn’t really get his bearings until a 1967 deal sent him to the Boston Bruins. In 1968-69, Esposito became the first player to score 100 points in a season and then ran off a string of five-straight “century mark” seasons from 1970-75. Considered one of the greatest scorers of all time, Esposito was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1984 and was a co-founder of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992.
Goaltender Gerry Cheevers played a grand total of two games for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1961-62 before bouncing back to the minors and then being drafted by the Boston Bruins in 1965. He spent most of that season in the AHL but was a fixture in Beantown by 1967. Cheevers played on Stanley Cup champions in both 1970 and 1972, going undefeated in 32 consecutive game in the latter season, still an NHL record. He jumped to the WHL that fall but came back to the Bruins in 1976 before retiring in 1980.
Like Esposito, his rookie card can be found in the 1965 Topps set but you can find a very solid example for a few hundred dollars.
1966 Topps Bobby Orr
Bobby Orr graced the NHL for a relatively short period of time, but his 10 seasons with the Boston Bruins and two with the Chicago Black Hawks revolutionized how fans view defensemen. Orr won eight consecutive Norris Trophies as the league’s best defenseman and three straight Hart Trophies as the MVP of the NHL. He remains the only defenseman to have won a scoring title, and he won two.
Orr’s classic 1966 Topps rookie card is not only coveted because of who it depicts, it’s also condition-sensitive because of its woodgrain borders. The issue can bring several hundred dollars even in ungraded condition and nearly $3000 in slabbed EX-MT shape. A graded NM-MT copy brought almost $42,000 in February of 2015.
1967 Topps Jacques Lemaire
Forward Jacques Lemaire played 12 seasons in the NHL with the Montreal Canadiens and was part of eight Stanley Cup champions. In both 1977 and 1979, Lemaire scored the Cup-winning goal. Lemaire retired in 1979 and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1984, but a second career as an NHL coach made him known to a new generation of hockey fans. His unusual, defense-first coaching style has made him a controversial figure in the game over the last decade .
Lemaire’s 1967 rookie card brings under $100 raw and near $400 in graded NM-MT condition when it does come up for sale.
1968 O-Pee-Chee Bernie Parent
Bernie Parent bounced around from the Boston Bruins to the Philadelphia Flyers to the Toronto Maple Leafs for the first decade of his career, but it was his return to Philly in 1973 that set him up for a spot in the Hall of Fame. In his first two seasons back with the Flyers, Parent logged 30 combined regular season and post-season shutouts and turned in some of the greatest goalie performances ever.
His 1968 O-Pee-Chee rookie card is a popular issue today. Difficult to find centered, it can can bring nearly $1000 in slabbed NM condition.
1969 O-Pee-Chee Tony Esposito
In a 16-year career that featured 15 stellar seasons with the Chicago Black Hawks and ended with enshrinement in the Hall of Fame, it’s somewhat ironic that Tony Esposito‘s only taste of Stanley Cup victory came with the Montreal Canadiens in 1968-69 when he played in just 13 games. Esposito was named the NHL’s top rookie the next season with Chicago and went on to be a first-team All-Star three times while helping to popularize the butterfly style of goalkeeping that is prevalent today.
Esposito’s 1969 O-Pee-Chee rookie card is readily attainable on eBay and sells for a few hundred dollars even in NM-MT graded condition.
Other rookie cards that would have been right at home on this list include 1960 Parkhurst John McKenzie, 1962 Topps Vic Hadfield and Jim Neilson, 1963 Parkhurst Cesare Maniago, 1963 Topps Gilles Villemure, 1964 Topps Marcel Paille, 1965 Topps Dennis Hull, 1967 Topps Rogie Vachon and Glen Sather, and 1969 O-Pee-Chee Serge Savard.
No matter how you look at it, or which cards you include, the 1960s were chock full of superstar hockey players, and card companies were quick to get their mugs in front of hungry NHL fans who wanted to collect the guys leading their teams to glory on the ice. From Bobby Orr to the Esposito brothers to Stan Mikita, the decade witnessed the debuts of some of the greatest players ever, and their cards followed right behind.