When it comes to vintage hockey sets, the king of the post-war era is arguably the 1951-52 Parkhurst edition. With no mainstream sets in several years, the issue features recognized ‘rookie’ cards of numerous Hall of Famers and stars with the iconic Gordie Howe leading the way. One set that gets lost in the shuffle a bit is the 1955-56 Parkhurst set.
Featuring 79 cards, there’s plenty to like about this mid-50s Parkies issue despite its limitations.
1955-56 Parkhurst Hockey Cards: Only Game in Town
Part of the allure is that the set was the only hockey issue for the 1955-56 season. Topps debuted in 1954-55 with its first foray into the hockey world, but didn’t return until three years later, leaving the market to Parkhurst from 1955 for this season. This meant American hockey players were left out as the set featured only players from the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Measuring 2 ½” x 3 ½”, they have a basic design with a color shot of a player occupying most of the space against a distinctive cream colored background. The player’s name, set number, and position is emblazoned along the bottom, printed in yellow against a contrasting bright red background.
While star cards of Maurice Richard, Harry Lumley, and Tim Horton are extremely popular, the unquestioned king of the set is the Jacques Plante rookie card (No. 50). Near mint graded copies can sell for around $2,000, as was the case in this March 2016 auction. Despite that, low-mid grade complete sets can be obtained relatively inexpensively when available. While mid-grade sets can sell up to $2,500.00 – 3,000.00, a lower-grade one sold earlier this year for under $1,000.
If Plante’s base issue is too steep for you, the good news is that you have some options. In addition to his 1954-55 Parkhurst subset cards (earlier than the 1955-56 edition, but not generally considered his rookie card since they are not base cards), he has two other cards in the 1955-56 set that may be more within your reach. The goaltender is featured on a pair of attractive subset cards in the issue, both selling for under $100.00. Outside of Plante, there’s still plenty to like here, anyway.
Stars and Specials
In addition to the aforementioned Richard, Lumley, and Horton cards, the set boasts a nice collection of other stars from yesteryear (considering only two teams are included) with players such as Jean Beliveau, Doug Harvey, and George Armstrong. Rookie cards are also included of Dick Duff, Don Marshall, Bill Durnan, and Ken Reardon. The first-year cards of the latter two are noteworthy as they were produced after their playing careers as part of the Old-Time Greats (OTG) subset.
If those aren’t enough, look to the issue’s unique subsets. Between OTG cards, cards of the coaches and venues, and action shots, there is plenty of room for diversion from the base creations.
Variations, Errors and Quaker Oats
1955 Parkies were issued with two different colored backs. The tan colored backs are about twice as hard to find as the gray as they were apparently issued only in Quebec. And serious collectors know there’s a rare variation on Horton’s card. The ultra-scarce version shows the number “3” and the word “Defense” are inverted in the text section on the back. Only a small number of cards were printed with the error before it was corrected.
Finally, one thing that makes these really unique to many collectors is that they were also distributed in boxes of cereal and not just packs of cards. A Quaker Oats variation for each card was created and they are distinguished by green ink on the back (as opposed to red) as well as the tagline “Quaker Hockey Trading Card” along the bottom of the reverse. As these are more difficult to find than the regular cards, a premium is usually affixed when offered for sale. A near-complete PSA graded set, for example, sold for nearly $6,500.00 in 2013.
Overall, though, the 1955-56 Parkhurst hockey set is not expensive. Common cards from the set in middle and lower grades can be found for under $10.
1951-52 still remains as King of the Hill when it comes to the Parkhurst sets, but the 1955-56 issue is unique in its own right.
You can see several hundred for sale and auction by clicking here.