Hockey was a quirky product for Topps, ever since it debuted its first set for the 1954-55 season. But by the time the 1962-63 set was released, a pattern had emerged.
Topps only had rights to produce teams from the United States, since Parkhurst held rights for the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs. For the 1960-61 set, Topps lost the Detroit Red Wings to Parkhurst, too. So, the 1962-63 set featured players from the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers. The cards were printed in Canada under the Topps brand name.
1962-63 Topps Hockey Basics
The 66 cards in the 1962-63 set were broken into three sets. The Bruins held down cards 1-22, the Blackhawks had Nos. 23-44, and the Rangers were placed from cards 45 to 65. Card No. 66 was a checklist.
Each team’s subset began with its coach, and the final card was a team picture. The exception was the Rangers, who did not have a coach when the set was produced; therefore, there were only 21 cards for New York’s squad.
The cards, which measured 2½ inches by 3½ inches, featured a player’s photo set against a white background. For the first time, Topps dispensed with a white border in favor of a blue one. Three of the borders were thin, but the bottom border was deeper to accommodate the team logo, the player’s name and his position.
The card back has a vertical design. In the top middle is a black starburst that includes the player’s name, the card number, his team and the position he plays. Two cartoons of hockey players in action flank the starburst. The card center has a line of statistics from the 1961-62 season, with two sets of biographies (one written in English, the other in French) directly underneath.
The Maple Leafs were in the middle of a three-year run as Stanley Cup champions, so not having Toronto cards in the Topps set probably was a hindrance. But the Blackhawks were the runners-up, so it’s natural that two of the key cards are of Chicago stars Bobby Hull (card No. 33), Stan Mikita (No. 34). Other important cards are the checklist (No. 66), Johnny Bucyk (No. 11), Glenn Hall (No. 24), Pierre Pilote (No. 28), Jean Ratelle (No. 58), Rod Gilbert (No. 59) and Vic Hadfield (No. 60).
In addition to Hadfield, key rookies include Bruce Gamble (No. 3), Ron “Chico” Maki (No. 37) and Jim Nielson (No. 49).
How often do you see a trainer on a hockey card? Frank Paice, who took care of the Rangers’ medical needs got a card in the set, after Topps inserted his picture on a proof sheet instead of a Rangers goalie:
BTW the long-unexplained #61 Frank Paice, NYR Trainer, was the response to a photo screw-up. The proof sheet shows the same photo but IDs him as Marcel Paille, the Rangers’ back-up goalie. It was easier to change the name than re-do the photo. https://t.co/DgQa7ff0fc
— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) December 11, 2018
Scarce in High Grade
There have been 8,003 cards sent to PSA for grading. Of that number, only 28 have come back as PSA 10s. Clearly, Hull’s card is the set’s most coveted, particularly in high grade. In 2012, a pair of PSA 10s of the Golden Jet — there are only four registered with PSA — sold for $3,883 and $3,643, respectively. One of the two PSA 10s of Mikita sold for $2,282 in 2014; one year earlier, one of the two PSA 10s of Bucyk sold for $2,091.
There are 552 PSA 9 cards.
There are 718 cards graded by SGC, but none are gem mint. There are 34 graded at 96 and 54 at 92.
Surviving packs of early 1960s hockey products are virtually non-existent. Packs sold for a nickel and contained four cards plus a Hockey Bucks insert just as Topps had done in baseball and football that year. The 24 players in the Bucks set were featured on pseudo Canadian dollar bills and were folded inside the wax pack. They’re rare today.
Complete sets of 1962-63 Topps hockey cards are generally easy to put together because of the small size and they’re not that hard to find. Complete, crease-free sets usually cost $800-$1,200.
There are plenty of 1962-63 Topps cards (and some Bucks) for sale on eBay. Click here to see them for sale and auction.