The 1966-67 Topps hockey set used a wood-grain television design to frame color photos of the NHL’s best players.
Color television was still a novelty in 1966. It was a big deal when the opening credits of a television program boasted that the show was being brought to you “in living color.”
The newest and brightest star of the NHL would be the signature card in this set — the rookie card of Boston Bruins legend Bobby Orr. Considered one of the hobby’s top post-War trading cards, the Orr rookie has become pricey in anything close to high grade. Earlier this year, a PSA 8 sold for $33,600. In 2017, a 7 went for $13,200. Even cards rated EX/NM have tripled in value in the last three years, generally bringing $6,000-$9,000.
And while cards of No. 4 would be a tough pull in this set, overall it posed a major degree of difficulty for collectors. Those wood-grain borders, coupled with thin paper stock, made the 1966-67 set a challenge to collect for those who prefer their cards without a lot of flaws. In fact, there are only four cards from the set that graded out at PSA 10 — single copies of Claude Provost (No. 9), Ron Stewart (No. 94), Floyd Smith (No. 106) and Lou Angotti (No. 116). In fact, only 238 of the 6,941 cards submitted earned a PSA 9 grade. Orr has just one that grades at PSA 9, and 49 at PSA 8 or higher.
There are 261 graded cards of Gordie Howe (No. 109), but only three cards of “Mr. Hockey” graded as high as PSA 9.
The thin paper and the wood border — one slip and the cards are dinged.
Interestingly, of the 1,197 cards graded by SGC, ten have been rated as 98 (10). That includes an Orr card and a Phil Esposito (No. 63). There are 118 cards that grade at 96 (9.5) by SGC.
The 1966-67 set, at 132 cards, was the largest Topps hockey set to date, topping the 1965-66 set by four cards. To accommodate the television concept, the card fronts had horizontal designs. Underneath the player’s photo was type that listed the player’s name, team and position.
The card back also has a television design, although it is black and looks like the back of the set. Replacing the wood-grain border is a simple white one. The card contains biographies written in English (at the top of the card) and in French (at the bottom). The player’s name, position and team are placed at the top of the card, with a white puck-shaped icon in the top left-hand corner used to place the card number, which is in black.
In addition to Orr, Howe and Esposito, some of the key cards in the set include Toe Blake (No. 1), Gump Worsley (No. 2), Terry Sawchuk (No. 13), Jean Beliveau (No. 73) and Bobby Hull (No. 112).
The set contains a pair of checklists and team cards of Stanley Cup champion Montreal (No. 118) and runner-up Detroit (No. 119). Four cards feature head coaches: Blake, George “Punch” Imlach (No. 11), Sid Abel (No. 42) and Billy Reay (No. 53). The final 12 cards in the set and first- and second team All-Stars. They do not have a television-like look on the card front, but there is a narrow wood-grain frame for each player.
In addition to Orr, other notable first-year players include Emile Francis (No. 21) , Harry Sinden (No. 31) and Pete Mahovlich (No.103).
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Topps also produced a “U.S. Test” set of its 1966-67 cards. The primary differences are that the borders are a lighter shade of brown and the text on the back is written only in English. The Orr card and others in the test set have a white stripe visible on the side. A PSA 7 Orr test card sold for $16,757 in 2016.