The 1973-74 hockey season marked a changing of the guard in the NHL. The Philadelphia Flyers became the first team from the 1967 expansion class to win the Stanley Cup, stopping Boston in six games. Topps was also undergoing some changes in its hockey product, most notably expanding its set by 22 to an all-time high of 198 cards.
That’s a good thing. Not only did a larger set help accommodate the 14 NHL franchises, it also allowed Topps to include a staggering 31 future Hall of Famers in this set, counting the All-Star cards. It also helped the NHL in its battle for hockey supremacy with the fledgling WHA, giving the older league more exposure.
1973-74 Topps Hockey Basics
Wax packs of 1973-74 Topps hockey remained at 10 cents with 36 packs per box. There were rack packs and cello packs, too, along with the usual vending boxes.
Unopened product is rare today and even an empty display box fetched over $500 just a few days prior to this story being published.
The card fronts for the 1973-74 Topps set are fairly basic and mostly sport a vertical design, with a large photograph that generally depicts the player in a posed shot. The card is framed by a border that uses one of four colors: Blue, green, red or yellow. A white banner at the bottom of the photo lists the player’s team, and beneath that — within the colored border — is the name of the player and his position.
The card backs have a horizontal design and the player’s name is set inside a black strip near the top of the card. The player’s team name and position are featured directly over the player’s name. The Topps checklist number of the player is situated in the top left-hand corner of the card back.
A hockey stick is used as a device to separate the player’s vital statistics from a brief biography, and a line of statistics runs along the bottom of the card. A final embellishment is a cartoon featuring the player, located in a box on the right-hand side of the card.
The set includes league leaders in several categories, featured on card Nos. 1-6. Team photo cards are listed alphabetically by city and can be found in card Nos. 92 through 107. Card No. 116 is a checklist, while the final eight cards in the set are devoted to the Stanley Cup playoffs. The final card among those (No. 198) depicts the Montreal Canadiens, who defeated the Chicago Blackhawks in six games to win the Stanley Cup in 1973.
All-Star player cards have a different look than the base set, with a shield-like photograph replacing the rectangular shot.
Key stars in the set include Ken Dryden (No. 10), Bernie Parent (No. 66) Guy Lafleur (No. 72), Phil Esposito (No. 120), Darryl Sittler (No. 132), Stan Mikita (No. 145) and Bobby Orr (No. 150).
Some of the key rookie cards in the set are Gilles Gilbert (No. 74), Bill Barber (No. 81), Dave Schultz (No. 149) and Billy Smith (No. 162).
Nearly 11,000 cards have been submitted to PSA for grading and finding cards in high grade for the 1973-74 set is not difficult to do. A total of 125 cards have been awarded gem mint status, while 2,248 cards have been graded at PSA 9. More than 6,200 cards have graded out to at least PSA 8.
Finding stars in high grade is not difficult, either. While Orr has just one PSA 10 card, there are 21 graded at PSA 9 and 149 at PSA 8. Neil Komadoski (No. 16) has five cards submitted that were graded at PSA 10 – the most gem mint cards for one player in the set.
A total of 911 cards have been submitted to SGC for grading, and while none are gem mint, 74 have been graded at 96 and 109 were at 92.
This is one inexpensive older set, despite the colored borders. Cmplete, ungraded sets with good eye appeal are still available for under $150. Most Hall of Famers–even in a 9 or 10 grade–are well within most collectors’ budgets.
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