And once again, the Toronto native has given hockey collectors plenty of information to absorb.
His self-published “Vintage Hockey Collector” price guide is a comprehensive look at hockey cards and collectibles from 1910 to 1990. The book, which sells for $40 (U.S. money, including shipping) and can be purchased via his website , is a fascinating look at cards, display boxes, wrappers, promotional items, food issues and merchandise.
This work, which was released in early November, is a reprise of his original “Vintage Hockey Collector” guide that was published in 2006. The 2015 version is slightly leaner in terms of pages, but still is packed with plenty of information and answers for hockey fans.
“I was always the question guy,” said Burrell, 51. “I enjoy the finding, the chasing.
“I’m somewhat of an authority. I have to know — if I know, I can help you.”
Somewhat of an authority? Go to some of the Internet hockey card trading sites, and Burrell is quoted extensively. He is definitely the go-to guy when it comes to pricing vintage hockey.
Burrell’s interest in hockey cards and memorabilia came from his love of collecting. He has his own Toronto Maple Leafs room in his home, filled with cards and memorabilia.
A Leafs fan since he was a 3-year-old in 1967 (“I’d trade my Bobby Orr cards for Maple Leafs”), Burrell collaborated with Roger Cunha to produce what he called “Vintage Wax Pack Collectors Price Guide” in 2003.
“The main reason was that there was so little known in hockey,” Burrell said. “Hockey had a late start, as opposed to baseball or football. Basketball was the same as hockey, both were part of a smaller niche market.”
“It’s like watching ‘Antiques Roadshow,’ you know, ‘this is from 1922 but it’s not old enough,’ ” Burrell laughed.
The 2006 book was 312 pages and contained 2,800 listings, documenting every hockey card set through 1990. Burrell called the 1910-1990 era “the age of innocence” in hockey.
“After that we had the money game,” he said. “In the 1990s everyone went crazy. Now they can’t even sell the boxes.”
Burrell added a lot of new entries from the 1920s and ’30s.
“I filled in the gaps, corrected some things, debunked a lot of myths,” he said.
The book is divided into three distinct sections. The first part is devoted strictly to mainstream hockey card releases, like Parkhurst, O-Pee-Chee and Topps. It’s a quick reference guide, with photos of key cards, wrappers and wax boxes.
The second section is devoted to food issues (“Food & Company Issue Premiums”) like 1970-71 Post Mini Sticks, or 1971-73 Becker NHL Team Crests, while the third section delves into “Collectibles & Merchandise” items like pennants, pins, programs and bobbleheads.
Burrell’s sense of order stems from his 9-to-5 job as a property manager in Toronto.
“I coordinate things, like landscaping and woodworking, concrete, that kind of stuff,” he said. “I really got into woodworking for a while. I can’t make anything, but I can tell you what is wrong with it.”
That organization has filtered down to his hockey price guide.
“I’m trying to set the pace for vintage,” he said.
The price guide “stays pretty much in line” with competing guides like Charlton and Beckett. But this book is more about what is out there for hockey fans to collect. Prices are always fluid, and values published today could be obsolete tomorrow. Still, Burrell’s work serves as an excellent barometer.
Burrell has written articles about hockey cards and memorabilia, but confesses that he is “not naturally predisposed to write.”
“I’m math. I got a 55 in English, but a 95 in math and gym. And the rest (of the subjects) were questionable,” he laughs.
Still, Burrell’s writings are cited by hockey collectors and even by PSA (a PSA article about 1954-55 Topps hockey, for example, cites Burrell). He is not expecting to make a profit from his publication and concedes that “there’s no real next book.”
“It’s a labor of love. I’m not doing it for the money,” he said. “When I think about the hours I’ve put into (the guide and hobby), it comes out to like a penny an hour.”
But providing collectors with a handy reference guide is much more valuable to Burrell.
“The more educated collectors are, the healthier the hobby is.”