TV ratings may not raise eyebrows in the states, but the NHL card market is alive, thanks in large part to its continuing ability to turn out spectacularly talented young stars.
By Joey Collins
Ever since Sidney Crosby entered the NHL and was eligible to be on an official rookie card (Sidney was depicted on cards while in junior, but these were not considered rookie cards), it seems the hockey card industry has come back to life. We all remember the thrill of buying packs in the 80’s as children even though they were basically worthless (at the time) and each pack only cost us thirty five cents. We also remember the rise and fall of the hockey card in the early nineteen nineties. Although none of us like to admit it, the excitement that was generated in the early nineties was mainly due to a young phenom entering the league named Eric Lindros. The downfall of course was due to the fact that too many companies made too many cards making them abundant and devoid of any real value.
Ever since the phenomenal rise and fall of the early nineties, the industry has been trying to regain its fallen grace. At first, card companies realized that there needed to be some kind of production standards on cards. Companies started producing less and slowly the value started to come back. Besides producing a smaller number of set cards, companies started using other techniques to generate interest. Short printing special cards such as rookies brought some value back into the first cards of players entering the league. Nowadays rookie cards are received in a ratio of packs per box (ex. 1 rookie in every 4 packs of a 24 pack box). Special cards started to be introduced into the industry. Plain base cards had become common and boring. Companies began releasing game used material cards, autographed cards, parallel variations, subsets, and many other different varieties of cards. With each new innovation, card companies were slowly bringing back consumer confidence and market share.
Bringing in new types of cards and limiting the production runs were good techniques in order to drive value and boost interest in hockey cards which were coming back from the downs they had experienced. That being said, nothing generates interest in cards more than a young phenom entering the league. Enter Sidney Crosby.
Crosby, much like Lindros before him, has been a catalyst in the jump of hockey card interest since his rookie year in the 2005/06 NHL season. There has been no better year for the NHL to have a player of Sidney Crosby’s caliber enter the pro ranks. The league had just gone through a lockout period, and the 2004/05 season was a wash. The start of the 2005/06 season being Crosby’s first coupled with the fact that there had been no hockey for NHL-starved fans for over a year provided the perfect combination. Hockey cards have since been selling strong, with young guns like Crosby leading the push. Card companies have capitalized on the popularity of the young man. Some may say this reeks of the same situation that happened in the early nineteen nineties, but the feel is different this time. It seems card companies have learned from their mistakes and are holding the line on production numbers.
There is no denying that the quality of young players coming into the league is a huge boost to hockey card sales, regardless of other techniques card companies can use. We’ve seen Lindros and Crosby manias make a difference. John Tavares has entered the league this year and is bringing a Crosby-like excitement to the game. History dictates an uptick in hockey card interest for the year. Only time will tell.