Realizing the growing popularity of the sport, Topps loaded up on its 1975-76 hockey set. While the 330-card issue is small by many of today’s standards, at the time it was a massive collection for the trading card giant since larger Topps sets wouldn’t hit the street until 15 years later when they went to battle with Bowman, Score, and Upper Deck all releasing products in 1990.
It coincided with the company’s 1975-76 basketball set, which also soared in size.
The expansion of the 1975-76 hockey offering allowed Topps to achieve a few goals. First, it afforded collectors the opportunity to find more unique players that couldn’t be squeezed into a smaller product. Perhaps more importantly, it no doubt encouraged consumers to spend more money buying packs of cards in order to complete the set. The ploy didn’t last as the company dropped back down to 264 cards the following year, but the 330 they produced for the 1975-76 season was a significant move.
1975-76 Topps Hockey Basics
Overall, this is about as visually clean an issue as you could hope to find. The standard-size (2 ½” x 3 ½”) white-bordered cards feature the team names at the top while the player names rest at the bottom in a smaller font – simple, modest, and basic. A relatively nice touch are the various colored hockey pucks that reside in the lower left corner, designating each player’s position while the image occupies most of the space in the middle.
Its affordability is also an attractive feature. High-grade sets can often be had on eBay in the $100 – $150 range.
Plenty of Stars, Light on Rookie Cards
The set, as you might expect with more cards, included an increasing number of star players. A gaggle of stars and Hall of Famers can be found, including legends such as Bobby Orr, Stan Mikita, Ken Dryden, Marcel Dionne, Bobby Clarke, Guy Lafleur, Phil Esposito, Denis Potvin, and a host of others. While you would arguably find all of those players in a smaller set, what the large collection did was allow Topps to feature many of the smaller stars of hockey as well as produce some interesting subsets.
One strike against the large set is that it is light on key rookie cards. Pierre Larouche and Clark Gillies, which can be had for less than $5 each, lead the way there in a relatively lackluster group. Despite that unfortunate distinction, Topps managed to fill that gap nicely with several other interesting cards such as those recapping the prior year’s playoffs, All-Star cards, League Leaders, and team checklists.
Packs and Graded Cards
Unopened packs of the product are tough to find, but not impossible. eBay generally has a handful of auctions for them at any given time with asking prices often ranging between $30-50 per pack. Boxes, on the other hand, are far more desirable and scarce. A partial box recently sold for $636 and the price would no doubt have been significantly higher if it was complete and the usual worries of pack searching didn’t exist.
While gem mint cards do exist for this set, finding many in higher grades can be difficult. The current PSA Population Report shows fewer than ten Mint 9s and Gem Mint 10s combined for more than 60 different cards – roughly 1/5 of the set. Arguably the toughest to find in Gem Mint 10 is No. 200 Phil Esposito. 83 have been submitted with zero achieving a perfect score. No. 288 Bobby Orr also seems to be a difficult one with only one Gem Mint 10 example out of 149 submittals and several others are still awaiting their first flawless grade.
At first glance, this is a pretty bland set in terms of eye appeal and the lack of key rookie cards will be enough to keep some collectors away. But when you consider its place as one of the larger sets of its era, piecing it together in high-grade condition is enough of a challenge that it shouldn’t be overlooked.