Cleaning up the ’70-71 hockey design

Bobby Orr - 1970-71 OPCI’ve never found the 1970-71 Topps/OPC design to be particularly effective.  It might even be the ugliest design they ever came up with.  I think it’s certainly top five, anyway.

This is unfortunate, since as I showed a long time back, the iconic 1971 baseball set is basically a reworked 1970-71 hockey.

I was never really happy with my final result for that experiment, so I’m trying again with what I hope will be better results.

The Orr card from that year seems to be one of the better ones, so I’ll start with it again.

The first step for converting this set is to flip it vertically and reorient the text.  That, fortuately is easy and is well-within the scope of my abilites.

Orr custom 70-71 step one

I think this is a little better already.

The next step is to get the colouring correct.  Take all the white stuff and make it black, then take all the black stuff and make it white.  The tricky bit comes with the team name, which is orange/red, and turns into a light blue if one simply inverts all the colours, as I hoped would work.  Trying to keep this as orange-red led to a really painstaking pixel-by-pixel colouring job.  There must be a better way, but I can’t find it.  The problem is that the colours aren’t all that true, so I can’t select by colour.

Anyway, I wound up with this:

Orr 70-71 custom part 2

All in all, it’s not bad and it’s better than my first go a couple years back, but I find the orange background kind of garish.  It’s harder on the eyes against a black border than against the white.  The thing that works so well with the 1971 ball cards is that they are all up against a photo with a natural background.

Imagine if Topps/OPC instead went with something like this:

Bobby Orr 1970-71 custom final

Now we’re talking.  That would be a serious set to collect.

I’d buy it, anyway.

Posted in Card Design, OPC, Vintage Hockey | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Happy Birthday Mr. Hockey!

Gordie Howe - 1952-53 ParkhurstGordie Howe turns 86 today, which means that he has now been retired (34 years) for as long as his NHL/WHA career actually took to play (1946-80).

The most famous card of Gordie is probably his RC.  One that doesn’t get the recognition is this one, which is his second card (1952-53).  It uses a slightly more visible version of the same picture but has the added benefit of a wordy back and more complete stats.

I lucked into this one years ago. Somebody’s sniper program must have had a glitch.  It’s in fantastic shape and the final bid can’t have made anyone very happy – anyone other than me, that is.

Gordie Howe - 1952-53 Parkhurst back

You could get a sense of how important a player was by the amount of text Parkhurst crammed into the back. Gordie and the Rocket got the most.

From Gordie’s later career, this is a card that I’ve always been fond of that you don’t see all that often.  It’s just a posed shot like so many WHA cards were, but I like it all the same. Gordie was still in peak form, scoring 100 points per season or thereabouts and being centered by his son.  Unthinkable, really.

Gordie Howe - 1975-76 OPC WHA

Happy birthday, big guy, and continued health and associated good things.

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Making quota – 1953 Parkhurst

Hal Laycoe - 1953-54 Parkhurst

Check out those specs! No namby-pamby contact lenses for Hal.

I changed my vintage approach last year and liked it so much that I’ve kept it for this year.  Normally, I’d plug away at a small number of sets that needed upgrading or finishing and not really approach anything else until I was done.  I would then go after the next one in sequence.  If 1969-70 was complete, 1968-69 would follow it.

This was great in terms of getting projects completed, but it got a little dull from a collecting viewpoint, so a year ago I decided that instead I would simply aim for five nice examples of every postwar vintage set that I had yet to finish.  It made for a greater variety of years and players and was a lot more fun because sets I hadn’t touched in 20 years were now in play.  One of those was 1953-54 Parkhurst.

I never was that much into this set.  It was the first of the full-size Parkhurst cards (and, as I’ve come to realize, still owes a lot to Bowman baseball) and had a decent back, but I always was more of a fan of 1954-55.  Part of this, I’ve come to realize, is that most of the examples I had were fairly bashed up and these sets are always more appealing when the cards look good.

1953-54 was one of the only two 1950s sets (1954-55 was the other) to rely on actual game action shots for many of its images.  There are a handful of staged shots, particularly of rookies and bit players, but most regulars had a shot like this one above.  These two sets would be the last to feature game action in earnest until 1973-74.

1953-54 also has the best goalie shots, bar none, of any set made prior to the advent of Upper Deck.  When I get the lot of them, I’ll scan them all in.

I ended up with five cards in one lot, which technically finishes me off 1953 for this year, though if I find any bargains, I’ll nab them.

The card backs are nice and wordy, which was always a Parkhurst strength (at least prior to 1959, when they started mailing them in) and have the prior year’s stats up top:

Hal Laycoe - 1953-54 Parkhurst back

Hal Laycoe played 11 seasons with the Rangers, Habs and Bruins, but is probably best known for being the player who high-sticked Maurice Richard in 1955, setting off the sequence of events that got Richard fined and suspended for the balance of the season and playoffs.  This, of course, led to the Richard Riot of 1955 which some credit as a catalyst for the Quebec nationalist movement.

That’s actually quite a lot to lay on one person.

I won’t show all five cards here, since if I finally have posting material (we moved and everything went on hiatus for ages), I might as well use it.  I will add Pete Conacher, though.

Pete Conacher - 1953-54 Parkhurst

Pete is one of the famous Conacher clan, son of Leaf legend Charlie. He didn’t have quite the size of his father nor the full level of success, though he would score 19 goals in ’53-54, which was a pretty good total.  For anyone who though the early 2000s were a dead-puck era, they had nothing on the early 1950s.  He’d play 229 NHL games, but would play in the AHL until 1966.

This is an example of one of the staged shots.  Parkhurst probably licensed this image from Quaker Oats, Bee Hive Corn Syrup or one of other the companies that arranged the various promotional pictures that were available to kids at that time.  Still, with the boards in the background and some painted-in spectators, it fits in.

I’m liking this set a lot more than I used to.  I’ll have to keep an eye out for bargains.

Pete Conacher - 1953-54 Parkhurst back

Obviously, people were expected to simply know which of the Conachers was his father. It was Charlie, but could also have been Lionel or Roy.

There was an album available for this set as in 1952-53, but not as many must have been ordered.  These cards rarely show album damage, while 1952-53 show it all the time.

Posted in Parkhurst, Vintage Hockey | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

In memory of Tim Horton

Tim Horton - 1965-66 Topps

I’ve actually had bought from Tim Horton’s twice this morning without realizing that today is the 40th anniversary of his death.  Hard to fathom that he’d be 84 years old and one of the richest people in Canada.

Not bad after all the other attempts at businesses that didn’t work out.  The one I found most interesting was a fried chicken restaurant for which Tim himself did most of the deliveries.

My favourite story about the doughnut shops came from Open Ice – the Tim Horton Story.  Tim had some construction experience and did some of his own work on the early shops.  One day, he was digging a foundation when a group of schoolkids came by, led by their teacher.  One looked down and said, “Hey! That’s Tim Horton!”  The teacher replied, “Yes, and if you don’t do your schoolwork, you’ll end up digging ditches just like him.”

Tim Horton - 1965-66 Topps back

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Landing a whale so white it’s basically clear

I’d like to say this card is hockey’s Andy Pafko, but it really isn’t.  The 1951-52 Elmer Lach is Andy Pafko.  If anything, this card is worse.  It’s also the first card in a set and prone to getting bashed, but to make things nastier, it’s the biggest star of the 1940s and one of the top two of the 1950s.  Nice versions can run upwards of $1200.  I love this set, but this card always stood in the way of my hopes of ever finishing it.

Normally with vintage, there are certain things I avoid: I hate slant cuts, creases, stains (unless it’s easily removable OPC wax) and dings. Centering doesn’t bother me so long as I have a visible border on all sides.

This card is a moderate slant cut, has a stain, a wrinkle, corner touches and is off center.

And it’s absolutely perfect.

1952-53 Parkhurst #1 - Maurice Richard

1952-53 Parkhurst #1 – Maurice Richard

1952-53 Parkurst #1 - Maurice Richard (back)

That’s a lot of text for a really small card. That’s part of the reason I love this set.

PSA is pickier than me, and in this case, I’m couldn’t be happier.  There are still some tough cards left in this set, but this was far and away the worst of them.  Terry Sawchuk awaits.

Posted in Parkhurst, Vintage Hockey | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Set blog – 1964-65 Topps Tall Boys

Andy Bathgate - 1964-65 Topps Tall Boys

How can you not love this set?

When I first set this site up, one of the projects I wanted to tackle was a hockey set, much like I was seeing done elsewhere on the net for baseball. I wrote a few entries, interspersed with whatever else I felt like talking about, then promptly forgot about it.

I’ve decided to reopen this project and I’ve pulled the original entries into their own site. That, plus I’ve finally added a new one.

It’s at the Tall Boys – 1964-65 Topps Hockey blog.

I like the template.  It feels like hockey.

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A couple of old-school box hits

box hits, the way they should be

You didn’t leave these behind because you were after some short-printed rookie….

A few weeks back, Luke of the Cardboard Review pondered just what one would have to do to make base sets relevant again.  His solution was basically what card companies have been doing – make the sets really big, offer lots of parallels and subsets and throw the odd hit in there to make it worthwhile.  He had some interesting notions of what to do in high-end products, but that’s not really my point of interest here.  The “base set” of The Cup really isn’t a base set, in it’s purest form.  It’s still a card from a pack somebody paid $400-500 to open.  It’s not really the point of collecting.

I’m like a lot of older collectors in that I too miss the days when the point of buying cards was to complete the set.  I’d like a product that I felt like chasing.  I’d like to buy a box of cards and not feel like it was a completely wasted effort because the only practical way to acquire a set is to buy it outright.

It’s not as though kids today don’t collect cards.  They do.  I have a bunch of them and they love cards if they can get their hands on them.  What they don’t collect are sports cards – not that much, anyway.  Pokemon, Magic, you name it, they’re all over that.  Kids bring their decks to school just like how they used to bring stacks of doubles to trade.

One thing that did surprise me was how much my kids loved the Panini sticker sets. Even my daughters, who pay at best cursory attention to sports, were all over them.  On a Friday night I’d give them all a few packs each and suddenly it would be 1981 all over again.  The house was filled with kids sorting, bartering, trading, finishing off their sets.  It’s no different than it ever was.

The market is there – someone just needs to figure out how to hit it.

Anyhow, having looked at how the popular products work, if I were to suggest a way to make a viable base set, this is what I would do:

Don’t make it too big.

600-card sets are for grown-ups.  When a box is upwards of $60 and you need to buy four or five to even be in the ballpark of a set, that’s way too much of an investment.  The Panini set was around 300. That’s achievable for a young budget.

Put some effort into it.

Collectors say, “Oh, but the photography is so much better than it used to be!”  It is, but the backs are crap and have been so for years.  Kids like reading these things.  Watch them with their Pokemon cards.  They pore over the stats, read the little blurbs.  Put a little energy into the cards.  They need to be more than just a picture.

Bring the price down.

A buck a pack should bring 8-10 cards.  They don’t have to be museum-grade.  They just need to be decent.  Kids don’t have unlimited budgets.

No hits outside the base set.

None.  Nada.  Zip.  The cool thing with the stickers was that the shinies and fabric cards were part of the main set, not a chase item beyond it.  If you want all the all-stars to be refractors, so be it.  It makes the subsets more interesting, which is good, because historically, kids hated subsets.

Further, this makes the hits part of the set.  If you want the base set to mean something, make it the only thing that means anything.  The hits used to be the stars and the players from your favourite team.  There was nothing required beyond that.  All winter, I watched this sort of set work extremely well with my kids.  There’s no reason it couldn’t fly for a card set, as well.

These are the backs of the two cards I showed above.  Look at the information loaded into them along with a modicum of design effort.  This is what is utterly lacking in modern products, for all their photographic wonder.

box hits from the back

See? You can learn something. This is how kids used to learn to read. :)

Posted in Card Design, OPC, Uncategorized, Vintage Hockey | Tagged , , | 3 Comments