I missed the day for Bobby Orr last week, but I won’t miss this one. Gordie Howe is 85 this weekend. That doesn’t make me feel old as Gordie was always old (whereas Bobby Orr is perpetually young and the notion of Orr at 65 is kind of abhorrent). I’m not going to try for a career look at Howe as there are so many cards that it’s unwieldy (also I’m missing the ’54 Topps), but these are a few of significance to me.
Like Orr, Gordie Howe is one of those players that has long captured my imagination. From a collecting perspective, I missed him by this much, as I started in earnest the year after his last card. I wrote about 18 months ago about the experience of seeing a real Gordie Howe card for the first time. It was reverential.
Since WHA cards were mostly available in the early 1980s, I was able to get my hands on a number of different Howes. They were all fun, but what I really wanted to find was something in a Red Wings uniform. I had the Dad’s Cookies card, but the heart wanted OPC.
When the family left Calgary in 1983, one of the things that made it even a shred palatable to me was the availability of serious card shops. We simply didn’t have them at that time and I knew that Ontario did. Not long after we arrived, I got a chance to visit one – it was five minutes to closing and I was allowed to dash in. It blew my mind. Only once had I ever even seen a card older than 1971 and this place had them by the dozen, laid out in a cabinet. I picked up my first ’51 and ’52 Parkies that night along with the Howe above. It’s hokey to think of it now, but at the time it was all but indescribable. It was like finding the Hope diamond in a shoebox.
I eventually upgraded it for my set, but this card still resides in the “special” box.
1975-76 OPC WHA
Another favourite is this one – it’s not the most expensive or the rarest, but I’ve always simply liked it. I said that the WHA cards were largely available, but that’s really true for every set but one. For whatever reason, 1975-76 is really hard to put together. This card is posed, but I just like the look of it:
Bobby Hull was the straw that stirred the drink for the WHA, but I never find his WHA cards to be as cool as Gordie’s.
This next one isn’t really all that significant, but it’s one that I have always liked and another that I remember where it came from. The best shop I have ever seen was in downtown Barrie, Ontario. It’s gone, sadly, but it was just unreal. Boxes of old Parkies, the first ’52 wrappers I’ve seen (which were cut from leftover sheets of ’51-52), boxes of cards from the ’30s (of which I should have bought more but didn’t) – if I’d had about $300 there 25 -30 years ago, man….
This card came from that shop. Just one that I like:
One of the great “ones that got away” stories was a complete set of Tall Boys (probably about EX-plus) for $300 at my Burlington shop in about 1988. I wanted it, but that was a lot of coin back then. One of the cards I did get from that shop was this Tall Boy of Gordie Howe. This is such a cool picture – just the ultimate look of a warrior:
The scars really make it. Those were earned.
The last one I’ll post will have me accused of burying the lede. It was a flea market find and cost (I think) $66 around 1985. I would miss out on a near-perfect one in Burlington for $135 that I’ve never forgiven myself for, but I’m glad I nailed this one down. It’s one of the highlights of the collection:
It kind of boggles the mind to think that the Gretzky RC is about the same age now as this was when I bought it.
This card is the sort of thing that drew me to vintage in the first place and keeps me there despite all the new and nifty things that companies are doing. There’s still a bit of that little kid from 30 years ago in me who will pick up an old hunk of cardboard and just be dumbstruck that ‘holy cow – that’s Gordie Freaking Howe!‘ I’ve picked up a modern Howe autograph and a swatch card and it’s not the same thing. I just find these more real.
Happy Birthday Gordie! I didn’t see you play the first time around, but you gave me a ton of collecting fun.