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Bobby Hull Rookie Card

Hull rookie card takes rough, six-decade journey

It is not surprising that the Bobby Hull rookie in my hockey card collection is in rough shape. What is surprising is the fact that it still exists at all, considering how it began its 66-year journey to my hands.

As a Canadian kid of the 1980s the focus of my card collection were the O-Pee-Chee National Hockey League sets, whose packs – complete with a stick of gum – you could purchase at any corner store.

And I sort of lucked out by doing my serious collecting in the early part of that decade. I obtained a Wayne Gretzky rookie card – part of the 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee set – simply via a pack purchase at the store. I have a trio of second-year Gretzky cards from the following season’s set, along with two Ray Bourque and Mark Messier rookies apiece. And from the next few years I have rookie cards for all the big stars of the era – Paul Coffey, Ron Francis, Steve Yzerman, Pat LaFontaine, Al MacInnis, Mario Lemieux.

Topps, Parkhurst hockey cards found in basement

But when I stumbled on a long-forgotten box of sports cards in my grandparents’ basement I really lucked out. Along with cards for the Canadian Football League and, amusingly, television westerns like Gunsmoke, it also contained Topps and Parkhurst NHL cards from the late 1950s to the early 1960s.

That includes the aforementioned Hull rookie card, part of the 1958-59 Topps set and valued at a few thousand dollars in the latest Beckett Hockey magazine. Well, valued at a few thousand dollars in mint condition. And the Hull rookie in my possession would not be considered anywhere close to mint.

My grandparents on that side of the family had four kids, all boys, and most of the stories from my dad and my three uncles about their childhood ended with at least one of them getting injured. Consider yourself lucky if you have never been told a tale about an invented game called ‘dart tag.’ And imagine what four boys would get up to with a backyard apple tree providing an unlimited number of projectiles.

Howe, Horton, Bower cards suffered similar fate

Needless to say, they didn’t exactly take great care of their card collection – they certainly were not encased in plastic as befitting future Hall of Fame players. Along with the Hull rookie, the Hull second-year card from the 1959-60 Topps set plus the Gordie Howe card from that set are also both in tragic condition, and many Toronto Maple Leafs players like Tim Horton and Johnny Bower from the Parkhurst sets look like they were glued to construction paper and then ripped back off and tossed in the box.

Luckily, though, some of the cards from those sets made it through in much better condition. The 1960-61 Topps Stan Mikita rookie card is relatively unscathed, and the Bobby Hull card from that set did not suffer the same fate as its two predecessors. The 1961-62 Parkhurst Dave Keon rookie card is strong as well, and the Montreal Canadiens cards from the 1960-61 Parkhurst set were not treated in the same manner as the Toronto players – they were probably mercifully set aside and ignored when obtained.

Those old Topps and Parkhurst cards – at least the ones in better condition – are now properly encased and stored with Gretzky and his 1980s friends in a secure location. The tattered Hulls and Howe and Horton, who barely survived their journey to my collection, are a little less encased and stored in a location that is a little less secure, afforded about the same status as my Mike Gartner rookie cards.

Still, it’s fun to take them out from time to time and look at their frayed edges and creases, imagining the horrors they must have endured back when nobody thought they could be worth something one day.

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With zero championships between his MLB, NHL, and NFL teams over the last 30 years, Dave keeps one foot in the past while shaking his fist at the present. Having provided content to all manner of sports websites over a 20-year career in the industry, Dave brings to Attiq an eye for all things editorial and a disdain for all things New York Yankees. Click here for Dave's posts.