Well the NHL is back but things are still quite a bit wonky out there, so why not take a peek at the ur-Topps Hockey set today! Why not indeed, it's gorgeous:
I've covered the 1954-55 Hockey set here previously and figured it's high time to lok at some original artwork. I'm going off memory for some of this as the Vintage Hockey Forum shutdown has impacted my ability to document things properly but here goes anyway (and please contact me with corrections).
First though, some hazy "facts"-according to hockey hobby maven and Friend o'the Archive Bobby Burrell, the cards were transported into Canada whole, where they were cut and paired with some O-Pee-Chee bubble gum in wrppaers produced north of the border. I recall seeing an accident involving a truck carrying the sheets somewhere near Detroit (London Ontario, home of O-Pee-Chee is about 120 miles Northeast of Detroit) made at least one news report but as noted, no dice on the source at present.
The 60 card Topps set only included the four American teams while Parkhurst, the main competition in Canada, had all six in their 100 card set (they switched to just the two Canadian teams after this for a spell). The Topps set is more abundant these days than Parkhurst's by at least a 2 1/2 to 1 ratio on a card-to-card basis if you go by PSA's numbers and they are not difficult to find generally, although top grade examples are rare due to the full bleed borders.
Bobby Burrell advises no Topps cards were sold in Boston, Chicago or Detroit. It seems possible that the New York City area saw some being Topps HQ-land and all but I can't imagine they sold too many that way. The March 20, 1959 Card Collectors Co. Catalog #10 offered singles and sets ($3!) and I'm assuming the offered cards did not readily flow back across the border (even allowing for Detroit "black market" activity). A year later the price had doubled in the catalog and then they were gone. Topps may have had sheets held back, or they had cut the cards already for sale but either way, Woody Gelman had 'em. Fun Fact: -Topps would cut sheets specifically for CCC (and presumably for its antecedent, Sam Rosen) and also pre-sort the cards they sold to Woody:
Several years ago (decades really) the original art from the hockey cards were offered on a team-by-team basis and they went for a song (again, from memory). The artwork, as you can imagine, is stunning, as this scan nicked from Heritage Auctions shows:
My take on the red, white and blue theme of the set is that it's based on the red & blue lines and white ice surface of a hockey rink.
Indeed, it could be. The Shorin's loved using the colors of the American flag-their American Gas Stations used it and I think American Leaf Tobacco Co. did as well and of course, Bazooka embraced it.
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