Dual rookie class has PEI hockey card collectors hoping for banner year

Jason Malloy
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Wednesday was the most anticipated release of hockey cards since Sidney Crosby’s rookie season.

Last year’s NHL lockout resulted in a dual rookie class in this year’s Upper Deck.

“There’s a tremendous amount of interest and it helps that we have another young hot rookie from Cole Harbour,” said Greg Willoughby, of Backmandy Collectibles in Charlottetown.

Of course, that youngster is Nathan MacKinnon, the first overall pick by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2013 NHL Draft.

And he’s not alone.

There’s last year’s top pick, Nail Yakupov, former Saint John Sea Dogs forward Jonathan Huberdeau, defencemen Seth Jones and Doughie Hamilton and San Jose’s Tomas Hertl, who scored four goals in a game earlier this season, among a long list of other young guns.

“It could be the best class period,” Willoughby said.

There was a steady array of people into the Charlottetown business Wednesday as people picked up a pack or box hoping to score the prized rookie’s card. Willoughby said by late afternoon he had saw three MacKinnon cards.

Last year’s work stoppage kept many people out of collecting cards. Those in the industry hope this year’s dual rookie class is a shot in the arm to the hockey card business.

“There was little or no sports cards last year, (so) it’s a big day,” Willoughby said. “Everybody is just kind of on pins and needles (to see) are they going to come back? So far today, it’s been pretty good.”

The card business went through a boom and bust in the 1990s. The product was mass-produced and it flooded the market, Willoughby said.

“The hardcore collectors stayed, but once somebody found out the Pavel Bure or Sergei Fedorov rookie card they paid $50 for was worth a dollar that drove a tremendous amount (of people) away,” he said.

At the height in the United States there were more than 3,000 shops, now there are 500. There are no numbers available in Canada, Willoughby said.

The industry has seen a bit of resurgence with strong rookie classes and by limiting the number of production.

But don’t expect to get rich.

“Most of my customers are not in it for an investment, they’re collectors,” said Willoughby. “People who get in it for an investment are usually very disappointed.”

One exception would be high-end vintage graded cards like Hall of Famers Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky or Honus Wagner.

Organizations: NHL, Upper Deck, Colorado Avalanche

Geographic location: Charlottetown, San Jose, United States Canada

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