Hockey card collectors who are fans of “The Original Six” are able to fill their collections with Hall of Famers at a much higher rate than those who support other NHL teams. There were nearly two decades of cards produced when the league was comprised of the Boston Bruins, Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs, although not every set during the 1950s and 1960s had all six teams. Collectors can pick between the different sets to find the right mix of affordable legends and Hall of Famers from their favorite NHL teams.
The Boston Bruins didn’t have a lot of success when the great vintage card sets were being released but they did provide one of the most famous cards of that era, Bobby Orr’s rookie card, which appeared in 1966-67 Topps. The Orr rookie card varies greatly in price, depending on grade but there are usually a few available on eBay. Orr’s second year card is more affordable and some ungraded examples from later in his career can be found for very reasonable costs.
Boston was a contender in the late 1950s so a collector may want to target Bruins from the sets of that era. Don McKenney, Fleming MacKell and Leo Boivin provided a lot of the scoring and all have relatively inexpensive cards. John Bucyk moved to the Bruins in 1957-58 and the Hall of Famer’s rookie card is #10 in the Topps set, usually priced at $100 and up.
Chicago Black Hawks collectors will want to make sure they have cards of Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita. The rookie card for Mikita was in 1960-61 Topps, while Hull’s rookie was in 1958-59 Topps. Mikita was in Chicago for a couple of decades and Hull spent many years there too, so they have a lot of cards to collect including some from their championship seasons. Not only do they have the cards of two of the franchise’s best players but also other Hall of Famers who defeated the Red Wings for the Stanley Cup.
The 1961-62 Topps cards, which also have Boston and New York players in the set of 66 cards, show the Black Hawks in posed pictures along with a few with in-game “Hockey Highlights” and card #42 which shows the entire team with the Stanley Cup after winning in ’61.
Hull’s card can sell for around $100 for a low grade or an ungraded example, while a PSA 8 Hull sold recently on eBay for $306. A PSA 8 Mikita was $200. Other important Chicago players in the set include goalie and Hall of Famer Glenn Hall, Pierre Pilote, Ron Murphy and Dollard St. Laurent.
When it comes to the Detroit Red Wings and vintage hockey cards there is Gordie Howe, and then the other Red Wings of that era. His rookie card appeared in 1951-52 Parkhurst and sells for $1,000 and up, even in low grade. Cards from any of those early hockey sets would be great to collect for a Red Wings fan, but they could also look to a more affordable selection of cards from a set after the famous run of Stanley Cups which resulted in wins in 1950, 1952, 1954 and 1955.
1957-58 Topps is a set to consider. Cards 34 to 50 in 1957-58 Topps are Red Wings. Six Hall of Famers are among the Detroit players. There are six rookie cards, including the rookie card of Hall of Famer center Norm Ullman. Howe, goalie Terry Sawchuk, Alex Delvecchio, Marcel Pronovost and Red Kelly are among the Red Wings in this set who were part of the 1955 Stanley Cup-winning team. The 1957-58 Topps #42 Gordie Howe will be the most expensive Red Wing.
During the 1950s and 1960s, the Montreal Canadiens won a Stanley Cup once every two years, on average. They had great teams, full of great players, and their vintage cards are some of the most expensive. Canadiens collectors will find Hall of Famers and Cup winners in any vintage set. They can just pick which one has the best combination of players, price, card design and availability.
1959-60 Parkhurst is a set with only 50 cards, and those looking for championship Canadiens will find all of the big names from that famous era. Half the cards in the set are Canadiens, the rest are Toronto Maple Leafs. There is a card of Toe Blake who was coach at that time, but also great player in the 1930s and 1940s. Both Maurice and Henri Richard have cards. Defenseman Doug Harvey is card #8, while goaltender Jacques Plante and Boom Boom Geoffrion are some of the other Hall of Famers to collect. Complete sets and bulk lots of cards can be found online.
When all the amazing sets of vintage cards were being produced in the 1950s and 1960s the New York Rangers were far from amazing. The franchise had a long Stanley Cup drought from a win in 1939–40 up until the 1993–94 win with Mark Messier, Brian Leetch and Adam Graves. In the late 1960s the Rangers became a playoff team and continued that even when the league expanded, so a Rangers fans may want to look at sets from those seasons. The 1966-67 Topps set has a great design, and as a complete set has a high price due to Bobby Orr’s rookie card, and a more affordable option may be the following year’s set which is the last one made with only six NHL teams.
1967-68 Topps features many great Rangers, among them are goalies Ed Giacomin and Gilles Villemure, veteran center Phil Goyette, goal-scoring wings Don Marshall and Rod Gilbert, slap shot inventor Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion who came out of retirement to play for New York and Bob Nevin who had been traded to the Rangers by the Maple Leafs. Not only are there Rangers cards from numbers 21 to 31 and 84 to 91 but also among the All-Star cards at the end of the set of 132 cards. It is a set of very bright cards, and the pictures on the fronts are of posed players, while the backs of the cards have player information and little color. The expensive cards in this set are from the other five teams, so a Rangers collector can assemble all the New York cards at an affordable price. Most of the Rangers are under $10 each.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are the only one of the Original Six to not win after the league expanded. Their long displacement from holding the Cup has been blamed by their fans on bad owners, bad players and bad luck. But they can find some great cards of their best-ever players among the vintage hockey sets. There are plenty of Hall of Famers who helped put up banners in Maple Leaf Gardens. The Maple Leafs won several Cups between 1950–51 and 1966–67.
Season 1962-63 was a great year during that run, and the 55-card Parkhurst set has several great designs that bring attention to the team’s logo and also where they are from, by highlighting the T in Toronto. Frank Mahovlich has card numbers 4 and 18 in the set. A Hall of Famer, he scored 597 points for the Maple Leafs and later played for other NHL and WHA teams. His rookie card is in the 1957-58 Parkhurst set, card #T17. Hall of Fame goalie Johnny Bower is also in the 1962-63 set along with Dave Keon, Tim Horton, Red Kelly and Allan Stanley. The set also has cards of Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens.
If you want to bypass the vintage end, Ultimate put together a special “Original Six” set in 1991-92. Complete sets are less than $10 but there are also autographed cards from players who were living at the time of issue.