Buyers pay $100s for McDavid collectibles, $1000s for Orr

Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe and Bobby Orr.

No surprise, but these men aren’t just hockey players, they are icons, national heroes. What’s surprising about these legendary players? Their collectibles still sell in abundance.

Andy Dunning, the owner of Andy’s Sports Cards and Collectibles in the northwest Calgary community of Hidden Valley, says sports card trading and collecting memorabilia is a hobby that is still alive, even thriving, among sports fans and aficionados.

“It’s making a big comeback,” says Dunning. “All that stuff is hard to find now, especially in good condition.”

The “stuff” he is referring to are items like photos and cards signed by Howe and Orr, or the Philadelphia Flyers’ John LeClair jersey hanging near the entrance of his shop.

While most cards aren’t worth more than the purchase price, if not less, some extremely rare cards can sell online for thousands of dollars. Photo by Jesse BuchholzA lot of these items are rare enough that many cost a small fortune. As a result, some collectors consider them investments that will gain value over time.

“Nowadays people put stuff away, and they know to take care of it because they see the money and the profit down the road,” says Dunning. “Gordie Howe, Wayne Gretzky, Sidney Crosby they didn’t make a lot of cards with autographs on them to make them rare on purpose. So those will probably have a lot of value down the road.”

Cards aren’t the only “retro” collectible making a comeback among sports fans. Vintage jerseys are also in high demand.

According to Amazon.ca, the best-selling retro jersey in the online retailer’s sports section is a vintage number 17 worn by Toronto Maple Leafs’ legend Wendel Clark.

In January, the NBA Store released a throwback 1991 Michael Jordan all-star jersey in commemoration of the NBA All-Star weekend that took place in Toronto in February.

Additionally, both the New York Mets and the Vancouver Canucks have planned to wear retro uniforms as alternate jerseys at least once in 2016. The Mets have selected the iconic 1986 jerseys that they wore en route to their World Series victory, while the Canucks are wearing vintage jerseys in celebration of Rogers Arena being their home for the past 20 years.

It would seem more than just sales are in mind when it comes to resurrecting a throwback jersey, perhaps a desire to re-visit past glories.

However, Dunning believes Canadian demographics, such as younger sports fans, play a big role in determining why hockey collectibles sell at a much higher rate, especially in Calgary where Flames’ items top the sales list as well.

“We’ve got some good players, Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. With those guys doing good a lot of the stuff is selling well,” says Dunning. “It’s totally opposite if you go to the States. It’s the other way around. There’s hardly any hockey. There’s a lot more football and baseball because that’s their market.”

Darren Pawlyc is the owner of Maple Leaf Sports in Calgary where he has amassed many collectibles ranging from portraits of players to trading cards which he sells in-store. Photo by Jesse BuchholzDarren Pawlyc, owner of Maple Leaf Sports in Calgary, says that while there is still a market for vintage items, it’s the current star players who get the most attention.

“Right now it’s all about Connor. Connor-mania is number one,” says Pawlyc, referring to Connor McDavid, the Edmonton Oilers’ young star. “It’s the McDavids, the Gaudreaus, the Crosbys, the Ovechkins that drive the industry and not so much Gordie Howe, Wayne Gretzky or Bobby Orr.”

While Pawlyc says retro items aren’t his top sellers, they’re still an important factor for shop owners to keep in mind when looking at what inventory to stock.

“When you walk into our store the first showcase we have, that contains all of our vintage cards, and while the vintage players aren’t a big seller like I mentioned, we still do get requests for them,” says Pawlyc.

“I get kids that are eight, nine, 10 years old. They’re spending a hundred dollars and it blows my mind.” – Andy DunningI wouldn’t say it’s exclusively the older generation. I will get younger collectors coming in asking for a Rocket Richard or Wayne Gretzky card, and 99 per cent of the time it’s because that player was their dad’s favourite player.”

Dunning says it’s not just the older generation getting back into the collection game. There are a lot of younger people coming in hoping to find that one rare item they can brag about.

“Sports is flourishing, with hockey being so big,” says Dunning. “I get kids that are eight, nine, 10 years old. They’re spending a hundred dollars and it blows my mind.”

CBC News reported in September that many of the older cards definitely fall within this spending range. Gretzky’s rookie card usually sells for about $800. A rookie Howe or Orr card on the other hand can put a rather large dent in your savings at about $3,000 each.

Amidst the large number of sports franchises looking to reflect on their history, there are an increasing amount of pre-game ceremonies celebrating the players and moments that were iconic to their team history.

While there are proprietors like Pawlyc who haven’t experienced an influx of sales regarding retro-themed items, if the recent state of sports events are any gauge, the trend of retro-themed sports memorabilia show no signs of slowing down in the near future.

Thumbnail photo by Jesse Buchholz.

jbuchholz@cjournal.ca 

The editor responisble for this article is Melanie Walsh, mwalsh@cjournal.ca