Parkhurst Products was based in Toronto, Canada, and the candy company is remembered for its production of hockey cards in the 1950s and 1960s. Though hockey cards are, by far, their best remembered and most well-known, the company also produced cards for baseball, wrestling, Canadian football, and other activities.
Since O-Pee-Chee closed shop in Canada for World War II, the 1951 Parkhurst set was the first set in a decade. Parkhurst featured players from the six NHL teams early in their production, though they later scaled back.
In 1957, fierce competition began with Topps who was aligned with O-Pee-Chee. Parkhurst was only able to license a few teams at a time, and the O-Pee-Chee and Topps team slowly ran them down. Parkhurst’s last set was in 1963. The company and its owner reportedly had a passion for making cards for kids, but the company had other more successful businesses to attend to instead of fighting it out with O-Pee-Chee and Topps.
The Parkhurst name was brought back by Dr. Brian H. Price in 1991. He and his group licensed the brand to Pro Set. Parkhurst was distributed as a premium brand. When Pro Set folded in 1992, Parkhurst was licensed to Upper Deck which lasted for a few years.
After a brief stint as an independent brand in Europe and a short time with In the Game Trading Cards, Parkhurst was purchased by Upper Deck which had acquired an exclusive agreement with the NHL and the NHLPA in the chaos of the 2004-2005 lockout. Upper Deck produces cards with the Parkhurst brand today.
Although Parkhurst has experience as a modern brand, this article focuses on Parkhurst’s contributions to vintage cards. The several years where Parkhurst distributed hockey cards alone created great lurking cards, and this article will show some significant cards produced by Parkhurst.
1951 Parkhurst Hockey
There are 105 cards in this set with measurements of 1 ¾” x 2 ½”. For perspective on the near strip card size, the players’ pictures are about the size of a postage stamp. All six original teams are featured. Each player is posed on the front with basic information like name, team, position, year, a few stats, birthplace, birthdate, and card number. The backs are blank.
This is an expensive set. Since production of NHL cards had been halted since the late 1930s, nearly all of the cards are rookie cards. Additionally, older sets tend to have a higher proportion of Hall of Fame players, which is true for this set.
Most Mint condition cards range from $1,000 to $7,000 dollars. Major names include Maurice Richard, Terry Sawchuk, Alex Delvecchio, Doug Harvey, Red Kelly, Ted Lindsay, and Gerry McNeil. The most expensive cards are for Gordie Howe whose rookie card is valued at over $60,000 in Mint condition. A Gordie Howe PSA 8 sold for $39,000 in 2019, and even a PSA 3 of his reached $3,900 in 2019.
1952 Parkhurst Hockey
The 1952 Parkhurst hockey set has 105 cards, and Parkhurst made them a little bigger with measurements of 1 15/16” x 2 15/16”. The cards show the players on a rink with a facsimile autograph.
Major players are similar to the last set. The additional rookies include Dickie Moore, Tim Horton, and Bob Hassard.
Prices are significantly cut down for Parkhurst’s second release. Many notable cards can sell for hundreds for a PSA 8 or 9. Gordie Howe’s card remains the most expensive card, and a PSA Mint 9 sold for $17,977 in 2010. Tim Horton’s rookie card will sell for several thousand in high grade.
1953 Parkhurst Hockey
With 100 cards in the set, the 1953 Parkhurst hockey cards near the Topps standard size with measurements of 2 ½” x 3 ⅝”. The cards continue to have higher quality pictures, and this set has a facsimile autograph.
The heavy crop of rookie cards has created heavy desire for this set. Rookies include Jean Beliveau, Gump Worsley, Andy Bathgate, and Harry Howell. The pictures of rookies Al Arbour and Bill Dineen are swapped. Additionally, several greats return to help anchor the set including Gordie Howe, Tim Horton, Terry Sawchuk, and Ted Lindsay.
Prices for this set have been strongly trending upwards since PSA began keeping some records in 2009. While many cards can be purchased for well under a thousand dollars in Mint condition, a few rookie and Hall of Fame cards stand out.
For example, Jean Beliveau’s rookie card in Mint condition sold for $16,730 in 2014. Considering that in 2018 a card graded half a step lower at a PSA NM-MT + 8 sold for more, it is easy to assume that Mint condition card would break $20,000 today.
1954 Parkhurst Hockey
Topps entered the rink in 1954, and the competition shows in the fall of prices for the 1954 Parkhurst. The 1954 cards had the same size (2 ½” x 3 ⅝”) and number (100) as the year before. The pictures are of similar quality with the reoccurring addition of a facsimile autograph.
Cards 1-88 featured players, and the cards 89-100 show action scenes such as “Harvey Takes A Nose Dive.” The major rookie is Johnny Bower. Though the set faces competition and lacks a strong rookie crop, several cards of Hall of Famers sell for between one and three thousand dollars.
1955 Parkhurst Hockey
Parkhurst cut down their production to 79 cards because they only represented two teams, the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The pictures are of high quality, and there are posed and action shots. There were two versions of this card. One has the standard statistics, biographies, and other information. The other version has an advertisement for Quaker Oats, and it is the rarer version.
Bill Durnan and Jacques Plante are the major rookie cards. A PSA 7.5 of Plante sold for $7,800 in 2019.
1956 Parkhurst Hockey
No products were produced this year. It is important to not because there were no major brands producing this year. Furthermore, the Parkhurst brand made a “Missing Link” for this year decades later.
1957 Parkhurst Hockey
Topps resumed their production of hockey cards in 1957, and the competition would continue for the duration of Parkhurst hockey card productions.
Parkhurst continued to slim down. There were 50 cards in this set. The cards were labeled M1-M25 and T1-T25. The M stood for Montreal and the T for Toronto.
The major rookie cards are Frank Mahovlich, Bob Pulford, and Ed Chadwick. Ten of the Montreal squad are Hall of Famers, and five of the Toronto members are as well. So, even though Parkhurst only released cards for the two Canadian based teams, there are a number of greats.
1960 Parkhurst Hockey
The significance of the 1960 Parkhurst set is that the company acquired the rights to distribute Detroit Red Wings cards which offered additional cards for a few great players such as Gordie Howe, Terry Sawchuk, and the rookie card of John McKenzie.
There were 61 cards in the set, divided by Toronto for #1-19, Detroit for #20-37, Montreal for #38-55, combinations of players for 56-59, Ab McDonald of the Montreal Canadians at 60, and Jim Morrison of the Detroit Red Wings at 61.
Prices are lower for this set. Mint condition cards sell for around $100 for several great players.
1963 Parkhurst Hockey
This was the last year for Parkhurst hockey cards until 1991. There were 99 cards in the set which included the Detroit Red Wings, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Montreal Canadiens.
The fronts of the cards have a posed picture of each player, and the background varies with each team. Detroit Red Wings players have an American flag in the background, the Toronto Maple Leafs players have a Canadian Red Ensign, and the Montreal Canadiens have a multi colored background.
The key rookie cards belong to John Ferguson, Alex Faulkner, Jacques Laperriere, and Cesare Maniago. Many cards can be bought for around $60 in Mint condition, while cards for Hall of Famers and rookies will naturally be higher. Gordie Howe’s card is estimated to be the most expensive, but the priciest sale on PSA’s record was $2,198 for a Gem Mint Terry Sawchuk.
1994 Parkhurst Missing Link
After Pro Set filed for bankruptcy, the Parkhurst name went to Upper Deck. Upper Deck granted the company permission to produce a mock 1956-1957 “Missing Link” set for the never produced set decades prior. The cards are not valuable given the 1994 year of production.
The cards were popular. They featured players from all six NHL teams in 1956, as well as stats from the 1955-1956 season. There was no gloss finish, a basic design, and a nostalgic feel to the cards.
Upper Deck ordered more retro sets. 1964-1965 and 1966-1967 sets were released in the following two years.
Return of Parkhurst as a Brand
Upper Deck, the only company with a current NHL license, brought back the Parkhurst brand again in 2020 and it continues through to this day with an annual release. Since its re-introduction, UD has kept the brand as an “entry-level” and very affordable set. Many people will be introduced to this brand at Target or Wal-Mart as opposed to at a hobby shop as is the case with higher-end products.
It is likely that Upper Deck will continue to utilize this brand in one form or another. For now, Parkhurst remains as a standalone set, but it would not be surprising if it was used as an insert set within a different product if it is unable to retain traction in the hobby.
While the Parkhurst brand has staggered forward into modest success in the modern age, their true legacy lies in their early 50s cards. Many of the sets have huge cards that would have been lost without the company’s contribution.