While some form of hockey cards have been collected
throughout North America and certain parts of Europe since the
popularization of the sport in the early 20th century, the hobby of
collecting has truly evolved in the last 30 years or so.
Initially, when for years the only major card companies were Parkhurst,
Topps and O-Pee-Chee, there were a limited amount of packs and cards
which were produced every year and collecting a complete set, finding
Rookie cards or a rare misprint was the principal preoccupation of
collectors. There were experiments in creating short print (or "SP")
cards in order to create interest among fans who would seek out a card
which had been printed a limited amount of times.
By the end of the 1980s and early 1990s there were many new entrants
into the Hockey Card industry. Score, Pro-Set, Upper Deck, and later In
the Game, Pacific among many others were now adding their own unique
flare to hockey cards. The increased competition was great for adding
variety to the offerings of cards available, and sales of the industry
increased significantly in step with the popularization of Beckett
Magazine (a monthly price guide).
Some of the new innovative card
designs which began to be released were new hand autographed cards,
along with cards which contained "Game Used Memorabilia", meaning an
actual piece of jersey, stick or skate from an NHL player that was used
during a game.
However, this increased competition was not to
last as most card companies save for Upper Deck and In the Game were
bought out or closed operations. The few companies which remain
continue to innovate with new cards, contests and various new subsets
for every type of fan.