Parkhurst Products

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Parkhurst Products of Toronto, Canada was a confectionery company that produced Parkies and Zip picture cards in the 1950s and 1960s. The company, led by a Mr. George Kennedy, primarily produced hand-size picture cards for ice hockey, but also produced them for baseball, Canadian football, wrestling and other subjects.

Vintage Parkies and Zip cards[edit]

Over a 13-year period from 1951-52 to 1963-64, Parkhurst Products made 12 popular hockey sets, primarily targeted towards kids. A typical pack of Parkies or Zip hockey cards cost just five cents and included both a stick of gum and a stack of cards (usually four or five cards to a pack).

Bubble gum cards were popular in Canada and the United States in the 1930s, but they were all but forgotten in the 1940s because of war-time rations. Thanks to the 10-year gap between the 1940-41 O-Pee-Chee series and 1951-52 Parkies series, the new 1951-52 Parkies series featured the first popular cards for many of the game's heroes. The two biggest rookies (or rookie cards as they are known today) were legends Maurice Richard and Gordie Howe (both of whom had actually made their debuts in the 1940s).

For its first four seasons, the Parkies hockey series featured players from all six National Hockey League teams. The 1951-52 series was small (44.5 mm x 63.5 mm) and the 1952-53 series only slightly bigger (49.2 mm x 74.6 mm). Starting in 1953-54, the Parkies series was a comfortable size of 63.5 mm x 92.1 mm (originally marketed as "Giant" in comparison to the previous seasons).

In those early years, Parkhurst Products also made a small-size series of minor-league baseball cards in 1952, a small-size series of Canadian football cards in 1952, and two hand-size series of wrestling cards in 1954-55 and 1955-56. It also produced a small-size Photo-Magic series of Canadian football cards in 1956.

In 1955-56, the Parkies hockey series featured only the two Canadian teams: the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs. The 1955-56 series included both modern players are retired Oldtime Greats from both teams. In 1956-57, no 'proper' Parkies hockey series was produced (although Photo Magic cards have surfaced in recent years).

Starting in 1957-58, Parkies went head to head with O-Pee-Chee hockey cards (produced in conjunction with Topps Chewing Gum). The Parkies hockey series still featured just the two Canadian teams, while the O-Pee-Chee/Topps series featured the NHL's four American teams. Parkies established a new, slightly trimmer card size of 61.9 mm x 92.1 mm; O-Pee-Chee used the newly established Topps standard size of 63.5 mm x 88.9 mm (2.5" x 3.5").

Starting in 1960-61, Parkies added the Detroit Red Wings to its hockey series, most notably adding reigning MVP Gordie Howe to its hockey series for the first time in six years. The O-Pee-Chee/Topps series was now left with just three American teams (although for two years it included either cards or stamps of retired All-Time Greats).

In 1963-64, Parkhurst Products made its last hockey series. While it is said Mr. Kennedy loved making hockey cards for the kids, it is believed that his success in other enterprises urged him to drop his bubble gum and picture card business. After Parkies left the hockey card market, the ensuing 1964-65 O-Pee-Chee/Topps series featured players from all six NHL teams.

Modern Parkhurst hockey cards[edit]

The Parkhurst was resuscitated in 1991 by a group led by Dr. Brian H. Price. After Price tried unsuccessfully to acquire an NHL license. As a last resort to bring the historic brand back, he licensed Parkhurst to Pro Set Inc., a Dallas based hockey card manufacturer. After the hockey card explosion of 1990–91, Parkhurst cards were back in the marketplace. Now promoted as a premium brand of cards, there were three different series available. Series I and Series II were available in both English and French and featured the rookie cards of players such as Dominik Hasek and John LeClair. The 1991–92 Update Set was the final release of the year and was the most valuable of all three sets. One of the key rookie cards of that set was of Bill Guerin. Of note, the cases of Parkhurst cards were sequentially numbered, and this was the first time hockey card cases were numbered.

When Pro Set, Inc. entered Chapter Eleven bankruptcy protection prior to the 1992–93 "season", Price was forced to travel weekly from Toronto to Dallas and became the unofficial hockey brand manager in order to keep the brand alive. The second year of Parkhurst (1992–93) was the last with Pro Set as the company went bankrupt and Price took his Parkhurst brand name to The Upper Deck Company, a five-year agreement which began with the 1993–94 season.

As part of the Upper Deck/Parkurst license agreement, during the 1993–94 hockey season, Price was allowed under the Upper Deck/NHL licence to create and release three retrospective Parkhurst trading cards sets. The first set of cards was known unofficially as "The Missing Link" (a mock 1956-57 set). These cards were produced to complement the fact that Parkhurst did not make cards in 1956. All the cards in the set featured the Original Six teams. The cards featured stats from the 1955–56 season, and had a very retro feel to them, with a no-gloss finish and simple design. One of the most unusual cards in the set was a card featuring the likeness of Johnny Bower in a New York Rangers uniform, while other Parkhurst traditions were upheld, such as action cards.

The popularity of this set led to two other retro-style sets, one commemorating the 1964–65 season (in the "Tall Boy" format Topps used that year), released in 1995, and a subsequent set issued in 1996. This set "commemorated" the 1966–67 season, which signified the rookie season of Bobby Orr and the final Stanley Cup triumph of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Once again, all Original Six teams were featured in the set and each pack contained a "wheel", akin to the Shirriff pieces issued around this time. There was one wheel issued per pack, which paralleled the shell cards (player cards) in the set, as well as 10 bonus wheels that paralleled the Beehive-inspired inserts of Orr and Gordie Howe.

Aside from the Missing Link sets, three other series were issued by Price and Upper Deck (two series in 1993–94 and one in 1994–95) in North America. One other set released in 1994–95 was the Parkhurst SE series (Special Edition), intended for distribution in Europe but equally available in North America. It could be distinguished from the standard 1994-95 Parkhurst cards by its unique numbering with an SE prefix. This set also featured the first cards of players like Jarome Iginla and Jean-Sébastien Giguère.

After two years, Upper Deck breached their Parkhurst license agreement in 1995, thus the brand was no longer in Upper Deck's hands. With no place else to turn, Price created his own release, Parkhurst International, only available in the European markets. Some of the highlights from the 1995–96 Parkhurst set can be found in Series II, including the first card of Wayne Gretzky in a St. Louis Blues uniform. Although the controversy of this card was that Wayne Gretzky's face was superimposed over previous captain Shayne Corson's body, it was not correct. Wayne Gretzky was also featured on another card in the Series II set, but this time, it was on the back. Kevin Stevens was featured in Series II as a member of the Los Angeles Kings. On the back of the card is a picture of Kevin Stevens and Wayne Gretzky wearing the Los Angeles Kings' third jersey. This is the only known card that features an image of Wayne Gretzky in this infamous Kings "playing card" jersey. Despite these unique Gretzky issues, the brand disappeared after 1995–96, save for phone card and 24-karat gold specialty issues.

In The Game obtains Parkhurst license[edit]

For the 50th anniversary of the initial set, the Parkhurst brand was relaunched by Dr Price's new venture In The Game Trading Cards. The set originally appeared as an insert in various 2000–01 products before being re-introduced a year later as a standalone set. Parkhurst was issued both in 2001–02 and 2002–03 before becoming a larger brand name in 2003–04, where it was broken up into multiple sets, including Parkhurst Rookie and Parkhurst Original Six, which was subdivided into six sets. Several collectors still debate the legitimacy of these cards being considered rookie cards, since they were team-specific. The only other set issued under the Parkhurst moniker was Parkhurst Retro (in the 2002–03 season), which utilized the 1951–52 design.

Upper Deck Company acquires Parkhurst license[edit]

The new incarnation lasted only a few years before the 2004–05 NHL lockout threw the trading card market into chaos. During this year, the NHLPA did not work with In The Game. ITG, rather than use the Parkhurst name, used alternate titles such as In The Game Franchises under a licence from the NHL.

Prior to the lockout, Ted Saskin of the NHLPA made a back room deal with Upper Deck making them exclusive licensee for NHLPA hockey trading cards. When the NHL resumed operation, the NHL got wind of the NHLPA's arrangement and agreed to give Upper Deck an exclusive arrangement, too.

In 2005, Upper Deck acquired the license to the Parkhurst brand name and issued a new Parkhurst series. This was a unique brand that was launched late in the 2005–06 season, featuring 700 cards and had a card of Alexander Ovechkin's goal, lying flat on his back (card number 588). Another unique card commemorated the first head-to-head meeting between Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby (card number 600). In all, there were four cards of Alexander Ovechkin (card numbers 588, 597, 600, and 700), while there were six cards of Sidney Crosby (card numbers 526, 586, 587, 593, 657, and 694). Not to be forgotten, this set also features Stanley Cup Hero Cam Ward of the Carolina Hurricanes (card number 614).

Parkhurst returned in the 2006–07 season, with a shift in focus to retired players. The set included a wide variety of autographs, from Hall of Fame honoured members such as Patrick Roy to cult favourites like Bobby Smith.

References[edit]

  • Vintage Parkhurst hockey card checklists
  • Parkhurst hockey card image archives
  • The Parkies Hockey Card Story (print edition book, 2013)
  • Print editions of Canadian Sports Collector
  • Print edition of Charlton Hockey Cards (2006). Trajan Publishing.
  • Print edition of Vintage Hockey Collector's Price Guide (2006). Burrell, Bobby.