Pristine Orr Card Up for Auction

Bids for Bobby Orr’s rookie card, published by Topps for release in 1966, topped $140,000 this past week in a Lelands Sports Memorabilia auction (lelands.com) that will wrap up Feb. 1.

The pristine Orr card up for auction, according to Lelands, was part of a 66-card test set published ahead of the 1966-67 season and was targeted for the California market. Original Sixers will remember that the NHL expanded from six to 12 teams for the start of the following season, with California franchises awarded in Los Angeles and Oakland.

LA opened business as the Kings, and the sons of Gord Labossiere remain the state’s senior NHL franchise, joined in later years by Anaheim and San Jose (site of this week’s All-Star festivities).

Oakland opened as the California Seals and then thrice changed franchise names (Oakland Seals; Bay Area Seals; California Golden Seals) before finally packing up for Cleveland in 1976 to become the Barons (later to merge with the Minnesota North Stars).

Orr’s card, a head shot centered in a faux TV frame, was No. 35 in the set and, according to Lelands, “is likely the most sought-after hockey card in existence.” For those who forget, Orr was 18 years old, had a buzzcut, and earned Rookie of the Year (Calder) honors with his freshman line of 13-28—41.

Orr’s contract with Boston shattered league standards for rookies. For the most part, headed into the 1966-67 season, $140,000 would have covered a substantial portion of a club’s entire player payroll. Orr reportedly earned $25,000 each of his first two seasons, though that did not include his signing bonus that placed the full value of the two-year deal upward of $100,000.

No. 4 in the 66-card set was Gilles Tremblay. Orr, an unknown at No. 35, was sandwiched between Wayne Hillman and Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion. No one on that list in the autumn of 1966 knew how Orr was about to change the landscape of the entire sport.

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