Diamonds in the Junk – 1990 Bowman Hockey4 min read


For collectors of a certain age there is something oddly comforting about junk wax cards. Far too many were printed, they’re littered with quasi-errors and print issues, and “rare” chase cards are numbered in the thousands. However, they are also full of players who are now in their respective halls of fame, the cards are necessary parts of many PSA Set Registries and a $5 or $10 investment can still bring hours of enjoyment. Not a bad deal. Here is the latest installment in the PSA Blog series called Diamonds in the Junk, where we crack some junk wax, review the results, relate them to the hobby today and have fun along the way. Today I review 1990 Bowman Hockey.


Let me begin by stating that this is the first hockey box I have ever opened… in my entire life. Growing up in Southern California when I did, I didn’t have a lot of exposure to hockey. Still, I am always up for learning something new, and how can you go wrong with cards?

After bursting back onto the trading card scene with their oversized baseball cards in 1989, Bowman produced standard-sized baseball and hockey cards in 1990. The passing of time has determined both releases to be overproduced “junk wax” cards, but in their heyday of the card-crazed early 1990s, they generated interest from collectors simply by their existence.

Like their hardball counterparts, 1990 Bowman Hockey has a simple design that consists of a multi-colored border surrounding a large action image. Team and player names are printed into the bottom border while the Bowman logo sits near the top-left corner. There are 264 cards in the set, which includes three errors, two of which are uncorrected. There are some high-caliber rookie cards in this set, most notably Jeremy Roenick, Alexander Mogilny, Mark Recchi, Mike Modano, Ed Belfour, and Mike Richter, though none have great value due to overproduction.


Ultimately, I will give this box a positive review if for no other reason than the packs contained bubble gum. Granted it was 29 years old and I didn’t attempt to chew it, but there is something comforting about opening a pack and finding a slab of gum stuck to the bottom card. Yes, the cards had wax stains and bubble gum dust, but I didn’t care as the experience was excellent.

For such an inexpensive set, I found these cards to be rather attractive, and somewhat reminiscent of 1953 Bowman Baseball. Most of the images used were bland. Some were goofy mug shots and there was a lot of random skating without much action. However, I did think that the majority of the goalie cards were pretty cool. Maybe it was just the added equipment that was shown, but I generally liked them better than the field players.

Each pack contains a card from the 22-piece Hat Tricks insert set that represents the players that scored hat tricks during the 1989-1990 season. The cards are similar, though not identical, to the base set, and have a glossy finish and white card stock that is reminiscent of Topps and Bowman Tiffany sets. I got one complete set and a handful of doubles from the 36-pack box.

There are three error cards in this set, only one of which was corrected. The Brian Leetch card (#215) can be found with and without the “L” in his last name on the card front. The Al Secord card (#12) actually shows Duante Sutter, and the same image of Chris Chelios can be found on both the Chelios (#42) and Petr Svoboda (#46) cards. My box appeared to be a corrected issue and I pulled the properly-spelled Leetch, though I did also get the Secord and Svoboda cards.



This was fun. As I said earlier, hockey was pretty much new ground for me, so I went in with no preconceived notions. The positives that I found in this box include the aforementioned gum, real cardboard cards (nothing shiny), some interesting images and the necessity to do a bit of research to better understand what I was opening. Among the negatives, I would say, are that there is nothing in particular to chase in these packs, a lot of bland and slightly unfocused images and a color scheme on card backs that strained my eyes.

My lack of hockey knowledge certainly hindered my appreciation for these cards and, in good conscience, I cannot knock the cards for my ignorance. Hockey seems a lot like my beloved lacrosse (especially box), and I believe that I would appreciate it much more if I simply understood the sport better. Still, the general lack of excitement that is produced by this particular set dropped my interest somewhat. I particularly enjoy cards that draw me in and make me want to learn something new, hunt for something special, or dazzle in appearance. Unfortunately, 1990 Bowman Hockey really did none of these. Still, when $5 gets you a bunch of decades-old gum, some cool goalie cards and an opportunity to rip some packs, it can’t be all bad.

THE DIAMOND IN THE JUNK: #199 Mark Messier

I selected this card as my Diamond in the Junk simply because Mark Messier looks like such a badass and according to my pal, Ryan Gaeta, has a face like an Easter Island statue.


Posted by Todd Tobias

Todd Tobias is a longtime hobbyist and PSA staff member who is constantly on the hunt for vintage lacrosse issues and autographed cards for his American Football League (1960-1969) collection.

Johnny Robinson - Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2019!!!

6 thoughts on “Diamonds in the Junk – 1990 Bowman Hockey4 min read

  1. Todd, I feel that you should consider writing up an article on star packs for a future “Diamonds in the Junk” installment. Finding unopened junk era packs with stars showing (and even going as far as having them graded) is a burgeoning trend among committed player and junk era collectors, and one of a few ways to renew the interest and value in those products.

    1. Sure, I can understand that, Nick. but at the same time, “mass produced” is pretty much the definition of junk wax, which is the overarching theme of these posts. Most all of us that were collecting back then got bit one way or another by overproduction. But taking value out of the equation today allows for the review of what can still be some fun cards.

  2. Um… I’ve searched all over for another one of these cards BUT, I wasn’t able to find anything. I have a Bowman Devils • Kirk Muller ERROR card (The back of the card is Pat LaFontaine and Vincent Riendeau), so I’m not sure what to do

    1. It sounds like you’ve got an interesting printing error. These wrong back cards are typically not very valuable unless you find a dedicated collector of one of the players shown on the card. Still a pretty near item!

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