Many Canadian kids who collect hockey cards as kids end up in the same place: Selling or otherwise losing their collection, then regretting it years or decades down the road.

Chris Surdykowski thought that was his story. He’d had hundreds of cards as a kid, including NHL stars of his childhood like Darryl Sittler, Tim Horton, Phil Esposito and Bobby Orr.

He never knew what had happened to them, but he hadn’t seen them in decades and figured he never would again.

That changed last week, when his wife Tracy was cleaning out a closet in their Waterloo home.

“She came down with a box of cards … and said ‘Do you want these things or should I throw them out?’” Surdykowski says.

“She opened up the box and there (was) all these, probably 200-plus hockey cards in there.”

Hockey cards

As they later pieced together, the cards had been in a box that was moved over from Surdykowski’s mother’s home after she died.

Nobody had looked inside the box and realized that its contents included an entire collection of hockey cards from the late 1960s and early 1970s.

“It brought back a whole lot of memories of when I was a kid,” Surdykowski says.

Those memories include playing road hockey while growing up in Kitchener, and spending his entire 25-cent allowance on cards, and trading cards with his friends.

Also in the box was an old tabletop marble hockey game that he’d received after sending away cereal box tops. The package it came on was postmarked 1969.

Surdykowski says he hasn’t looked up what his cards are worth, but figures it’s not as high as the emotional value he puts on them.

“I don’t know that I would sell them. I don’t know that I would part with them,” he says.

“I think there’s more value in just looking at them and (having) those memories.”

Dan Pollard, who co-owns the Clouts’n’Chara sports card store in Kitchener, says it’s rare to hear stories like Surdykowski’s.

More common, he says, are situations where now-valuable cards were thrown out by a parent decades ago.

“You just don’t know that it’s going to be a collectible thing in the future,” he says.

While hockey cards can bring big bucks – a Wayne Gretzky rookie card sold for nearly US$500,000 at auction last year – the value decreases with every nick, blemish or imperfection.

“Even if they’re slightly damaged, they’re still collectibles,” Pollard says.

“They’re still valuable.”

With reporting by Randy Steinman