For a lot of collectors, nostalgia plays heavily in their collecting habits. Having a sense of continuity in what they purchase is very important to them and for collectors of that bent, O-Pee-Chee (OPC) is one of their go to sets.
OPC has been producing cards in Canada and the United States in one form or another since the 1930s. Most collectors of a certain age (middle) remember the OPC sets of their youth which was a mirrored version of the Topps set.
The two companies would produce similar sets over the years with Topps being released in the U.S. and OPC in Canada. The pictures and stat information used for the two sets would be the same with OPC adding a French translation and a different logo. That’s how you end up with two different Wayne Gretzky rookie cards that look an awful lot alike, but have different price points.
The agreement with Topps kept the brand around through the mid 1990s as a parallel set but it wouldn’t have it’s own base brand set until it was relaunched under the Upper Deck banner in 2006-07. If that doesn’t make sense, don’t worry, licensing in the card world has a long and complicated history.
Unlike the flagship product which is released in two series, O-Pee-Chee (OPC) hits the market as a single 600 card set. That means collectors have all year long to put the set together, and in most cases they need it.
The set is comprised of 500 base cards, 50 short printed “Marquee Rookies”, 10 short-printed “Season Highlights”, 31 short-printed Team Checklists featuring the team logos, and 9 short-printed “League Leaders” cards. The short-printed cards fall about one per every one-and-a-half packs so putting together the entire 600 card set can be daunting.
Adding to the nostalgic appeal, OPC is one of the few sets released that feels like the older sets. They are truly pieces of cardboard unmarred by the glossy fronts that are so common amongst modern sets.
The front of the cards have a subdued grey border that frames the photo used nicely. The player name is easy to read and the logo (both team and brand) are unobtrusive. In the past, OPC has had a bit of a cluttered design so it’s nice to see a clean front of the card.
Easy to read card numbers and a full set of stats highlights the back of the card. The coloring scheme does leave it somewhat muddled, but the watermark team logo is a nice touch. As you can see, the stats are listed in both English and French. Older sets would include a little biographical paragraph, which made it a nice way to learn another language.
Who is this set for?
Card Traders: Swapping cardboard is still a thing. Instead of trading cards at recess in school, it’s moved online where there is a very active trading community. OPC is one of the most popular sets to swap due to the size. Since it takes so many packs/boxes to complete the set, you end up with a lot of duplicates. The best way to get rid of them is to swap them with other collectors who need them.
Player collectors: Due to the size of the set, some second and third tier players are available. If Upper Deck is limiting a team to five or six players, then chances are Anton Stralman isn’t making the cut. OPC gives his fans a chance to add six cards to their collection when you factor in all of the parallels.
Autograph collectors: There are no autograph cards waiting to be pulled from packs of OPC. However, the cards are perfect for in-person autographs or through-the-mail autographs. Since they have a matte finish to them instead of the glossy finish that MVP and the flag ship set have, they are much easier to have signed. Sharpie pens will look pretty good on these cards (especially the retro parallels).
Who is the set NOT for?
Set Builders: That’s not to say a lot of people don’t try to build this set. But it is a bear to complete due to the size and short prints. If you buy two boxes, you end up with about 480 cards. Subtract out the inserts and parallels and you’re probably looking at 400 base and short-print cards. Even if you beat the odds and don’t pull any duplicate cards, you are still 200 cards short of completing the set. A few years ago, I purchased three boxes of OPC and was still about 100 cards short of completing the set even after multiple trades. If you enjoy putting sets together, you might want to skip this one.
Relic/Autograph seekers: As mentioned above, there are no autographed cards in the set. There are also no pieces of jerseys or sticks or gloves that make up most of the relic cards these days. OPC does have what are referred to as manufactured relics which are pieces of fabric made exclusively for this set. They are rare (falling around one per every 1000 packs) and extremely popular on the secondary market.
What’s in it for Lightning fans?
The biggest thing that OPC has going for it is the expanded number of players featured. As we mentioned in the review of MVP, there were 11 Lightning base cards. In OPC there are 17. If you were upset that your favorite Bolt was left out of MVP, chances are they showed up in this set.
Anton Stralman, Ryan Callahan, Yanni Gourde, Mikhail Sergachev, Chris Kunitz, and Louis Domingue are all in this set in addition to the ones that were in MVP. For Domingue this is his first card in a Lightning uniform.
The fact that everyone featured except for Kunitz is still on the team is a testament to the stability of this organization. In order to get these sets out in early September, the roster has to be selected fairly early in the summer and often leads to players being featured on their old teams. This really hasn’t been the case for the Lightning over the last couple of years.
Again, Anthony Cirelli is the lone rookie featured for the Lightning and is a short print. OPC boasts a much larger collection of rookies and I was a little surprised that Matthew Peca didn’t make the cut as a “Marquee Rookie”. With him moving on to Montreal, the chances of seeing a card with him in a Lightning uniform has pretty much vanished.
The complete Tampa Bay Lightning Checklist (x denotes the first card of the year for the player):
Anton Stralman x
Ryan Callahan x
Yanni Gourde x
Mikhail Sergachev x
Chris Kunitz x
Louis Domingue x
Anthony Cirelli Rookie Card (Short Print)
Tampa Bay Lightning – Team Checklist (Short Print)
The Inserts and Parallels
As mentioned above, Anton Stralman has six cards in the master set of OPC. They just happen to be parallels of the same card. If you like Anton Stralman, you can collect all six starting with the the base card.
The silver parallel (one in three packs) - in most years the difference between the base bard and the silver parallel is much more noticable. This year, with the base having a grey border, the parallel is just a little darker than the regular card.
The gold glossy parallel (one every 24 packs) - the only glossy card in the set, if you’re looking to put this set together, good luck.
The retro parallel (one every .75 packs) - OPC takes the image on the base card, flips it to a horizontal layout and adds some retro coloring/design. I like the result as it adds a splash of color in an otherwise muted set.
The retro black border parallel (serial numbered to 100) - a parallel of a parallel. Welcome to the modern age of collecting.
And if you live in Canada you can redeem empty wrappers for a chance at the red border parallel. As a U.S.-based hockey collector, the two most annoying issues I run into are the inability to participate in the wrapper redemption program and not being able to go to Tim Horton’s to pick up hockey cards.
Inserts that include Lightning players
Victor Hedman is featured in an unannounced inset - Retro Award Winners. These cards feature the winners of the major awards (Hart, Art Ross, Vezina, Calder, and Norris) and are extremely hard cards to find in a pack.
Stamkos, Vasilevskiy and Kucherov are all featured in this insert set which are exactly what they sound like - mini cards. They are about a third of the size of regular cards. Personally, I don’t care for small cards as I find them a pain to sort and store, but others like them.
One of the most popular inserts over the last few years for OPC has been the playing cards. Designed like a deck of cards, there are 52 cards each featuring a different player. So if you wanted to, you could play a nice game of solitaire with hockey players. Putting an entire deck together could be a challenge as cards 2 through King fall at a rate of one per four packs while the aces are one per one-hundred-twenty-packs. Steven Stamkos is the Jack of Diamonds and Andrei Vasilevskiy is the Three of Hearts.
Manufactured Patch Cards
As mentioned, these cards are designed exclusively for OPC and are pretty hard to find. Lightning collectors can search for the following:
Team Logo Patch Updates 315 Tampa Bay Lightning
Trophy Patches P-27 Steven Stamkos – Richard
OPC is a fun set to collect. Since it is released as one series, you have all season to try and put the set together. The prices tend to hold fairly stable since there are no redemption cards to chase for the top rookies debuting in 2018-19. If anything, prices tend to go down a little as more and more products come out.
If you like a challenge, putting this set together will definitely present one. If you’re just interested in picking up the Lightning cards and moving on, I would suggest buying a team lot on the secondary market and saving your money for busting other packs.