"A Brief History Of O-Pee-Chee"

by Grant Rainsley

O-Pee-Chee, also known as OPC, is today more or less regarded as the Canadian equivalent of Topps. The history of this gum and trading card producing company is quite different, and pre-dates Topps by many years. The company is based in London, Ontario, not too far from Toronto.

OPC’s first venture into the trading card market was in 1933, when they produced a set of hockey cards which have been catalogued V304A and B. These sets included stars such as Eddie Shore and Howie Morenz, and have a book value of around $15,000. Other hockey sets were produced until 1940.

In 1937 OPC produced their first baseball set (V300), which were numbered 101 through 140, and resembled a cross between 1934 Goudeys and Batter-Ups. Only American League players were featured, including Joe Dimaggio, which has a book value of $4,500. Was there supposed to be a National League set to follow? It was never produced.

OPC occasionally stayed in the game, issuing sets similar to Topps such as the 1960 Baseball Tattoos, but no cards. The tattoos were exactly the same as Topps with the exception of the wrapper showing the place of issue as London, Canada, and printed in Canada.

A return was made to baseball trading cards in 1965. Card fronts were identical to Topps, but they were printed on slightly different stock. This set paralleled cards #1- 283 of the Topps issue, and Printed in Canada appeared on the bottom of the back of the cards. Following years were similar- 1966 had #1-196, Ptd. In Canada,1967 had #1-196, Printed in Canada. For those of you who may have completed your Topps runs of these years, it is quite easy for an OPC to make it into the binder, as these cards are so similar. It is estimated that OPC cards from these early years were produced in a ratio of between 1% and 5% of Topps cards. If anyone is looking for a challenge, try starting a set from scratch in EX condition or better. Best of luck!

In 1970, OPC cards became bilingual, and card backs were in English and French. This was a legal requirement, as federal legislation demanded that items produced in Canada carry both languages. This applied to other items such as cereal boxes, etc. The 1971 OPC set had a radically different card back (yellow), and also featured 14 different card photos that weren’t in the Topps set. The 1972 issue featured a card of Gil Hodges, noting his death, which was not part of the Topps set. In 1974, the OPC issue did not have the Washington variations, as it was a later print run than Topps.

The year 1977 seemed to bring a radical change in Canadian content. Almost 1/3 of the set had different poses than their Topps counterparts, although the card format remained much the same. These took the form of airbrush work, different cropping of photos, etc. In the late ‘70’s, while many of the card fronts appeared similar, many of the OPC issues featured traded information, with a line across saying Now with Dodgers. This again was due to the lateness of the print run, which allowed for an update of the players status.

Through these years, OPC was also busy producing hockey and Canadian Football League cards. They had re-entered the hockey market in 1968, competing with Topps, and also actively entered the insert market with posters and stickers. Topps produced the majority of CFL issues between 1958 and 1965. OPC entered the CFL market in 1968.

OPC is still strong in the baseball and hockey market today, and has made the odd venture into non-sports cards.

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