I have a confession to make, well, I don't know if it is a confession per se, but it is something that is hard to admit nonetheless. I have never been out of the country. I suppose on one level, that makes me a very patriotic American, but it means I have never seen the pyramids, the Eiffel Tower, the Great Wall of China. Heck, it means I have never even been to Canada. Well, I once took a boat tour of the Thousand Islands and we sailed into Canadian waters, but I have never set foot in Canada. Semantics aside, I find this odd. I have been on this planet for nearly 37 years and I have been confined to one little geographic area; granted I have been to 41 different states, but never beyond the United State's borders.
Anyway, as usual, I am rambling and not getting to the point, which is, I dig Canada. They seem pretty laid back as a people and have wacky accents. They have a lot of wide open space and universal health care. My cousin and my good friend both married smokin' hot women from Vancouver. I always root for the Canadian team in the playoffs if the Devils don't make it or get eliminated. And I, of course, like O-Pee-Chee cards. Ever since I discovered their existence in my youth, I have been fascinated with them. If you think about it, they are kind of the first parallel cards.
Unlike Topps, I have not made a page of each year of OPC cards (nor do I plan to) but I did decide a while ago to get each year where they paralleled the Topps set represented with a single card and make a few pages out of that.
The first year of OPC cards was 1965, and the cards look just like their Topps counterparts. Well, the fronts do...the fun part of these O-Pee-Chee cards are the backs:
OOOOooooo....now we're talkin' The '65, '66, and '67s look disturbingly just like Topps except for the magic indicator "Printed in Canada" - this and the slightly lower quality cardboard are the only way to tell the difference between Topps and OPC of the time. Then things start to change. The 1968's have a much different color to the backs than the Topps cards; the '69s even more so, they are almost red vs. bubble gum pink for the Topps. Then the wackiness of Canadian laws step in to change these cards forever. The one thing that keeps Canada from being boring is their (more specifically Quebec's) obsession over the French language. In 1969, they passed the Official Languages Act, which not only made French the co-official language of Canada, it also made all sorts of rules of where and when French must be used. This law obligated Topps to print the backs of the cards in both English and French. It made the cards quirky and cool. The 1970 set is the first to have this variation. Then the 1971 set happened. They might be the most different of the "parallels" of the OPC to the Topps set. Instead of pea green, the backs are bright yellow and the floating head is centered instead of to the left. I love the 1971 OPC set...it is the same, but very different. Just as suddenly, order was restored. The 1972 and 1973 sets are virtually identical to the Topps except for the French and the lighter, whiter cardboard used.
Starting in 1971, the OPC set started to do something else quite awesome, they started to update player movement on the front of the cards. Since they were printed later than the Topps base set, they could do this. This also adds another whole layer of quirkiness to the OPC cards. You can see here, the 1978 Messersmith shows his movement to the Yankees, the 1979 Carew shows his Trade to the Angels, the 1980 Lockwood shows he is "Now with the Red Sox", and the 1981 Simmons shows he is "Now with Brewers." The front of the cards with a variation from this era are a marvelous mishmash of logos and colors. O-Pee-Chee variations make me very very happy.
Except for the 1974 cards, the colors of the backs are virtually identical to the Topps sets. I also love the fact that they have to translate the captions to the cartoons. This makes for some teeny tiny print. This scan also shows another thing the OPC cards are notorious for - the rough cut. Look at the side of the 1980 Lockwood, or the whole thing of the 1978 Messersmith and you can see what I am talking about. I always wondered if this was because they always used the same crappy machine to cut the cards, or if they only sharpened the blades once a year, and the later cards had the rough cut. These are the kinds of things that keep me up at night.
If you look at the backs of the other cards, or at the front of the 1979 or 1982, you will see a big O logo for the O-Pee-Chee cards that sort of matched the style of the Topps logo of the time. When Topps changed their logo in the early 80's, OPC seemed to not have one to go on the cards, so the 1983 and 1984 have just a simple font print out of "O-Pee-Chee." Then in 1985, they came up with a nifty font logo that I have always been fond of. It has been on OPC cards pretty much ever since.
The high water mark of OPC cards was the 1988 set. It was really the last effort on their part to put out a quality set. It had some interesting changes, a few different cards from the Topps set, etc. But starting in 1989, they were just going through the motions, using pretty much the same exact set up as the Topps set and they didn't even bother to put the OPC logo on the 1990 and 1991 sets. The 1992 was a nice way to go out, though. They had their own logo back, and a bunch of variations to mix things up (including a five card tribute to my boy, Gary Carter). Starting that year, O-Pee-Chee started doing a separate premium type set and never did a parallel Topps set again.
O-Pee-Chee did their parallel sets for 28 years, but I fudged and only have 27 shown - the ugly 1990 set misses the cut due to its nearly identical look to the Topps set and lack of an OPC logo. I don't have time to point out all the little differences in these sets, but one crazy man does. If you are interested to know all the variations to O-Pee-Chee cards, check out the great Oh My O-Pee-Chee (oh mon o-pee-chee!) blog, an insane side blog by the man behind garvey cey russell lopes. If you are into such minutiae, I recommend that blog highly.