Unless you’re either A) a hardcore collector of pre-War cards, or B) Canadian, chances are you’ve probably never heard of the 1937 O-Pee-Chee Baseball set. And even then, you’ve probably never seen a ’37 OPC in-person. However, despite its obscurity on the south side of the 49th Parallel, it’s a small, quirky, bi-lingual set that’s chock full of Hall of Famers.
When you hear the words “O-Pee-Chee,” like most collectors, you’re probably thinking of one thing and one thing only: Canadian Topps. While it is true that O-Pee-Chee produced baseball cards from 1965-1992 under a sublicense from Topps for the Canadian market, these were not the first cards OPC produced. The ’37 set, catalogued as “V-300” by Jefferson Burdick, was O-Pee-Chee’s first baseball card set (not counting the 1934 “Butterfingers” which were a Canadian parallel of the R-310 American Butterfingers).
Design wise, the cards look like the black-and-white offspring of the 1933 DeLong (R-333) and the 1934 National Chicle “Batter-Ups” (R-318). Like the DeLong’s, the background has a ballpark motif complete with the grandstand design element. And just like the Batter-Ups, each card is die-cut and could be folded in half for display.
Here’s where it gets quirky. The 1937 OPC set consists of 40 cards, but the set is sequentially-numbered beginning at #101. Why the set was numbered this way has remained a mystery that, more than likely, will never be solved.
Another quirk is that fact that all 40 cards are of American Leaguers. The back of each card says that it is part of “Series A,” so it can be reasonably assumed that Series B would have been for the National League. But there was no Series B. Just like with the set numbering, the reasons why a second series of National Leaguers was never produced may never be understood.
As for the checklist, although only 40 cards deep it is dense with Hall of Famers – almost a third of the set. Foxx, Greenberg, Goslin, Gehringer, Appling, Cronin, Ferrell, Ruffing, Grove, and Hornsby – not to mention the first known baseball card of Bob Feller – fill out a checklist that is loaded. However, the big money card from the Joe DiMaggio who is listed as playing “Centre field.”
Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your view) ’37 OPC’s are extremely tough to find in Mint condition. The fact is these cards were meant to be punched out, folded, and displayed and most of them were. Even if the card has four sharp corners, the die-cutting element along with the crease running down the middle of the card bring a premium to high-grade copies.
Last year, Robert Edward Auctions sold a 38-card partial set (missing only the Feller and DiMaggio) with most of the cards in VG to VG-EX condition for $4,113. Two years earlier, REA sold a “PSA 6” (EX-MT) DiMaggio for $5,288. BMW cards is currently offering an SGC 96 rated copy for $119,500 on eBay.