In 1937, O-Pee-Chee introduced a set of baseball cards. With a unique ‘pop-out’ design, they were intended to offer a three-dimensional look. The cards were black and white and included many popular players of the day, including Bob Feller, Joe DiMaggio, and Hank Greenberg. The cards of all three players are from relatively early in their careers and the card of Feller, in particular, is often viewed as a rookie card. But the somewhat rare 40-card set may not have been a tremendous hit with collectors since the company did not produce a set for many years after that.
The O-Pee-Chee name wasn’t associated with another baseball card set for nearly 30 years, returning in 1965 with a Topps partnership that lasted until the 1990s.
About the 1965 O-Pee-Chee Baseball Cards
The Topps Company had dominated the baseball card market from the mid-1950s. It wouldn’t be until 1981 that they would see other competition. That year, Fleer and Donruss entered the market with sets of their own. In 1965, O-Pee-Chee would come to an agreement with Topps to allow them to produce their own sets in Canada.
Like the O-Pee-Chee sets that would follow, these cards mimicked Topps’ 1965 American issue. Distributed only in the provinces of Canada, the 283-card 1965 O-Pee-Chee set wasn’t as large as the Topps version. It included only the first 283 cards in the Topps set–a little under half the size of Topps’ set of 598 that was issued in seven series. The wrappers were similar to Topps but contained an ad for the metal coins that had been inserted into Topps packs the year before. Collectors have speculated that the All-Star coins were the only ones from the set that were distributed in O-Pee-Chee packs.
By 1965, the baseball card landscape had changed considerably since the first time O-Pee-Chee produced cards. In the 1930s, there were several card companies issuing sets, including Goudey, National Chicle, Play Ball, and others. But by 1965, Topps was the only real player in town. Their main competitor after World War II to that point had been Bowman. But Bowman’s final set was distributed in 1955 and they were later acquired by Topps.
1965 O-Pee-Chee cards had the same colorful design as their Topps counterparts. Cards had white borders with a player’s color picture inside of a rounded-corner, four-sided shape. Most notably was a somewhat large team pennant for the player across the bottom along with the player’s name and position. Backs included a statistical overview of the player with biographical information, a small cartoon, and a card number.
From the front, the cards look similar. But a primary difference in the O-Pee-Chee and Topps sets is that O-Pee-Chee cards state on the backs that they were printed in Canada. Topps cards indicate they were printed in the U.S.
1965 O-Pee-Chee Rookies and Stars
While the missing names are significant because of the lack of cards from #284 and beyond, collectors will find a pretty decent supply of Hall of Famers and stars in the ’65 OPC set. Included are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Pete Rose, Willie McCovey, Warren Spahn, Roger Maris, Brooks Robinson, Al Kaline, Frank Robinson, Don Drysdale, and plenty of others. Several rookie cards are also found in O-Pee-Chee set but none bigger than the Joe Morgan card. Other less notable rookies include Luis Tiant, Denny McLain, and Bert Campaneris, among others.
Of the notable players that are not included in the OPC set are Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Whitey Ford, Tony Oliva, Willie Stargell, Carl Yastrzemski, Harmon Killebrew, Yogi Berra, Eddie Mathews, Ernie Banks, and Lou Brock. While the Mantle is the big fish among the star players, the O-Pee-Chee set is also missing key rookie cards of Hall of Famers Tony Perez, Catfish Hunter, and, most notably, Steve Carlton. That makes it far less significant than the Topps set.
Prices and Rarity
The cards are, as you would expect, noticeably rarer than the counterpart 1965 Topps set. Grading company population reports show less than 2 percent of O-Pee-Chee cards have been authenticated compared to ’65 Topps. As of right now, PSA has rated only 366 ’65 OPC cards above a NM/MT 8.
Complete 1965 O-Pee-Chee sets are not all that easy to find. They can be assembled but you do not see a large amount of complete sets for sale on the open market. However, when they are sold, the prices are not usually for staggering amounts outside of high-grad sets. Heritage sold a modest mid-grade set in 2018 for $660.
Since the set is pretty scarce, single cards–especially hard to find commons– can sell for noticeably more than their Topps counterparts at times. You can see what’s currently available on eBay here.