Mickey Mantle’s baseball career was rounding third and heading for home when London, Ontario-based O-Pee-Chee began producing bubble gum cards through a new partnership with Topps. Thankfully for collectors who have enough trouble affording his American made issues, the Canadian Mantle checklist is pretty small.
For just about any collector, completing a run of Mantle appearances on OPC cards provides a fun little challenge that doesn’t have to break the bank. You might also feel like you made a pretty solid value play when considering the limited number that exist.
Compared to their Topps counterparts, only a small number of OPC Mantle cards have ever been authenticated and graded. You’d think that would mean they’d be far more expensive but the premiums for even rare OPC Mantle cards aren’t really that remarkable. Interest in OPC cards among American collectors has never been that strong, keeping prices for all but the highest grade examples in check.
Furthermore, the vintage OPC cards that have survived over the past 50+ years are more often than not, lower grade. If you’re not a “mint maniac,” you can scoop them all up pretty quickly.
The first O-Pee-Chee branded set during its deal with Topps arrived in 1965. The complete set was a far cry from what Topps was offering to American kids. The ’65 OPC “set” actually included only the first 283 players of Topps’ 598-card issue. That ratio would actually get worse over the next few years.
Mantle was #350 so he has no regular issue card in the 1965 OPC set. He does appear in the set though. You’ll find him on these three cards:
- #3 Home Run Leaders
- #5 RBI Leaders
- #134 “Clutch Home Run” card from the World Series subset
The graded population of the RBI Leaders card is very small with fewer 60 examined by any company and only 15 rating 7 or better. The Home Run Leaders card shows only about 60 graded in all while fewer than 80 graded examples of #134 exist.
That reflects an overall scarcity of vintage OPC cards compared to their Topps cousins. Still, ungraded examples of all three OPC cards in the VG or VG-EX range can usually be acquired for well under $100 each.
The 1966 OPC set included only the first 196 players from the Topps set. Since Mantle was assigned card #50, he appeared on his first solo OPC card in this set. Mid-grade examples can sometimes be found for around $200.
Mantle also appears on the 1966 OPC Yankees team card (#92). A PSA 8 recently sold for $152 but most other examples typically cost significantly less.
Mantle’s second and final solo appearance on OPC cards came as card #150 in the ’67 set. The number of graded copies that exist totals well under 200. One of the fewer than 40 high-grade examples that are out there can be a little pricey, but if you’re willing to settle for a lower grade copy, you can sometimes find one for under $200.
Mantle’s head shot adorns the front of the 2nd Series checklist (#103). Fewer than 50 of this card–including the variation–have ever been graded. If you’re willing to accept an ungraded copy with some of the boxes marked, you can often find one for under $50.
The #131 Yankees team card was also included in OPC’s set. Like many vintage OPC cards, they’re not common but a couple of them sold recently for under $20.
Mantle’s last appearance inside OPC packs came in the 1968 poster insert set. Virtually identical to the 1967 Topps insert posters, these are tough to find. Prices vary quite a bit, based on centering and wear, but the modest prices these usually bring don’t reflect how limited they are.
If you’re a little more adventurous, you can chase the 1960 OPC Mantle Tattoo. Part of a set that mirrored the Topps issue except for the OPC branding on the wrapper that is part of the product, they’re very tough to locate today. As a stand alone product, though, it’s easy to dismiss it from the Mantle OPC bubble gum card checklist.
You can can check out the OPC Mantle cards listed on eBay anytime by clicking here.