Friday, May 25, 2007

Topps vs. O-Pee-Chee

I always knew that Topps was the bullshit version of O-Pee-Chee. Those two companies always seemed to have the exact same set, except that Topps' cards were darker and grainier. Comparing these cards from 90-91, you can see how much brighter the O-Pee-Chee card on the right is than the Topps version on the left. It's even more obvious on the back. The only other noticeable difference is that the Topps card is not bilingual like the O-Pee-Chee card is.

In 1968 Topps teamed up with O-Pee-Chee to release an American version of the O-Pee-Chee hockey set. Topps had released sets on the their own for the ten or so years leading up to '68, but they usually only included cards from the four American teams in the original six. They obviously wanted a Canadian company to show them how to do it right. For the next 24 years, O-Pee-Chee and Topps would release parallel sets-- though for most seasons, Topps would release smaller sets.

While Topps hockey cards aren't nearly as valuable as their O-Pee-Chee counterparts, it's the opposite for baseball. In 1965, three years before they teamed up for hockey, O-Pee-Chee licensed a Canadian version of Topps' MLB cards. Just like Topps' did with hockey, O-Pee-Chee released a smaller set than their American partners. O-Pee-Chee's baseball cards aren't as valuable as Topps', but as far as I can tell, it's not because they are lower quality. Every Topps baseball card I own has the same grainy front, and dark back as their hockey cards do, while O-Pee-Chee is again clearer on the front and brighter on the back.

1991-92 was the last year of Topps and O-Pee-Chee's parallel sets. Topps released the same 528 card set as O-Pee-Chee that year and improved the quality by quite a bit. You can see on the cards beside that the Topps picture is only slightly darker, and the O-Pee-Chee back is just slightly brighter than the Topps back.

Overall O-Pee-Chee just released better cards. Everything about the cards was nicer from the feel to the small, classy logo in the corner of the O-Pee-Chee cards (or the sweet logo on the back of the 90-91 cards).

O-Pee-Chee stopped making cards after 92-93. The O-Pee-Chee brand name returned later after it was licensed by Topps. Following the NHL lock-out season, Upper Deck was awarded exclusive rights to make NHL trading cards. They have now purchased the rights to the O-Pee-Chee name and have used it to release an ugly 2006-07 set.

The Topps brand continued making cards until the 2003-04 hockey lock-out season when it lost the rights to make NHL hockey cards. They still make baseball, basketball, football and shitty novelty cards.