Well friends it’s Friday and that means it’s time to break out the ol’ time machine and look back on another momentous cardset. This week we’re featuring possibly the best designed set in the history of hockey collecting, 1971-72 O-Pee-Chee. This iconic set introduced the very first Guy Lafleur and Ken Dryden cards and has continuously been one of the most sought after sets around. I should note that the Topps set is virtually identical, so collectors should be careful to know which is which.
1971-72 O-Pee-Chee – Card Face Design
The 1971-72 O-Pee-Chee cards have been called some of the best designed in the collecting world. The simplistic front is free of distractions and puts the entire focus on the player being featured. For this series OPC had the player image centered in the middle of the card in front of a coloured background. The background colour varied according to the team that was featured. Boston for example used a red background, while Montreal used yellow. This background if bordered by a narrow blue border that merges into the white card stock.
At the top of the card, overlapping the oval player section, is the team name. This was done in a coloured font that resembles a balloon style and has a curving style. The player name is located on the bottom left, while the team logo and player position occupy the bottom right. Overall this has become one of the most recognized designs in collecting history, and remains to be matched.
1971-72 O-Pee-Chee – Card Back
Much like the front, the back of the card uses a simplistic design. The card is simple cardboard, meaning that this is reflected in the card border. The key information of the card is set against a green background. The top left section is the player’s career information in English, the French translation is located the in the lower left section, and the player’s stats are sandwiched in between.
Moving to the right side of the card we have the player name, position, team, and card number written in white against a black background. Below that is a player cartoon with a piece of trivia set against the green background. The lower right features black writing on a white background and consists of the player bio, giving information such as height, weight, birthdate, etc. The most critical piece of information is in the lower left corner in fine print. Here we see ©O.P.C. or ©OPEECHEE. This is accompanied by the words “Printed in Canada”.
1971-72 O-Pee-Chee vs Topps
For collectors of this year it is critical to know the difference between the O-Pee-Chee and Topps versions. The O-Pee-Chee cards are the Canadian version, and as a result are bilingual. Topps is the American counter part to the series, and contain some key differences. The card fronts of both sets are virtually identical, with the only real differences being in the shading of the chosen colours. The obvious differences are on the back of the cards.
First off, the O-Pee-Chee set has a horizontal back, whereas the Topps is vertical. Additionally Topps does not have the same green background, choosing a brownish yellow instead. The cards contain much of the same information, with the Topps being unilingual as opposed to O-Pee-Chee’s bilingual translation. The top of the card has the card number, player name, team, and position. This is followed below by the player bio and cartoon trivia. The middle of the card shows off the career information, which is identical to the O-Pee-Chee info. The bottom has the player’s career stats as well as the fine print that reads ©T.C.G. PATD. In U.S.A.. With this information collectors should be able to easily tell the difference between the sets.
1971-72 O-Pee-Chee – High Number Variations
While the overall checklist contains 264 cards, #s 245-264 differ from the rest of the set. Cards 245-249 are the trophy winner cards. These feature a select player aside the trophies that he won the previous season. Set against a full colour background, these cards are eye catching and quickly grab attention. The backside of the card has the same green colour as the earlier cards, but is oriented vertically and contains just the relevant trophy information, translated into French and English. The card number itself is located in the lower right corner.
Cards 250-261 are the All-Star cards, split between 1st and 2nd teams. These cards have the player located on the left hand side with their respective All-Star team on the right. The player’s name is set on top against a white opening, while the rest of the player section has a coloured background. The bottom of the card has a black base containing the year 1970-71, indicating the All-Star year. The back of the card follows the same style as the Trophy Winners and has English and French version sets against a green background.
Cards #262 and 263 are special collector’s cards and feature Gordie Howe and Jean Beliveau respectively. These are very nice cards that feature a multi-coloured face and simplistic back. The front has a yellow, green, blue background with the player located on the left and his name and nickname on the right. The middle of the card has a facsimile autograph, while the bottom read “Special Collector’s Card”.
The back of the card uses the same bilingual information over green background scheme that the previous 2 special sets use. The difference on this is that the player’s number also appears in the background as a white image set into the green. The final card (264) is the 2nd series checklist (checklist 1 was card 111). This is yellow on one side, green on the other, with the title featured on the yellow side with a red splash.
1971-72 O-Pee-Chee Booklets Inserts
It may come as a surprise to some that the 1971-71 O-Pee-Chee (and Topps) set had booklet inserts included. This was a 24 booklet set that highlighted the story of players such as Dave Keon, Tony Espositio, and Jacques Plante. Each booklet featured 8 pages of full colour player comics and measured 2 ½” by 3 ½”. Titled “The [player name} Story, these booklets featured a colour headshot of the player on the front set inside a star against colour background. The booklet was numbered on the front at the bottom. On the back each booklet had a full checklist of the booklet set. For these cards, the French translation was a completely separate set, assumedly sold mainly in Quebec. These booklets were inserted at a rate of 1 per 2nd series pack.
1971-72 O-Pee-Chee Team Crests Inserts
The second insert to be included in the product was the Team Crests cards. This 15 card set featured the 14 active NHL teams of the era, as well as the NHL Crest. These were simple cards that had a blank back and straight forward front. The front consisted completely of the selected team’s logo, in full colour. No writing was included and these made for a nice way to divide the set by team. These were inserted at a rate of 1 per 1st series pack.
1971-72 O-Pee-Chee Rookie Class
The 1971-72 NHL rookie class was one of the best to date. It produced no less than 3 Hockey Hall of Fame players in Marcel Dionne, Guy Lafleur, and Ken Dryden. These three players are therefore the most sought after cards in the set, with a high grade Ken Dryden selling for $2000+. These rookies are also in the Topps version, at about 1/10th the value. Other rookies from the class include Pierre Bouchard, son of legendary Butch Bouchard, Mike Robitaille, and Syl Apps Jr. All of the rookies in this set are collectable for one reason or another, and with the exception of the 3 Hall of Famers, can be found fairly cheaply.
As far as vintage cards go, this is probably one of my favorite sets. I have a small selection of them in my personal collection, and am always looking to add more. These are the types of sets that remind us of what collecting is supposed to be, a stark contrast to the overly flashy cards we see today. I would consider it an honour to have a Dryden or Lafleur rookie and would choose them over any McDavid or Larkin. This is what hockey collecting is supposed to look like.
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