Monday, January 25, 2010

1974 hank aaron special (1970 - 1973)

entering the 1974 season, hank aaron had 713 home runs, one shy of babe ruth's all time record.  topps went ahead and crowned aaron the new home run king on card #1 which was followed by a special subset featuring each of aaron's topps base cards through the years.  these 'hank aaron special' cards were the precursor to the 1986 topps pete rose and 1990 topps nolan ryan tribute subsets.  anyway, the final card of the hank aaron special subset featured his 1970, 1971, 1972, and 1973 cards.  here's the o-pee-chee version:

and here's the topps version:

pretty much the same (except my topps version has a bunch of creases).  let's take a look at the backs.  first, o-pee-chee:

number 9 in the set.  now the topps:

number 6 in the set.  seeing as how the 1974 o-pee-chee set matched the topps set (except for a handful of cards), i consider the o-pee-chee version to be a checklist variation.  the reason the o-pee-chee version is number 9 is that cards 3 through 8 each featured only two past aaron cards on the front, while the topps versions of cards 3 through 5 maintained the four card fronts. this is due to the need for both french and english on the backs - the backs were so dense with text that there simply wasn't room to cover all the material on the backs of the o-pee-chee cards.  make sense?

to accommodate the additional hank aaron cards, o-pee-chee had to eliminate 3 cards from the set.  rather than just eliminate cards 7, 8, and 9, they redistributed jim hunter, george theodore, and mickey lolich, and deleted the brewers leaders, royals leaders and jim fregosi.  we'll cover all that in more detail later.

i have to say that, once again, i prefer the o-pee-chee backs.  topps loved itself some green backs, but they make reading the stats and text difficult.

voici à vous, 1974 hank aaron special (1970 - 1973)!

Friday, January 22, 2010

1979 luis tiant

el tiante! it's hard to believe that luis tiant was released twice in a 2 month span back in 1971, prior to joining the red sox. he went on to win two games in the 1975 world series in addition to registering three twenty win seasons in boston. anyway, the red sox let him walk after the 1978 season, and the result is this 1979 o-pee-chee card.

a text and team variation - red sox and yankees together on one card.

much like 1978, the 1979 o-pee-chee release is a pared down version of the topps set. there were only 374 cards in the set, and the checklists don't match at all. once again, only the blue jays and expos have their team cards in the set. finally, o-pee-chee only issued the correct version of the bump wills card, showing him as a ranger rather than a blue jay.

here's the front of the topps version of tiant's card

and the o-pee-chee back

so bright! as you can see, the card is number 299 in the set. as in 1978, the team affiliation is updated on the back, but the 'how acquired' line remains untouched.

here's the back of the topps card

and it's number 575 in the set. like 1978, there's no rhyme or reason regarding the sequencing of the cards.

voici à vous, 1979 luis tiant!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

1973 - more of the same

in 1973, o-pee-chee matched topps card for card, issuing the complete 660 card set with an identical checklist.  however, unlike 1971 (the first time o-pee-chee issued the same number of cards as topps), there were no variations of any kind.

here's the 1973 o-pee-chee bill russell card, number 108 in the set:

and the topps card for comparative purposes:

the brighter card stock on the o-pee-chee cards seems to enhance the color in the photo, but i have so few 1973 o-pee-chee and topps cards that i don't know if this is consistently the case.

here's the back of the o-pee-chee card

bilingual cartoons rock! especially since there is a french translation of a spanish name in there.  i tried to get this cartoon in the blog header, but went with the roy campanella one instead.

here's the topps back:

i wonder if there is any significance between the one star next to the o-pee-chee copyright and the two stars next to the topps copyright.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

1976 - the final year of complacency

in 1976, o-pee-chee took what topps gave them and didn't ask any questions.  the checklist is identical, and there are no variations.  steve yeager is kind enough to show us the printing problems that are so common with o-pee-chee cards - rough edges, off centering, even an occasional crookedness.

here's the topps version, looking all straight and even and smooth

the colors in the photos on the topps cards are a bit duller than the o-pee-chee ones, which is probably due to the difference in card stock.  the brightness of the o-pee-chee cards is really evident on the backs of the cards.

bilingual wes parker factoid!  notice that the trademark info is 'opc' rather than 'tcg'.  1972 was the first year to include that minor change.  here's the topps back:

i actually prefer the o-pee-chee backs. the stats are way easier to read.

1976 would be the last year without any sort of variations (even 1990, the topps-iest o-pee-chee set ever, has text variations).  maybe mr. o-pee-chee was disappointed in himself after this release because he went hog wild in 1977!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

1985 burt hooton

with the arrival of orel hershiser in los angeles, burt hooton was relegated largely to the bullpen for the 1984 season.  after the season was over, he was granted free agency and signed with the rangers.  but you knew all that because o-pee-chee told us so:

i think 1985 is one of the best years for team variations because of the big colored block framing the team name.  there's not too much difference between the colors on hooton's o-pee-chee card and his topps card

but there are some pretty colorful variations in this set, as we will see later.

the o-pee-chee backs are still much brighter

than topps

which makes the stats easier to read.  and isn't that what baseball cards are all about?

voici à vous, 1985 burt hooton!

Monday, January 18, 2010

1966 - variation free, even though topps was not!

similar to the 1965 set, the 1966 o-pee-chee release features an exact copy of the topps checklist, although it is limited to only 196 cards.  one of those cards is jim brewer, number 158 in the set.

here's the topps front:

strange that my o-pee-chee version is in (much) better shape than my topps version.  estimates are that o-pee-chee's print run was just 5% or so of topps in any given year, so you would think i would have found a nicer topps card for the dodger reliever.

here's the o-pee-chee back:

still the 'tcg' copyright, but the 'ptd. in canada' is the mark of o-pee-chee - the only discerning mark in 1966, although the card stock is a bit different.

here's the back of the topps version:

it's worth noting that, while the 1966 topps set did have some minor variations, the o-pee-chee set did not.  it features only the more common versions of the variations found in the topps set, which have to do with the text on the back.  for instance, there were two versions of the 1966 topps bob uecker card.  the common version includes the 'traded' line on the back mentioning that he was traded from the cardinals to the phillies in the offseason, and the rarer variation does not include this text.  in the o-pee-chee set, only the common version is represented for uecker and three other players - merritt ranew (card 62), dick groat (card 103) and alex johnson (card 104).

Friday, January 15, 2010

1977 blue jays coaches

o-pee-chee went hog wild in 1977, producing more variant cards than ever before (and since).  i suppose with the blue jays coming on the scene, there was a demand and o-pee-chee set out to meet it, and then just kept going with cards of other players and other teams.  in all, there are over 200 cards with some sort of variation in the set, and that's out of only 264 cards!

just like the 1978 set, o-pee-chee released a smaller set than topps, with no correlation between the two as far as players or card numbering.  there are proportionally more blue jays and expos featured in the set, including a whole mess of variations.  one of the blue jays card variations is this coaches card.

as we'll see in a moment, in addition to it being a checklist variation (you'll see why i consider it a checklist variation in a moment), it's also a photo or pose variation, times 4!  all four of these gentlemen served as coaches for the blue jays from 1977 - 1979 (paralleling the service of manager roy hartsfield).  only harry warner would continue on into the bobby mattick era, lasting just one season. 

typically, the team card would be the only non-player card issued in the topps set, but because there was no team photo for the blue jays, topps issued a card with the manager and his coaches, similar to what they did for all teams in 1973 and 1974:

as you can see, each of the coaches has a different pose than the ones found on the o-pee-chee card.  and, since roy hartsfield also has a card in the o-pee-chee set, i consider (perhaps wrongly) the o-pee-chee coaches card to be a checklist variation.

here's the bright back of the o-pee-chee card, number 58 in the set:

i am guessing that 'o.b.' means 'organized ball'.  what else could it be? 

and now here's the dull back of the topps version, if you will (number 113 in the set):

nice that the coaches are listed on the team checklist.  notice how there are some repeating uniform numbers - topps lets us know that the numbering is based on players' 1976 numbers, when they weren't with the blue jays.  thanks topps.

voici à vous, 1977 blue jays coaches!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

1978 bobby bonds

i am going to make a prediction.  i believe, that when all is said and done, bobby bonds will appear on this blog more than any other player.  he fits the profile - a vagabond player from the late 70's and into the 80's.  we'll see.

here is is 1978 o-pee-chee card.

obviously, it's a text variation, but it's also a team variation, as bonds was traded from the california angels to the white sox.  the only real evidence of his affiliation with the angels in the photo, though, is the brim of his cap and the red collar on his jersey so it's not as obvious as most of the other team variation cards. 

this is a good time to point out that the 1978 o-pee-chee set was only 242 cards strong (as opposed to 726 for topps), and it did not match the numbering of the topps set at all.  the o-pee-chee set started with the league leaders (they were numbers 201-208 in the topps set) and ended with the record breakers (they were the first cards in the topps set).  i don't know of any rhyme or reason as to which players were included, and only the blue jays and expos have their team cards and manager cards in the set.  o-pee-chee did print the rookie cups and all star shields for those players in the set, unlike their 1977 release.

here's the front of the topps version of bonds' card

and the o-pee-chee back

so bright!  as you can see, the card is number 206 in the set.  i find it interesting that the trade between the angels and the white sox is not noted in the 'acquired' line, even though the team affiliation is updated on the bottom of the back.  bonds was traded, along with thad bosley and rich dotson, for brian downing, dave frost and chris knapp.  sadly, none of the other traded players are featured in the 1978 o-pee-chee set.

here's the back of the topps card

and it's number 150 in the topps set.  like i said, no rhyme or reason regarding the sequencing of the cards.

voici à vous, 1978 bobby bonds!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

1965 - a primer (with brief stops in 1937 and 1960)

o-pee-chee came on the baseball scene in 1937, believe it or not, with a 'baseball stars' set, of which i own exactly zero cards.  in 1960, they showed up again with a tattoo set, matching the topps issue of the same year with regards to checklist and everything else.  we'll ignore that issue, too, and jump right into their third baseball release.

in 1965, o-pee-chee released a truncated version of the 1965 topps set.  the o-pee-chee set has just 283 cards, and it mirrors the topps checklist from 1-283.  this means that there is no 1965 o-pee-chee sandy koufax or mickey mantle (aside from the league leader cards), but there are cards for willie mays and pete rose.

there were no variations in the 1965 o-pee-chee set.  in fact, the only real difference between its cards and those of topps are the card stock (o-pee-chee used a gray stock) and the fact that the backs say 'printed in canada' on the o-pee-chee versions instead of 'printed in u.s.a.' on the topps.  both have the topps chewing gum copyright.

here's the 1965 o-pee-chee frank howard card, number 40 in the set:

and here's the topps version:

let's see the backs.  first, o-pee-chee:

and now topps:

my copy of the topps card has bonus hand numbering!  i think one of the interesting things about this card (both topps and o-pee-chee) is that it is noted on the back that howard was traded to the senators.  come to think of it, this could have been a team variation!  unlike howard, ken mcmullen, claude osteen, pete richert, phil ortega, and john kennedy (the other players involved in the trade) were included in later topps series, so they are all featured on the correct team, although clearly not in the right uniforms.  anyway, hondo is just here to be an example of the lack of variation that existed in the 1965 o-pee-chee set.

we'll get back to the variations next time!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

1971 al downing

we'll kick things off with one of my favorite variations - the 1971 al downing card, number 182 in the set.
it's a team variation (meaning the team name on the card is different than the team name on the player's topps card) and a text variation (meaning there is text on the front that doesn't exist on the topps version).  these are two of the 6 basic variations i count in o-pee-chee issues.  the others being photo variation, checklist variation (including o-pee-chee exclusives), 'award' variation (the exclusion of the topps rookie cup or all star designation), and (as we will see in 1977) the facsimilie autograph placement variation.  there might be some others i re-discover, but i think that list pretty much covers it.  and, while i will post examples of all of these types of variations, i am going to focus on the team and photo variations the most.

back to al - he was traded from the brewers to the dodgers for andy kosco in february of 1971.  kosco's card was included in a later topps series, and was shown as a brewer (although with a cartoon hat).

for your reference, here's what the topps version looks like:
the backs of the 1971 o-pee-chee cards are quite different from those of topps.  this was the second year that the text was provided in both english and french (except on some of the high numbers).  here's the back of the o-pee-chee card:
and here's the back of the topps card:
we get all of the same information, just in a slightly different format.  the photo looks to be the same as well, although the o-pee-chee version uses the 'floating head' approach, and it looks like they gave al a haircut over the ears.  the o-pee-chee card is printed on brighter card stock than the topps, which is pretty typical of post 60's o-pee-chee.

one down, many more to go.  i won't be keeping a running total of the number of variations within each post, but i will label each post so that the archives keep a running tally on the number of each type of variation.

if you have any comments or suggestions for format or type of information you would like to see included, please leave a comment and let me know!

voici à vous, 1971 al downing!

Monday, January 11, 2010

to begin (commencer)

man, do i love me some o-pee-chee variations. first appearing in 1971, then going to the extreme in 1977 before settling in from 1978 through 1987, they truly are a special type of baseball card.  just look at this 1979 rod carew card.  no need to wait until 1980 to get an angels card of the longtime twinkie.

plus, there's no question as to whether it's an error (bump wills) or not (jerry morales).  o-pee-chee tells you that the guy was traded right there on the front!  that's good service!

i'll be giving a quick primer on o-pee-chee early on before focusing the rest of the posts on the variations and other checklist oddities that showed up through the years. there are a couple of links on the right that have some great information that i will be expanding on, but don't let that stop you from checking them out!

as i mentioned on the right, the focus will be on the variations that existed until 1987, but i will touch on all of the sets through 1992, which is the last year o-pee-chee used the topps design.

come along for the ride, won't you?