After showing off this Jhonas Enroth card on my Instagram account recently, I just had to provide a detailed write-up about these sweet 2011-2012 O-Pee-Chee Retro cards.
Upper Deck recycling old designs isn't a new idea anymore, but it does have a controversial history, especially when it comes to the O-Pee-Chee brand.
What's Old Is New Again?
In 2008, Upper Deck released their first O-Pee-Chee Retro parallel inside boxes of 2008-2009 Upper Deck O-Pee-Chee Hockey. After the product had been released, collectors were pleased to see that Upper Deck had decided reused and bring back the timeless 1979-80 "Gretzky Rookie" vintage O-Pee-Chee design once more to relive this iconic set on a modern hockey card. They released the old design as a Retro parallel to the main base set, along with a few Wayne Gretzky short printed (SP'd) versions as well.
While the idea to bring back a nostalgic design was awesome, especially one as memorable as 'The Gretzky Rookie', this had crossed some unfortunate legal lines, as Topps still had ownership of the original card design (Note: 1979-80 Topps and O-Pee-Chee both used the same design). So even though Upper Deck had ownership of the O-Pee-Chee brand, it turns out they were not able to use this design from the past and did so regardless. They have not revisited this design since.
Fast forward to 2011, and Upper Deck decided to enter their cardboard time machine once more and try their hand at another throwback design inside their 2011-12 Upper Deck O-Pee-Chee Hockey product: 1933-1934 O-Pee-Chee V304 Hockey Cards. This was OPC's (originally a gum company) very first introduction into the world of hockey cards... almost 80 years ago! Crazy, right?!
1933-34 O-Pee-Chee V304 Hockey Cards: Series 'A' and 'B'
For O-Pee-Chee's initial debut into hockey cards, they crafted the colourful V304 set.
Releasing in 1933-34 in the form of two main sets ('A' and 'B' Series), the original run had a total of 72 cards in the first two series'. While series C, D, and E were later continued in the later half of the 1930's, they featured different designs and were also smaller in size. After 1938 season, the production of hockey cards was halted by O-Pee-Chee the following season due to the start of World War ll in 1939.
The original concept for this 1933-34 card set was to celebrate the hockey stars of the time, which is also why the background features multiple renditions of stars in the card design.
A Hockey Star Picture Album was also created for collectors of this era to house their delicate picture cards. I've attached a few pictures of one of these original card albums below. Very cool!
78 years later, a new parallel set from Upper Deck would pay homage to O-Pee-Chee's artistic start in the hobby with colourful retro parallel cards in 2011-12 Upper Deck O-Pee-Chee Hockey.
The 2011-12 Upper Deck O-Pee-Chee Retro Parallel:
After this set was released back in 2011, I remember being drawn to these retro variations the most. I very much enjoyed the contrast between the black and white imagery and unique shades of colour that the background provided to the overall look of the card. While I didn't know of the complete history of the early OPC cards at the time, these definitely stood out to me.
While the original design concepts are the same, like the background colours, along with the black & white photo of the player, some of the visual attributes in the 2011-12 Retro design were slightly altered to make the card have some modern variance. The core design elements such as the use of stars and the use of a bold, centred background shape were kept to instill a proper card revival into a modern card set while taking some creative liberties along the way.
Overall, I feel like these were the perfect tribute to the very first O-Pee-Chee hockey card set, a brand that still continues to impact the hobby in 2021.
I hope this article helped you learn a little bit more about the origins of this hobby and make you appreciate some of these obscure insert cards along the way.
- Aaron / creasecollector
Author - Aaron
I've been collecting Hockey cards since the late 90's. Mainly the goalies since 2005. I also Co-Host a Hockey Card Podcast.
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