1972-73 O-Pee-Chee Set: Build or Buy?

Have you ever been on the fence as to whether you should buy a complete set or build it yourself? For sets from the 1980s and 1990s, it’s a no-brainer–buying a complete set will save you time and money.

But with older cards, it is not that simple. Complete sets of older cards are harder to find–and when you do find them, the dealer usually wants a premium because of the effort he has (supposedly) saved you.

Over the past few years, I’ve been causally picking away at the 1972-73 O-Pee-Chee Hockey set, accumulating 65 of the 340 cards. Most cost me $1, some a few more, but overall I did not invest much time or money.

In other words, I could still go either way. Or so I thought.

At the card show on March 16-18, an interesting opportunity presented itself. A dealer had a near-complete set of 1972-73 O-Pee-Chee cards–all near-mint or better. Really a top-notch set.

The drawback? All the big guns were missing. The dealer had acquired a collection, but the original owner put all the best cards in screw-down holders, and they were not included in the collection when the dealer bought it.

So, it was a near-complete set lacking Bobby Orr (both cards), Ken Dryden (both cards), Bobby Clarke, Guy Lafleur, Jacques Plante and all the other guys in the $40-and-up price range. (He did have the Bobby Hull WHA card, though).

Keep in mind that the Beckett value for this set is between $900 to $1,500.

What did you think the dealer wanted?

I probably would not find a set this close to complete or in this perfect of condition ever again.

But so what? All the best cards (except Hull) were missing. I’d still have to hunt down some cards–and they were the expensive ones.

The dealer wanted $1,000 for the near-complete set. Even if I talked him down to $800, I’d be paying a lot of money for a set that would still require lots of money to complete.

At that point, I decided that I would try and build this set myself.

Author: Sal Barry

Sal Barry is the editor and webmaster of Puck Junk. He is a freelance hockey writer, college professor and terrible hockey player. Follow him on Twitter @puckjunk

10 thoughts on “1972-73 O-Pee-Chee Set: Build or Buy?”

  1. I would try and build it myself–ou can work on it at your own pace and probably get it for less–and the feeling of accomplishment would be great
    I built mine myself but it was in the 80's–had to sift through a lot of 20 for $1.00 boxes though

  2. I think you made the right call Sal. Tough to fork over $1,000 when you know you still need to track down all the most expensive cards.

  3. The key would have been the condition of the cards in that last series. They're tricky to find at a good price and in top shape.

    $800 for ~330 cards, including unmarked NM checklists works out to less than $3/card. You'll probably find the commons for less than that, but once you factor in the high series, semistars, checklists and shipping from however many come through eBay, you'll likely find that $800 is a pretty solid deal.

    Doing it yourself allows you to spread that cash outlay out, plus it's more fun.

  4. One thing I have found about getting OPC from that era, though, is this – get your stars on eBay and your commons at shows. High-end commons draw too many bidders, but stars (not named Bobby Orr) tend to go under book value.

  5. Funny…I just did this with the 82-83 OPC set. I needed almost all the Gretzkys and enough of the other pricy cards so I bought a set on eBay for cheaper than it would have cost me after pricing out all the singles.

  6. This set is easily the hardest of the decade to complete. I spent many years putting one together but I lucked out getting a lot of the high numbers at just 15 cents each in 1990. As long as there were lots of high numbers that were in good shape in the lot, I wouldn't blink at paying $800 or so if I had to start from scratch knowing what I do now. As was stated by other posters, the big cards can be had at decent prices.

  7. I got the bulk of mine in around 1986. It was a "set" that was missing 3-4 lower cards (including the Orr/Park AS) and the entire high series. Even then, it was something like $125.

    I found most of the high series in various bins at the time, but many were pretty bashed up.

    A number of years ago I upgraded the high series. That was a pretty serious challenge.

  8. Buying a partial set is a great way to kickstart the project, but only if the price is right.

    I also think it's way less fun to buy the set in one fell swoop.

    In the end, it's whatever makes you happy and there's no right or wrong in that sense.

    It's a great (and challenging) set. Good luck.

  9. I recently purchased a beautiful near set that was missing only CL 19, Rejean Houle 210, Bruins Stanley Cup 276 and Bobby Hull 336. It’ll cost me around $1,100 by the time I finish it but I don’t think I’ll ever find a nicer set. I already found the CL and Hull but the Houle and Bruins cards seem to be tough. I could also use an upgrade of the Orr/Park AS 227. Does anyone have minty ones available?

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