At last! It’s finally here! The annual hockey set builders dream release, better known as 2018-19 O-Pee-Chee. Upper Deck has had the O-Pee-Chee brand back in circulation since the 2006-07 season and shows no signs of letting up. The annual monster set features 500 base cards plus an additional 100 short-printed cards that feature Marquee Rookies, League Leaders, Team Checklists, and Season Highlights. With a selection of 600 cards, you are bound to get a card of your favorite player — even if it happens to be Scott Foster.
For 2018-19 O-Pee-Chee, hobby boxes feature 24 packs of cards with ten cards in each pack. 240 cards isn’t bad when you consider a box will generally run you about $70 (so roughly $.30/card). This year’s design actually uses quite a bit of real estate devoted to the player photo, unlike some other years. The fronts feature an action shot of the player with the team logo on the bottom corner. The borders on the base cards is a light gray/white color with an interior border around the photo that features a cut out on top for the team name and on the bottom for the O-Pee-Chee logo and the player name. The position is also located on the bottom above the brand logo but is very small.
The backs (assuming anyone cares) are dominated by that corrugated cardboard color with black text. There is another inset border like the front that surrounds the player name, vitals, card number, and statistics. If you are looking for career stats, you will find most of them in their entirety on the back of O-Pee-Chee cards.
Enough about the design — lets get to the good stuff.
Like most every year, there are no real guarantees in the boxes as far as “hits” go. There are sometimes chances for autographs (although not this year that I could see) and the occasional manufactured patch card, which I will get to later. The real meat of the boxes is the insert card selection. There is a ton. We busted three boxes and got a good sampling of what the set has to offer. Oh, and in case you are wondering, the chances of completing a base set, even the 500 regular cards out of three boxes, is slim to none and slim just left town. In my estimation (and math isn’t my strong suit), without duplication, you would need at least three boxes to complete a base set. You shouldn’t find duplication within the same boxes, but within the same case is very common.
Let’s talk parallel cards. Yes, the dreaded parallel card. The bane of master set collectors or player collectors’ existence. There is one Retro Parallel card in each pack. The design on the parallels each year generally focuses on the spirit of a past design. This years set reminds me of some sort of hybrid 1968-69 design, where the cards are sideways. Maybe someone else has a better description but that was the first thing that came to mind. Like the base, there are Marquee Rookies, League Leaders, Team Checklists, and Season Highlights in here too.
Next come color variant borders. There are Silver Border parallel cards that fall about 1:3 packs. These look like the base cards but the border is full on silver. Otherwise, there is not a difference. There are also Gold Glossy parallels that fall about one per box.
These, again are the same as the base cards but with a gold border. They also have a gloss sheen to them which is actually quite underwhelming when you consider past years have included high gloss, platinum rainbow parallels.
Finally, there are Retro Black Border parallels that are numbered #/100. These are completely randomly inserted into packs. The first two boxes we opened had three each. The third box had at least one in each pack, sometimes two or three. Not sure if that is some kind of mega-box, hot box, or error, but it was kind of cool.
I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for mini cards and 2018-19 O-Pee-Chee features a 77 card mini set of a select group of players. Most boxes will have about six of these.
But there are also short print versions that come about one per box, maybe less. There are even hand-numbered rare versions (#/27) that feature different backs containing the old school O-Pee-Chee logo.
Playing cards are back and fall about five per box, just enough to play your best poker hand. The higher the card number, the rarer it appears, with Aces at about 1:120 packs. We were able to pull two aces in our three boxes which was quite nice. Of course they were of Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid because who else would you want as your Ace? (The other two are Ovechkin and Marc-Andre Fleury.)
One thing that we found interesting was a bronze border Marquee Legends card of Bernie Parent. It was different than the rest of the cards in the set, had more color to the border, and had a glossier finish. Turns out these are one of Upper Decks “hidden” insert sets that they didn’t initially advertise but that collectors can pull from hobby packs. There was a time in the not too distant past that these were part of the SP high number cards in the base set, but apparently not any more. There are ten of these in all but I’m not really sure what the odds were to pull one.
We didn’t get any of the SSSSSP Award Winner Retro cards or the Cup Captain card of Alex Ovechkin (although last year after about six boxes, we did pull a Crosby Cup Captain). Oh, and yes I meant to use that many “S”s in my description because these have always been unannounced and virtually impossible to find.
Finally, there are everyone’s favorite manufactured patch cards, which we were unable to unearth any. Many collectors thought last year was the end of the patch card run as Upper Deck had continued the series of team logo patches for a few years in the O-Pee-Chee product. But never fear, “fake patch” lovers! They are back with new subject material. This year, Upper Deck has put out 100 different patch cards featuring Trophy Winners, Hall of Fame Logos, and Logo Updates which feature a limited selection of teams that have made tweaks to their logos or just didn’t exist before, like the Vegas Golden Knights. If you are chasing these, good luck. The odds on some of these cards are ridiculous, ranging from an overall rate of 1:96 packs but individually sometimes 1:937, 1:1,687, 1:2,250 even 1:18,750 for the SP HOF Logos.
If you are looking for super mega rookie auto patch cards with DNA samples embedded in them, this is not your bag. High end collectors and hit chasers are going to most likely want to shy away from 2018-19 O-Pee-Chee. But for set collectors, like me, this is a great product. I’m definitely not a master builder by any means but I like to be able to at least put together the base product. O-Pee-Chee is the granddaddy of all set collector products and is a challenge for any collector to complete. But I like the self-inflicted torture of chasing it down. The design is solid this season and the chance at some interesting, and very rare, cards exists if you are up for the challenge (and your wallet can handle it). Besides Upper Deck’s flagship set of Series One and Series Two each year, O-Pee-Chee is my favorite annual release. I hope Upper Deck keeps churning this product out.
I give this 3.5 out of 5 pucks for the cost, variety, and fun. ■
Tim Parish is a writer-at-large for Puck Junk. Follow him on Twitter @therealdfg.