The $20 Lesson

Last month, I went to a card show and learned a lesson–a $20 lesson, to be specific. One of the first tables I perused at the show had some 1972-73 O-Pee-Chee cards for sale.

There is something alluring–almost seductive—about the ’72-73 OPC set. It features cards of players from the World Hockey Association. It uses many different photos than its Topps counterparts. Plus those bright background colors…the bad 1970s haircuts….

And at 340 cards–many in the $10-and-up range–it’s going to be quite the challenge to complete.

So, whenever I see cards from this set, I almost always stop in my tracks to take a closer look. That was my first mistake, because I try to check out all of the tables at a show before I spend any money.

After sifting through a short stack of the OPCs, I held up cards of Stan Mikita and Phil Esposito, and asked the dealer how much?

“Let me check,” he answered, as he procured an issue of Beckett Hockey.

Whenever a dealer whips out the Beckett, I know I am not going to get a good deal. I should have said “no thanks” and just left, but I did not. That was my second mistake. 

But it was too late, as I was seduced by the siren song of the ’72 set.

After looking up the prices, he told me that I could have the Mikita for $10 and the Esposito for $8. Now, this one is my fault. When inquiring about cards, you should know what they are “worth,” or what you are willing to pay for them. I did not. That was my third mistake.

But here’s the kicker. I held up a 1990s “junk wax era” insert card and again asked how much.

“That…uh, you can have it for five dollars,” the dealer said.

At that point, I should have turned around and ran–as fast as I could–to the next table. A red flag should have gone up; a siren should have gone off. Something to indicate that this was not the deal of a lifetime. If this guy wants $5 for a junky insert–I don’t care if it is Mario Lemieux!!!–then I should have known that I was not getting a good deal on the two ’72-73 OPC cards.

“I don’t think that card is worth more than a buck,” I stated. So, the dealer agreed to give me all three cards for $20, which I accepted.

Later on, I checked the price guide to find out that the 2 OPC cards have a combined “high value” of $18–which is exactly what I paid for them. Add $2 for the insert and thus we have the $20 lesson. Don’t ask “how much” unless you know what you want to pay.

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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

5 thoughts on “The $20 Lesson”

  1. Can you really put a price on those '72 OPC cards? Okay, maybe you can but I think that Mikita card alone is worth $20 just for the photo!

    I agree with you about that set, though. There is something about it that just calls to hockey collectors. Didja see the two I picked up recently?

  2. I feel like all people probably have done this before, if not, definitely I have. You get caught up in a moment and then reflecting back have a little remorse on the deal.

    I definitely think it wasn't a bad deal if both the Espo and Mikita are both as sharp as the scan shows them. As for the Lemieux that is such a minor part of the deal I would just focus on two quality 70's era cards which are tough to find in great shape!

  3. oh… my friend, have we not learned? have we not advanced? why? why does the siren song of vintage opc appeal to us like no other?

  4. True, I did get two mighty fine OPC cards.

    But…at…what…cost?

    The Mikita "books" for $9, and the dealer sold it to me for $10.

    The Esposito "books" for $9, and he gave it to me for $8.

    True, those guys are HOFers, and the cards are old…but I always try to get stuff well under the price guide "value."

  5. Wow… I can't believe those OPC cards only book for $18. IMHO you got the deal… as long as you can't find them on eBay for a fraction of the price.

    Either way… those are two sweet cards!

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