In the early-90s, we were all superficial collectors, so much so that Topps had to create a “high-end” response to Upper Deck and their fancy holograms with Stadium Club. It was a time when producing the slickest, glossiest, and most shiny card was what got you into the pages of Beckett. Long gone were the boring, dull days of 1987 Topps with those awful wood grain borders or worse, 1990 Fleer. Ugh.
I was what you’d call a collector on a budget but since there were only 5-6 releases per year, I still made out with my all my player’s mainstream cards from Topps, Upper Deck, Fleer, Bowman, Score, and Donruss. Eventually, new brands like Studio and Stadium Club made their debut but for the most part, I kept up with everything. By 1995, that was nearly impossible for a teenager with no income.
In 1991, there was one brand I wish I had paid more attention to. Their cards just so happened to hit the market during a very strong year by all the main players, which relegated their output into the common boxes of card shops all over the country. Had they entered the market two years earlier, they would have crushed the competition.
Unfortunately, by 1994, regardless of what O-Pee-Chee could produce, they would forever be overshadowed by the rise of Bowman as a prospect brand and the birth of Chrome, which forever changed the game of baseball cards and crowned Topps the ultimate victor in The Hobby, like it or not. Call me crazy but if Donruss was removed from baseball from flooding the market, it sure seems like the market is flooded in 2017 with just one official brand.
All O-Pee-Chee needed to do was have faith and hold out a little longer but 1994 turned out to be their final year in baseball and by 1995, ravaged by both a baseball and hockey strikes, they left trading cards completely. The following year, they left the candy business and sold away their company to Nestle.
O-Pee-Chee has remained on life support thanks to licensing from both Topps and Upper Deck but the brand for me will always be remembered for what could have been with Premier. In 2009, Upper Deck put out a controversial OPC baseball set which faced a lawsuit and a last minute design change but it just wasn’t the same. The Hobby had moved a million miles away from 1991.
For four years, O-Pee-Chee bravely stuck to their guns during a time of fierce competition in the trading card industry. This was a time when the first pack-inserted, certified autographs were making their debut in Upper Deck, Donruss introduced serial numbered cards, and Chrome technology and Refractors were on the verge of changing the hobby forever.
It would be hard for ANY company to make it but every war has its casualties. However, it could be argued that O-Pee-Chee was not one of them. OPC walked away from trading cards with their heads held high and didn’t face the public humiliation that Upper Deck was forced to endure when they lost their baseball license.