It's been probably five years since I've worked on a current hockey set. Baseball is my first love and when it came time to pare down the card buying, hockey went quickly. To add to my disinterest, Upper Deck got an exclusive license. While they're not doing a horrible job, it's made things a little too boring and predictable. When they acquired the O-Pee-Chee brand three years ago I was in shock and disbelief. I'm a sucker for tradition and O-Pee-Chee always belonged with Topps in my mind. I still have a hard time accepting that Upper Deck is now making OPC cards, kind of like I'm not buying TSN using the old Hockey Night in Canada theme.
That said, 2008-09 O-Pee-Chee Hockey has me collecting the sport again. Specifically, it's the no-frills 38-card rack packs I'm finding at Wal-Mart that have me collecting hockey again. With a 600-card base set, OPC is a monster to piece together. That's without getting into the final 100 cards being short prints. But at six bucks a pop, these rack packs make set building fun and managable. My wife doesn't object or even give me a dirty look when I slip a couple packs into the cart - that's how impressive the set is.
I'm making the purchase knowing full well there's no autographs, game-used or buybacks. I could care less. Give me a reasonably priced set with a huge checklist and I'm going to look at building it. Even when the design is merely "M'eh" like this set. I want to track the current rosters, last year's stats and learn new players. I want to sort and organize. I want to enjoy the set. There's a few inserts, but they're pretty mundane and add a simple flash to the packs. And while I normally loath players in one uniform and the logo being another, it's part of the OPC tradition. I think the traded lines would have made the touch even better, but I'm not complaining too much.
What these packs show, though, are just how much we're paying for autographs and game-used. Wal-mart has six-card regular packs with the slim possibility of hits at $3.00 a pack. That's $0.50 per card. The rack packs are 38 cards for $6.00. That's about $0.16 per card. So for a chance at a hit, which in all likelihood won't pay for two more packs, you're paying triple the price. You'll probably get more short prints and inserts, but it's not worth three times the price - at least to this set collector. So there's a little number crunching to show what the cost of hits are - even when the majority are plain white jersey swatches and signatures from average players with little upside.
If, by chance, you're working on the 2008-09 OPC set too, I've got a handful of doubles if you want to send me your list. My wants are still pretty big but can be found here.