Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Box Break: 2020-21 O-Pee-Chee By Upper Deck

I was looking to buy a box of cards to get ready for the 2020-21 autograph-seeking season - which might not happen due to the ongoing pandemic - and opted for the brand that is usually best for signature retention, with Upper Deck's 2020-21 O-Pee-Chee set; I managed to grab a 24-pack (at 8 cards per) for just over $100 on Amazon, but there even are currently a few boxes under $80.

The cards themselves look great; it's a simple design that fits with those of recent years but also wouldn't have been out of place in the 1980s:
I'd like to mention UD's sense of humour here, by choosing a picture of Sergei Bobrosvky that shows him essentially with his eyes closed and stick nowehere near the ice. I realize he's probably looking for the puck through traffic and just blinking, but considering last season was his worst-ever in the NHL, I thought it was worth mentioning. You can see on the back of Alex Goligoski's card that the stats depict the last ten seasons, despite the totals being for his 13-year career. The cards are nearly completely matte, which will be perfect for player signatures to "stick" onto. UD also had a nod to the main issue plaguing the original OPC sets of yore by purposely printing cards that look like they weren't cut properly, as shown on the Brayden McNabb card below, compared to the "regular" Joonas Korpisalo card:
There is a catch is touting and advertizing this as the most comprehensive set of the season, and that's the fact that there are anywhere between 700 and 800 payers who suit up in any given NHL season, so by definition, there isn't room for all of them to be included together in any set, but OPC has a habit of finding reasons to include the same players multiple times such as these two of Leon Draisaitl in two different League Leaders categories (kudos on using different jerseys, though), taking exposure away from more marginal players:
I also pulled Season Highlights cards of Joe Thornton and Zdeno Chara:
As usual, there are numerous Marquee Rookies cards in this set, I've decided to showcase Egor Korshkov and Anthony Angello, but I also landed Brandon Hagel, Gage Quinney, Andrei Chibisov, Calvin Thurkauf, and Gustav Lindstrom:
For a reason unbeknownst to me or any sane person, I also ended up with a bunch of Marquee Legends cards of retired superstars of the past, of which I chose to feature the top two scorer of all-time in Wayne Gretzky and Jaromir Jagr, but there were also Raymond Bourque, Bobby Hull and Martin Brodeur, in case we hadn't already seen every single picture that had been snapped of them:
One sub-set that stands apart from the main collection and even has its own numbering system is what I used to refer to as "minis" but in this iteration gets billed as O-Pee-Chee Premier Tallboys, which consists of 50 star players given their own additional card, same height as the regular-issue but two-thirds the width; these will be fun to try to get signed, and I figured I could show off all eight of mine: Mark Stone, Roman Josi, Mitch Marner, Elias Petersson, Ben Bishop, Taylor Hall, Ryan O'Reilly and Rookie Jason Robertson:
One thing they absolutely need to do away with - it really isn't funny or fun anymore - is the endless number of Checklist cards, by card number, by team, any way you want it (or not):
It was cute in the 1990s when the "catch" to having more valuable sets from the 1970s was finding one with intact (or even just incliuded) checklist cards, but they no longer have their raison d'être, particularly when not featuring a player on one side.

Upper Deck bloated the set with a bunch of inserts, as if having a 600-card series wasn't enough in and of itself; the main parallel sub-set is the "Blue" variation, of which I pulled Connor Hellebuyck, Frederik Andersen, Marc-André Fleury, Connor McDavid and John Klingberg (and yes, the Klingberg is much lighter than the rest, I'm not sure if that's a printing mistake or just another variation):
Of course, where there's "Blue", there is also usually "Red", which are more rare, as can be attested by the lone Jake DeBrusk card I landed:
This year's Retro sub-set is actually great-looking, not based on ugly colour contrasts but on the sticker inserts of past O-Pee-Chee and Topps sets of the 1980s:
And because O-Pee-Chee gonna O-Pee-Chee, there are double-variants, such as this Blue Marquee Legends card of Henrik Zetterberg:
There was also a Retro Marquee Legends card of Steve Yzerman and a Retro Marquee Rookies card of Jake Evans:
And, of course, a Retro Checklist for the Columbus Blue Jackets, a team that was not present at any time that can be considered "retro":
Before I started writing this point-by-point, my heart was inching towards this being a near-perfect set, but my nagging and complaining on the inserts have made me revise my first impression grade by half a point, to a still-respectable 8.5/10. I can't wait to get some of these cards signed.

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