When one thinks of sets they wish they had the money to collect, and I don’t mean more recent sets that involve a few hundred dollars, but the vintage sets that always are out of reach for many budget-minded collectors, it usually involves sets such as the 1952 Topps set (the most wanted post WWII set), the 1948 Bowman set (the first mainstream post WWII set), The Goudey sets from the 30s, and also the 1909-11 T-206 tobacco cards. These sets, as well as some others, are very popular for collectors, but most hobbyists can only afford a card or two not the whole set. Even trying to avoid a big cash outlay for the whole set by collecting individual cards one or a few at a time still presents an insurmountable challenge to most collectors once the commons have been put to bed and the star cards and Hall of Fame players are all that remain.
One set that always seems to fly under the radar, and it is a set I have always put on my wish list, is the 1937 O-Pee-Chee Baseball set. It is a small set, only 40 cards, and it only features American League players of the era, but it has the distinction of being Canada’s first true set of baseball cards. They came one to a pack with a stick of bubble gum for a penny. They are quite rare these days and because of it command sometimes thousands of dollars for each card (especially graded in high condition).
The 1937 O-Pee-Chee baseball set was the company’s first cardboard cards. The company did issue a 58-card set back in 1934 (ACC # V94 Canadian Butterfinger) but the cards were made of paper stock and measured 6-1/2 x 8-1/2 inches. After the ’37 set O-Pee-Chee would not print another until their association with Topps in 1965. As I said the set consists of 40 cards numbered A-101 to A-140. It is cataloged in the ACC as V300.
There has been speculation through the years as to why the cards were given the designation of Series A (you can see this on the back bottom of the cards) but no one knows for sure. Most guess that O-Pee-Chee was planning a second series of cards featuring players from the National League (all players from this set are from the American League) and would designate it Series B (as they did with consecutive Hockey sets from the time period). As to why the numbering starts at #101 instead of #1 is also a mystery.
The cards each measure 2 3/8″ x 2 7/8″ and are die-cut. They contain B&W images of the players in the foreground with a baseball field in the background. A ribbon-shaped image in white with black outline at the bottom give the name of the player, his team, and his position. The back of the cards are plain with the player’s name at the top, the card number at the bottom, and a bilingual biography (English above, French below, separated by a short line).
The set contains 15 Hall of Famers including, Earl Averill, Jimmie Foxx, Hank Greenberg, Goose Goslin, Charlie Gehringer, Luke Appling, Tony Lazzeri, Bill Dickey, Joe Cronin, Rick Ferrell, Red Ruffing, Lefty Grove, Rogers Hornsby, the second year card of Joe DiMaggio, and the rookie card of Bob Feller.
The 1937 O-Pee-Chee set was the first baseball set from a major manufacturer printed in Canada and it is the main reason it holds merit for Canadian collectors such as myself. It is very unlikely that I will ever own this set of cards but it will always stand alongside the American sets mentioned earlier in my baseball sets wish list.
The 1939 O-Pee-Chee Complete Set