PSA Set Registry

Collecting the 1982 O-Pee-Chee Hockey Card Set

Nine Cards of No. 99 to Celebrate His Greatest Season

by Kevin Glew

The 1982 O-Pee-Chee Hockey set is, in many ways, a celebration of Wayne Gretzky’s finest NHL season.

Nine cards in this series feature “The Great One,” who was fresh off his remarkable, 1981-82 campaign that saw him break single-season records for most goals (92), assists (120) and points (212).

The first card in this set is a Record Breaker single paying tribute to Gretzky’s 1981-82 accomplishments, while card #99 - the jersey number that Gretzky made famous - was reserved for the Edmonton Oilers Team Leaders card which also pictures the superstar center. Gretzky is also showcased on a regular issue card (#106), In Action single (#107) and five League Leader cards (#235, #237, #240, #242 and #243).

“I enjoy collecting this set because it holds nine cards of the best [hockey] player ever, and every one of those cards in PSA GEM-MT 10 is a great card; even [PSA MINT] 9s are good cards,” said James Wade, who owns the No. 6 Current Finest, 1982 O-Pee-Chee Hockey set on the PSA Set Registry.

Robin Taylor, who has assembled the registry’s No. 5 Current Finest, 1982 O-Pee-Chee Hockey set, agrees.

“The quantity of Gretzky cards is one of this set’s biggest assets to me,” he said. “His accomplishments that [previous] year were amazing, and it was one of the first of many big seasons that he had.”

But while Gretzky is the headliner, he’s far from the only star in this 396-card offering. Thirty-seven other Hall of Famers are featured on 1982 O-Pee-Chee pasteboards. And with Topps not producing a hockey set that year, O-Pee-Chee had the market all to themselves.

With that said, some puck enthusiasts contend that the 1982 O-Pee-Chee cards showcase one of the company’s dullest designs, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder and collectors of this issue admire its simple look. The vertical, white-bordered fronts present the team, player name and position (in English and French) inside color-coordinated bars at the top, while the team logo can be found on the bottom right.

“I like the design. I like the color format of the cards,” said Jim Feeley, whose No. 1, 1982 O-Pee-Chee Hockey set on the PSA Set Registry boasts an impressive 9.99 GPA. “To me, it’s just an old-time hockey set. The cards don’t look like the modern hockey cards you see today. They have a really nice layout.”

Wade also likes the look of the cards.

“I like the design of the cards because it’s simple yet tasteful,” he said. “The colors are a lot more attractive than the year before. In 1981, all of the colors seemed kind of gray, distant and cold, and in this set, they’re certainly more vibrant.”

The large player photos are the focus of the fronts. Both close-up and action shots are used, and if you look closely, you’ll notice that many of the action shots were snapped in Washington when teams were playing the Capitals. The exception seems to be the photos on several of the Edmonton Oilers cards, which were taken in Chicago.

Many of the most memorable action shots feature goalies. The Grant Fuhr rookie (#105), for example, flaunts a photo of the Hall of Famer in full gear poised to make a save. Taylor’s favorite card in the series is New Jersey Devils backstop Glenn Resch’s In Action card (#146).

“I remember the image of the puck flying past him on that card from when I was a kid, and I think that was a theme for his first year with the Devils. They got beat pretty bad on most nights,” said Taylor.

Transaction notations appear on the fronts of some of the cards. The bulk of these are trade or free agent status updates, but the Don Marcotte (#14) and Jim Watson (#259) singles indicate that they are “Now Retired.”

The 1982 O-Pee-Chee card backs are vertical and offer purple text. Some areas have a pink background. The card number, player name, position, team and O-Pee-Chee logo are highlighted in a cylindrical design at the top, while the remaining card back is divided into two sections. The left side harbors vitals, yearly statistics and biographical information (if there’s room).

The bio is in English and French and is generally restricted to the player’s marital status and information about their junior career, but there’s also the occasional interesting tidbit included. Denis Potvin’s card (#210), for example, boasts that he witnessed the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana. And Howard Walker’s single (#59) informs us that he’s one of nine brothers from a family of 12.

The right side of the card backs offer a team fact or record in English and French, as well as the NHL and NHLPA logos.

The cards are generally sequenced alphabetically by team city and then by the player’s last name within each team. Some late transactions resulted in players’ cards being updated to reflect their new teams.

Four subsets are also part of the 1982 O-Pee-Chee Hockey set. The Record Breaker cards (#1 to #5) and League Leader singles (#235 to #243) are grouped together, while Team Leader cards are at the start of each team grouping. “In Action” cards, highlighting a standout performance by a marquee player, are generally found right after the star player’s regular card.

The 1982 O-Pee-Chee Hockey cards were distributed in 11-card/25-cent wax packs with gum. There were three fewer cards in these packs than there were in the 1981 O-Pee-Chee wax packs. The 1982 cards were also available in 51-card rack packs (down from 57-card racks in 1981) and vending boxes. Wade found it difficult to pull high-grade examples from the 1982 rack packs. The 51-card racks consisted of three separate batches of 17 cards that were wrapped in cellophane so tightly that it pressed against the corners and edges of the cards.

Several players in this series have “Free Agent As Of Nov. 9/82” printed on their photos. From this, we can deduce that November 9, 1982, was one of the last dates (if not the last date) that O-Pee-Chee could make revisions to the cards before the final production process began. So it’s safe to conclude that the 1982 O-Pee-Chee cards were printed after November 9, 1982.

It’s also interesting to note that O-Pee-Chee secured photos of many of the New Jersey Devils players in their Devils uniforms. The franchise had moved from Colorado to New Jersey following the 1981 season, so these photos had to be taken during the 1982 pre-season or early in the regular season.

This set boasts four Hall of Famer rookie cards, including Fuhr (#105), Ron Francis (#123), Joe Mullen (#307) and Dale Hawerchuk (#380).

The Fuhr card offers one of Taylor’s favorite images in the set. The card, itself, is not particularly difficult to find in top grade, but Feeley says it’s the most coveted of the Hall of Famer rookies. Of the 1,046 submissions, there have been 56 PSA 10s.

Taylor says the toughest of the Hall of Famer rookies to obtain in PSA 10 is the Francis (#123). This card is located in the bottom row of a print sheet (third from the left), a position that generally makes cards vulnerable to condition flaws. There are just 23 PSA 10 Francis rookies.

Wade says Hawerchuk’s cardboard debut (#380) has been the most challenging of the Hall of Fame rookies for him to track down in pristine form.

“That’s a card I’d be willing to pay good money for, but I don’t see them that often,” said Wade.

Of the 493 submitted, there have been 13 PSA 10s.

Feeley says the Mullen card (#307) is overshadowed by the other Hall of Famer rookies. He once owned approximately 200 Mullen rookies and sent in about 20 of them to PSA for grading. Out of his 20 submissions, he only got back one PSA 10.

“I think Joe Mullen is the best American player to ever play the game,” he said. “He just kind of sits in the background [compared to the other rookies in this set], but he was a great player.”

There are 25 PSA 10 Mullen rookies.

The cardboard debuts of several other players that enjoyed noteworthy NHL careers are also part of this set, including Tom Fergus (#11), Steve Konroyd (#48), Doug Crossman (#63), Mark Osborne (#93), Brent Ashton (#135), Aaron Broten (#136), Joe Cirella (#137), Neal Broten (#164), Mark Hunter (#185), Rick Wamsley (#195), Brent Sutter (#216), Mike Bullard (#264), Marian Stastny (#295), Marc Crawford (#342), Bobby Carpenter (#361), Paul MacLean (#386) and Thomas Steen (#391).

The most coveted of the Gretzky cards is his regular issue card (#106), which both Wade and Taylor say is not easy to track down in PSA 9 or 10.

“That Gretzky card has been a lot harder for me to get,” said Wade. “For a fourth-year regular card, it’s still quite valuable even in a [PSA] 9.”

This card was located on the top row of the print sheet (sixth from the left) and is often plagued by poor left-to-right centering. There are just 16 PSA 10s.

Feeley says that Mike Bossy’s regular issue card (#199) was one of the toughest cards for him to find in PSA 10. This card is located on the right edge of the fourth row of a print sheet, an edge-sheet position that made it vulnerable to flaws. This explains why many examples are found with poor left-to-right centering and also why there are just six PSA 10s.

“I just got the Mike Bossy card [in PSA 10],” said Feeley, who had been looking for one for several years. “That’s one of the hardest cards to get because as soon as they come up for sale, they’re usually bought.”

Among the other Hall of Famers represented in this set are Ray Bourque (#7), Tony Esposito (#64), Denis Savard (#73), Paul Coffey (#101), Jari Kurri (#111), Mark Messier (#112), Marcel Dionne (#152), Guy Lafleur (#186), Larry Robinson (#191), Bryan Trottier (#214), Peter Stastny (#292) and Borje Salming (#332).

“All of these early 1980s sets are amazing to collect because they’re full of Islander greats, Canadiens greats and Oilers greats,” noted Wade. “And these [1982 cards] are still relatively early cards in a lot of Hall of Famers’ careers.”

With just eight submissions and only one PSA 10, the toughest common card in this set is the Don Marcotte (#14). This card is the first card on the left in the seventh row of a print sheet, a position that generally makes cards most susceptible to flaws such as miscuts. So it’s not surprising that the Marcotte is regularly hampered by poor left-to-right centering.

“That’s a very tough card,” noted Feeley, who owns the sole PSA 10. “I got my [PSA] 10 about 10 years ago.”

Just eight examples of the Mike Zuke (#313) and Doug Soetaert (#389) singles have been evaluated and there are two PSA 10s of each of them. A review of the print sheets reveals that the Soetaert card is also in an edge-sheet position (last card on the right, fourth row).

Generally speaking, however, the 1982 O-Pee-Chee Hockey cards are not difficult to obtain in PSA NM-MT 8 or PSA 9 grade. Feeley has uncovered some poorly centered cards, but he says miscuts are a more common condition flaw.

If you look closely, you will also spot some uncorrected errors in this issue. For example, Islanders is misspelled “Ilsanders” on the back of the Scoring Leader card (#243) and the wrong player photos appear on two cards. Card #346 is supposed to picture Ivan Hlinka but offers a photo of Jiri Bubla, and the Paul MacLean rookie (#386) actually features a photo of Larry Hopkins.

These errors are another interesting aspect of this unheralded set, which is, in many ways, a celebration of Gretzky’s finest season, but continues to be relatively affordable to assemble.

“I think the [PSA] 9s are still pretty inexpensive,” said Wade.

Taylor has seen a small spike in the number of people collecting this set in recent months.

“I see more people collecting it now, but I don’t think it will ever compete with the 1980 or the 1981 [O-Pee-Chee Hockey] sets,” he said. “The 1982 set has its assets, but I think it will always play second fiddle to those two sets.”

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Summary of Key Cards

Rookie Cards: Grant Fuhr (#105), Ron Francis (#123), Neal Broten (#164), Brent Sutter (#216), Joe Mullen (#307), Dale Hawerchuk (#380)

Key Star Cards: Ray Bourque (#7), Paul Coffey (#101), Wayne Gretzky (#106), Mark Messier (#117), Guy Lafleur (#186), Mike Bossy (#199)

Toughest Common Cards in High Grade: Don Marcotte (#14), Mike Zuke (#313), Doug Soetaert (#389)

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Fun Facts About the 1982 O-Pee-Chee Hockey Set

Four of the five players featured on the Record Breakers cards are Hall of Famers (Wayne Gretzky (#1), Mike Bossy (#2), Dale Hawerchuk (#3) and Bryan Trottier (#5)). The fifth card was devoted to Mikko Leinonen (#4). Who, you ask? Leinonen was a rookie center for the New York Rangers who tallied six assists on April 8, 1982, to set a record for most assists in a playoff game. Unfortunately, it was mostly downhill from there for Leinonen during his NHL career. In all, he managed to play parts of four seasons with the Rangers and Washington Capitals, before returning to his native Finland.

With Marian Stastny’s debut (#295), this is the first O-Pee-Chee Hockey series to feature a card of all three Stastny brothers (Peter (#292), Anton Stastny (#294))

On top of multiple cards of Hall of Famers like Gretzky, Bossy and Hawerchuk, this set offers three cards of less celebrated, former Montreal Canadiens goalie Denis Herron. The Habs goalie is highlighted on the Goals Against Average Leader card (#239), Shutout Leader card (#241) and his regular issue (#270). The 1981 season was one of the best of Herron’s career. So how did the Canadiens reward him? They traded him to the Pittsburgh Penguins on September 15, 1982. His regular card has been updated to reflect the trade.

If you read the backs of these cards, you’ll discover that players have some interesting nicknames. For example, we learn on Don Beaupre’s card (#163) that he was nicknamed “Puddin-Head” by his teammate Tom McCarthy. And just six cards later, we’re informed that McCarthy (#169), himself, is nicknamed “Jughead” after the character from the Archie comics.

There are legends in every sport that you associate exclusively with one team and you forget that they played with another club near the end of their careers. Two cards in this set picture legendary Montreal Canadiens defensemen Guy Lapointe (#305) and Serge Savard (#390) with the St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets respectively. Most people may have forgotten about this fact, but they did play for these teams.

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For more information on the 1982 O-Pee-Chee Hockey card set, please visit http://www.psacard.com/Cardfacts/Set/869/1982-o-pee-chee-hockey-cards.


Please feel free to contact Kevin Glew at [email protected] if you have any additional information or comments. Thanks to Jim Feeley for providing cards for scanning and to Robin Taylor and James Wade for their extra assistance on this article. Please note that the Population Report figures quoted and Set Registry rankings reported are those as of December 2015.