It’s always fun to find an envelope in the mailbox (assuming bills aren’t enclosed). One recent one that I opened contained a 1968 OPC Willie Stargell. I’d taken a bit of a leap of faith with this one as the picture online was terrible, but the price was right and sometimes you need to take a little risk.
On first glance, Willie was awesome. The corners are dead sharp, there’s not a crease to be seen, the surface is unmarred. This could have come fresh from a pack (or more likely a vending case, but I’m not going to argue). Awesome!
Something was amiss, though. I couldn’t place it right away, but it became blindingly obvious when I put Willie next to another card.
Willie is too short. This card is maybe 2-3 mm undersized.
The first thought is obviously that the card was trimmed. I haven’t seen it that often, but it certainly happens. Someone wants to get rid of a ding and so they take a slice off the top, bottom or side so that the corners are nice and sharp again. Looking at the edges of this card, though, it looks original. The edges are consistent and parallel, which almost never happens with a trim. The width was also correct. It’s only off in the one dimension.
So what’s left? A miscut?
It was at this point that I remembered this card:
For whatever reason, the 1967-68 Topps Frank Mahovlich is consistently short. I’ve had three of them in varying condition and they were all the exact same size. I finally accepted that this was just something about the cutting process in that set. It helped that there are other cards in that set that are consistently long. Larry Hillman’s card is tall to the same extent that Frank Mahovlich’s card is short. This wouldn’t ordinarily be obvious except that they’re consecutive numbers in the set, so it really jumps out at you.
So I took Willie Stargell to the hockey binder and put it next to Frank. They’re identical.
I’m not going to purchase half a dozen 1968 OPC Willie Stargells just to prove it, but the handful I’ve seen online all have far too little border up top given how close they’re cut at the bottom. This looks like a trend.
1967-68 Topps hockey was actually produced by OPC. (This was the last season before OPC began producing a distinct hockey set.) It’s reasonable to think that a series two hockey card, probably made in Feb/Mar 1968, was cut using the same process as a 1968 baseball card produced in midsummer. Flaws present in one set could easily be present in a set produced shortly thereafter.
Something changed in the fall, because nothing shows the disasterous cuts of the first series 1968-69 hockey, which might be the worst-cut set I’ve ever seen.
So while it’s not exactly hardcore detective work, at least I can be pretty certain that this card, while wonky, is correct. Besides, if it weren’t wonky, it wouldn’t be OPC, and where’s the fun in that?
So now I can add “shortcuts” to the pantheon of strange OPC production flaws.
The consistency of the short cut could have something to do with where the card is on the uncut sheet. Sometimes cards can end up a bit wonky while being cut and OPC was the king of bad cuts. I have one image of the 67-68 hockey sheet, but it isn’t the best quality and I can’t tell exactly where Frank is on it since so many of the Leafs posed in the same manner.
I’m sure that’s true. I’ve seen images of ’68-69 and all the worst-cut cards are along one edge. I bet that if you find all the short-cut cards, they’re all on a single row (or pair of rows, depending how many there are).
I remember a discussion of the cutting process for ’69-70 and OPC would pre-cut the main sheet into smaller blocks before sending them to the slicer. These pre-cuts led to some common miscuts in the set.