Beyond the Junk Wax Era: The Scarce 1988-89 O-Pee-Chee Hockey Rack Packs

Topps introduced their first-ever hockey rack pack in 1968. But one of the most elusive hockey racks to collectors is the 1988-89 O-Pee-Chee rack pack. Despite being produced during the era of overproduction, commonly known as the “junk wax era,” these packs are rare and difficult to find. In this article, I’ll delve into the details of the 1988-89 O-Pee-Chee hockey rack packs, share a theory about their production and distribution, and show a few examples.

1988 OPC Hockey Rack Pack

After their first rack pack in 1968, Topps continued to produce them in 1969, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, and 1988. O-Pee-Chee also released rack packs in 1981, 1982, 1983, and 1988 (more on the 1988 Topps Hockey rack packs in a future newsletter). Some collectors suspect Topps could have produced rack packs in 1970 and 1974, but finding vintage unopened hockey products is like looking for a unicorn, and I’m unaware of any on the market. But what all hockey card collectors agree on is that these 1988 O-Pee-Chee hockey racks are one of the toughest to track down; they’re perhaps as scarce as the 1981s.

The 1988 O-Pee-Chee hockey rack packs contained a piece of gum, which is almost always destroyed, and an O-Pee-Chee Mini Stars card.

1988 OPC Hockey Rack Pack

The Mini Stars were originally packaged separately as their own product, so it was pretty cool to find them in the same rack pack as the base cards. 

1988-89 OPC Hockey Wax Box
1988-89 OPC Mini Stars Box

The base hockey cards were released in wax packs, while the Mini Stars were packed in what looks like a cello wrapper. But, this combination of products in the rack packs leads me to believe that O-Pee-Chee may have been trying to move unsold inventory towards the end of the season.

A lot of collectors believe that the 1988 rack packs were a Toys R Us exclusive, as any rack pack found with a price tag attached seems to come from Toys R Us. 

1988 O-Pee-Chee Hockey Rack pack With Toys R Us Sticker

It’s possible that Toys R Us was the only company willing to buy excess inventory, and they could have dumped anything that didn’t sell after a few months, hence their scarcity.

Several examples of 1988 O-Pee-Chee hockey rack packs have been sold at auction in recent years. In July 2021, Collect Auctions sold a GAI 8.5 graded rack pack with Tom Barrasso Mini Stars card on top for $161. 

1988 OPC Hockey GAI Rack Pack – Front
1988 OPC Hockey GAI Rack Pack – Reverse

Heritage Auctions sold a BBCE-authenticated rack with Wayne Gretzky on the back for $276 in November 2022. 

Heritage 1988 OPC Hockey Rack Pack – Front
Heritage 1988 OPC Hockey Rack Pack – Reverse

Now, the 1988 O-Pee-Chee set is most famous for the Brett Hull rookie card, so the priciest copy I’ve seen for sale has the Hull card showing on top, which was listed for $1500 by the seller on Facebook. 

1988 OPC Hockey Rack Pack – Brett Hull on Front – Front
1988 OPC Hockey Rack Pack – Brett Hull on Front – Reverse

While searching the internet, I found a few more examples of these elusive rack packs.

1988 OPC Hockey Rack Pack
1988 OPC Hockey Rack Pack Lot

In conclusion, the 1988 O-Pee-Chee hockey rack packs are one of the rarest and most elusive hockey card collectibles out there. And the combination of base cards and Mini Stars in the same pack, along with their association with Toys R Us, suggests that they could have been a late-season attempt by O-Pee-Chee to move unsold inventory. Whether true or not, these rack packs remain highly sought-after for hockey card collectors. And don’t forget to subscribe to The Post War Cards Newsletter so you don’t miss it when I talk about the 1988 Topps Hockey racks; Happy Collecting!

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