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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Heritage Auctions sold a BBCE-authenticated rack with Wayne Gretzky on the back for $276 in November 2022.
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.
While searching the internet, I found a few more examples of these elusive rack packs.
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!