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O-Pee-Chee vs Topps - Who Made Who?

Updated: May 1

The age-old question is; did Topps own O-Pee-Chee? The answer may surprise you. So, was O-Pee-

Chee the alternating current from London, Canada and Topps the direct current out of New York? Was

O-Pee-Chee just the vestigial Canadian arm of the Topps brand who turned the screw, maybe nobody

told you, so let me walk you through.

This question has been asked more times than is likely understood, so let's take a quick glimpse at

when these two organizations first collaborated and then go over their history leading up to their

commercial relationship.

Unofficially, 1952 was the first time Topps and O-Pee-Chee partnered, when Topps underestimated

their sales predictions and overproduced the 1952 baseball cards, on this, their first venture into

exclusive baseball card distribution. This resulted in a warehouse teeming with unsold packs. Topps

would call on O-Pee-Chee and made arrangements to alleviate just a fraction of the company's

warehoused surplus of these, which are now recognized as the most iconic baseball packs ever


Furthermore, the O-Pee-Chee archives also housed an entire box of 1952 Baseball packs that went up

for auction at the 2004 Mastro auction, giving much credence to this claim, let alone the abundance of

Mickey Mantle rookie cards discovered north of the border over the past five decades.

It has been confirmed that in and around 1960, Joel Shorin dumped up to 500 cases of 1952 Topps

baseball in the Hudson River

Topps was not alone when it came to issues with gum companies and large bodies of water. During

World War II, O-Pee-Chee provided dried egg powder to Europe and the United Kingdom, and a

German submarine sank one of their shipments on the St. Lawrence River. The powdered egg floated

everywhere, but the 1952 Topps baseball cases sank like rocks.

Let's start with a quick history of the O-Pee-Chee Gum Company, who were based in London, Ontario,

Canada, and formally entered the gum industry in 1911. Although their roots may be traced back to

the Somerville Gum Company, which was founded in 1888. Although the Somerville business wore

many hats, first as a gum/confection manufacturer, box makers and even went so far as to suppling

general stores with cabinetry and furnishing, product displays along with a host of unique sundry

items, thus fully utilizing their distribution network.

Somerville also had some experience producing cards, such as the "Puzzle Popcorn Bar" cards and the

"Pepsin Gum Hero" gum wrappers, a set featuring images of Canadian military leaders from the Second

Boer War (1899-1902), both of which are extremely rare sets launched around the turn of the century.

There are over 400 uniquely Canadian Non-Sports documented sets for Pre-War! Who Knew?

Going forward and with the McDermott's prior experience, they started their own gum venture in 1911

called O-Pee-Chee Gum & Box Company. It wasn't until 1933 that O-Pee-Chee released its first set of

sports cards.

Charles Somerville was the founder and owner of this chewing gum and box company, while in 1897 he

hired two savvy businessmen, the McDermot brothers (John and Duncan) to help assist him with the

operations to run his business. Due to some form of malaise, Charles sold off the gum business in 1908

to Wrigley's and the McDermott brothers would purchase the box business. With the McDermott's

prior experience, they started their own gum venture in 1911 called O-Pee-Chee Gum & Box Company.

O-Pee-Chee's first set of sports cards was released in 1933 and for the next eight years they issue sets

in hockey in and one for Major League Baseball in 1936, all which was duly halted by WWII.

The genesis of Topps, came in 1938, but their roots can harken back to a previous company, much like

O-Pee-Chee, although with a slight change in product and was called American Leaf Tobacco. This

tobacco company was founded by the Saloman family in 1890 who imported tobacco into the USA,

then distributed to other tobacco firms.

Morris Shorin, the patriarch of the Topps family, bought the tobacco firm in 1908, and with the

outbreak of World War I, which made tobacco imports problematic, and then the Great Depression,

Shorin found it impossible to continue as a profiting business. With the Shorin family's innovative spirit,

his sons, Abram, Ira, Philip, and Joseph, created a new product, chewing gum, to capitalize on the

company's existing distribution networks. In 1938, they relaunched the company's business approach

under the new name Topps, a simple but suitable homonym if there ever was one.

Now that we've covered the origins of both companies, we are able to review their affiliations. To

clarify, it wasn't until 1952 that Topps approached O-Pee-Chee Gum about purchasing and distributing

baseball cards in Canada. This two-country collaboration continued for a number of years, but it wasn't

until 1954 that O-Pee-Chee's name officially appeared on baseball wrappers as a distributor for

baseball card packs; while the cards were Topps, the wrappers and boxes were created in Canada by O-


An interesting detail is that six cards will appear in 1954 baseball packs for the US market, but only four

in Canadian baseball wrapped packs. The difference in count would also apply to the display boxes;

Topps had 24 packs, while O-Pee-Chee had 36. Mathematically, both boxes possessed 144 cards, yet a

full box of Topps costs $1.20 and a full box of O-Pee-Chee costs $1.80.

Perhaps O-Pee-Chee had to account for the 21.5% exchange rate between the United States dollar and

the Canadian dollar at the time, so the currency differential and shipping from New York to London,

Canada, may have compensated for this imbalance.

As a result, Topps owned the player's licensing, but in hockey, they owned the rights to the teams, thus

making O-Pee-Chee somewhat of a subcontractor. So, who made who boils down to both being

separate independent businesses that shared in the profits of licensed sports and non-sports card

throughout the North American marketplace. This relationship continued up and into the 1990's.

Now let's save the discussion of United Kingdom's AB & C Gum company affiliation of card issues with

Topps for another article as that gets a little more complicated, especially when AB & C always denied

this relationship, another who made who again, ahh, you know who!

2 comentarios

Is there confirmation of the 1952 Topps dump beyond Berger’s saying so? I’d assumed this was a tall tale.

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Contestando a

It is difficult to argue with Berger's statement, now he and anyone else would be gone by now who was involved.

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