O-Pee-Chee was a 20th-century Canadian company that produced candy, and later trading cards. It was started in London, Ontario in 1911 by two brothers, John and Duncan McDermid. Today, the O-Pee-Chee brand of trading cards are produced by The Upper Deck Company.
Young Canada's Favourite (written by O-Pee-Chee Company in 1989 or 1990) Edit
The name O-Pee-Chee is an Aboriginal word meaning "the Robin" as is found in The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It also happened to be the name of McDermid's summer cottage in Grand Bend. Back in those days, it was probable that a favourite juvenile expression might have been "Oh, it's peachy!" Hence, the name O-Pee-Chee Gum Company.
In 1921, O-Pee-Chee Gum Company was sold to a trust with the intent of incorporating the Company and changing its name to O-Pee-Chee Company Limited. Initially, it was incorporated as a public Company with five shareholders and four directors - all members of the McDermid family.
The sales for the first year of operation of O-Pee-Chee Company Limited were $177,389.84 with a profit of $4,766.92. The products manufactured were chewing gum, mints and various types of popcorn - especially Krackley Nut. In that year, there were 30 employees in the plant and the annual payroll was $31,614.38, including management salaries and bonuses.
The McDermids owned and operated both O-Pee-Chee Company Limited and Somerville Paper Box Limited until 1944 when they sold the Somerville business to Garfield Weston. In 1945, O-Pee-Chee Company Limited was changed from a public company to a private company. For many years, National Novelty Company was a subsidiary of O-Pee-Chee Company acting as a retail outlet, selling candy goods over the counter, and also servicing gum vending machines in the area.
In 1928, a manufacturing facility was built at 430 Adelaide Street in London. Initially, this plant was erected primarily to supply a substantial export gum business to the United Kingdom. From 1928 until 1989, this plant housed some of the most modern gum and candy making equipment available in the world.
During the depression years, the Company operated mainly at a loss. In 1933, a licensing agreement was signed with a Buffalo firm to manufacture and sell a line of paraffin chewing gum and novelties. This allowed O-Pee-Chee to sell these products in Canada as well as in Great Britain and Ireland. About this time, Frank P. Leahy joined the firm as Sales Manager and John Gordon McDermid, the son of J.K. McDermid, also became active in the business.
With the arrival of World War II, accompanied by sugar and other commodity rationing, O-Pee-Chee Company existed mainly because of war contracts to supply dried egg powder to Europe and the United Kingdom. Employees, who worked at O-Pee-Chee during the war, recall the incident when a boat carrying a load of egg powder was sunk in the St. Lawrence River by a German submarine and the shipment had to be returned to London for repacking. During this time, the only gum product manufactured was Thrills - a product which is still being sold today.
D.H. McDermid passed away in December 1942 and J.K. McDermid died of a heart attack in 1945 at age 79. J.K. was a charter member of the London Rotary Club and was an active executive of the Red cross and the Y.M.C.A. He was a prominent member of the Talbot Street Baptist Church and deeded his property to the congregation where the First Baptist Church now stands in London. John Gordon McDermid became President in 1946 and ran the Company until his death in 1953.
Under the able leadership of the new President, Frank P. Leahy, the Company flourished in the late 50's. In 1958, a licensing agreement was arranged with a manufacturer in Brooklyn, New York, which dramatically increased the future potential of O-Pee-Chee Company. Subsequent to this, in 1961, Frank Leahy purchased the Company from the McDermid estate.
About this time, another licensing agreement was signed with a large candy company located in St. Louis, Missouri. These two licensing arrangements, which still exist today, allowed O-Pee-Chee Company to manufacture and market the products of these two firms in Canada. Immediately, new products became available to the Canadian market which substantially increased the Company's sales volume, allowing for more efficient manufacturing and marketing techniques.
In the early 60's, Beatlemania overtook North America with O-Pee-Chee Company having the rights to manufacture and market the Beatle Bubble Gum Cards for the Canadian market. This was followed by other movie and T.V. "spin off" cards such as Batman, Happy Days, Charlie's Angels and Superman. In recent years, Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and E.T. have been the card gum phenomena which O-Pee-Chee has produced.
The Company also sells N.H.L. Hockey Cards and Major League Baseball Cards which have always been very popular to children and collectors in Canada.
After working at O-Pee-Chee Company for nearly fifty years, Frank Leahy died suddenly in 1980. Gary E. Koreen, his son-in-law, who had been active in the business since 1968, became President and is now the owner of the business.
In 1989, O-Pee-Chee Company moved into a new plant in London East which accommodates all Manufacturing, Raw Material and Finished Goods Storage plus Offices and Employee Facilities. This investment improves present manufacturing capabilities and provides for future growth and expansion.
O-Pee-Chee sports cards : 1958 to 1995 Edit
In 1958 after O-Pee-Chee Company entered into an agreement with the Topps Company, it began marketing 1957-58 NHL cards and then 1958 Canadian football cards. Starting in 1961 after O-Pee-Chee Company was purchased by Frank Leahy, printing and packaging for these Canadian football (1961 and later) and NHL (1961–62 and later) cards were done in Canada. The O-Pee-Chee Company produced the annual O-Pee-Chee NHL series from 1961-62 to 1992-93, the O-Pee-Chee WHA series from 1974-75 to 1977-78, and the O-Pee-Chee Premier series from 1990-91 to 1994-95. Here is a picture of one of the most highly sought after 1980's hockey rookie cards of Patrick Roy (1986-87 O-Pee-Chee Hockey).
In 1965, O-Pee-Chee started printing an annual Canadian baseball series which was similar to the American Topps baseball series. It produced an annual baseball series from 1965 to 1994, however only in the last two years did the O-Pee-Chee set feature a unique design separate from Topps. From 1991 to 1993, O-Pee-Chee Company also created a separate baseball brand entitled O-Pee-Chee Premier.
Similar to the Topps/O-Pee-Chee baseball parallel, the Topps Company created an American parallel to the O-Pee-Chee hockey cards. The first Topps hockey series was printed in 1967 and was based on the 1966-67 O-Pee-Chee series which featured the Bobby Orr rookie card. The Topps Company then produced an American parallel "Topps hockey" set from 1968-69 to 1981-82 and from 1984-85 to 1991-92.
French language required on cards Edit
In 1970, due to Canadian federal legislation, O-Pee-Chee was compelled to add French-language text to the backs of its baseball cards. It also happened to be the year after the Montreal Expos began play in the majority Francophone province of Quebec. The practice of making bilingual cards had already been established for hockey. While O-Pee-Chee baseball sets were typically smaller than their Topps counterparts, its hockey sets for the Canadian market were larger. O-Pee-Chee also occasionally produced independent card sets of particular interest to Canadian collectors, such as one for the 1973 centennial of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Effect of hockey lockoutEdit
The 1993-94 hockey lockout and the accompanying damage to the baseball card industry hit O-Pee-Chee particularly hard. The company announced that it would leave the card business and refocus its efforts on candy. However a number of changing circumstances have kept them in the card business as well as candy.
The 1994-95 hockey season would be the last for O-Pee-Chee as a full company, though the Topps marketing arrangement would keep the name alive. In 1996, O-Pee-Chee was bought by Nestlé Corporation. In 1995-96, Topps included O-Pee-Chee cards in its signature product as a parallel set. It would do the same in 1998-99 when it returned to the NHL market after a two-year hiatus. Later that year, O-Pee-Chee was re-introduced fully, as Topps used the company name for its Chrome set. One year later, O-Pee-Chee would once again have a base brand set.
O-Pee-Chee cards would continue to be produced through the 2003-04 hockey season. Prior to the start of what would have been the 2004-05 season, the NHL and NHLPA did not renew hockey-card licenses with the Topps Company (as well as In The Game or Pacific Trading Cards). Instead, the hockey market entered an exclusive five-year agreement with the Upper Deck Company to produced licensed NHL cards.
In 2006, Upper Deck entered into an agreement with O-Pee-Chee to revive the O-Pee-Chee brand. Upper Deck's initial O-Pee-Chee Hockey product was released during the 2006-07 season.
- The Insider's Edge, trading card & memorabilia magazine, trading card authority
- The Want List, hockey card & memorabilia magazine
- O-Pee-Chee Central collectors site
- Tribute to O-Pee-Chee baseball cards
- A Brief History Of O-Pee-Chee
- "O-Pee-Chee Trading Cards, 1933-34" in Backcheck: A Hockey Retrospective at Library and Archives Canada
- Beckett, Dr. James et al. (2002). "Beckett Baseball Card Price Guide". Beckett Publications-Dallas, Texas ISBN 1-930692-17-X
- Parsons, Anthony My Baseball Card Space
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