Quite the Sox Oddball

Hello all, been a while since I blogged but I felt todays pick up required some background info and it would be harder to do so through my usual Twitter feed. The newest addition to my Red Sox collection, is a card I remember reading about while looking for test issues to add to my 80’s Oddball Collection but didn’t know a Sox existed.

1985 Topps/OPC Mini #65 Bill Buckner

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Wait—what? 1985 Topps mini? Yup your heard me right. Topps DID produce … err O-Pee-Chee did produce … whoa, whoa, whoa. A Topps/O-Pee-Chee mini???

These cards were never actually released for public sale, but somehow managed to sneak out into the collecting world. Allegedly a result of O-Pee-Chee’s testing of new printing equipment, an undersized “set” of 132 cards (the number of cards traditionally found on a single sheet) were printed. These minis are about 10% smaller than the typical Topps card and on brighter paper than the typical cards. The result is a smaller card, more vibrant and reminiscent of some of the “premium” cards that would become the standard in the hobby half a dozen years later.

The 132 cards with completed backs are identical in format to their 1985 regular counterparts. I have read that only about 100 of each of these cards are thought to exist with blank backs thought to be numbered less than 20 per card.

There is speculation that all the 1985 Topps Minis were discarded in uncut sheet form, and subsequently professionally cut. One school of thought suggests that the cards were indeed factory cut. Another suggests a small amount of cards were actually issued in packs. A former O Pee Chee employee, suggests that the cards were never cut at the factory at all, meaning all the cards in the hobby were cut after the fact. As if this mystery doesn’t get any deeper, you can also find these minis in blank backs (tan and white) AND “Red” backs in which only the red ink is printed (no green ink).

In my research of trying to figure out these minis, I can across the following posts from Net54Baseball.com:

“I have a handful of these cards. I’m almost positive I bought them at a local Tom Thumb in Maple Grove, MN”

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“If they were sold at retail in the US that would be worth knowing and new info. By all accounts they were produced in Canada and never retailed here. In putting my two sets together I had to buy most of mine through Canadian sellers … My info about the 100 or less comes from SCD and several other hobby sources. I do know the blank backs are much tougher than the regular backs, and the red only backs toughest of all.”

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One of the sellers promoting 1985 mini’s indicates that he has correspondence from Topps which, in part confirms that more than 130 sets were issued. By his accounting Topps hired O-Pee-Chee to make the mini-test set. OPC then sold among other things, 210 sheets to a scrapper, which then sold 110 of the 132-card “sets” to a Long Island dealer. The dealer then cut the sheets in to cards.

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By the dealers account, the sheets may have included 3 color progressive proofs, later shown to exist—which presumably may be where your red backs came from.

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He also indicates that the cards were printed on normal OPC “white” stock or regular Topps cardboard stock—possibly explaining the 2 types of blank backs (tan AND gray cardboard). Other accounts in a previous thread indicate some of the sheets were thrown away and retrieved from dumpsters due to smeared ink, etc.

And yet MORE info from the auction I won:

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Comparing the two

I happened to have a regular 1985 Topps Buckner in my collection, so it makes for a perfect side-by-side comparison. As you can clearly see, the mini is slightly smaller than it’s flagship counterpart and the back is lighter as you would find on O-Pee-Chee stock from the time period. Notice more paper fibers in the regular Topps card (bottom card), where as the mini appears smooth. One thing I noticed right away is how deep the solid colors are—the red and blue team band just pops on the mini.

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Here is another image I found on the Net54Baseball.com board showing three different backs to these minis; blank (tan), red ink, mini test.

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I’d love to land a blank back or red ink version, but those are pretty pricey. There are a couple Jim Rice PSA graded blank backs on eBay right now, but those are close to $600. But of course, in the meantime, I need to grab another mini and a blank back for that 80’s Oddball Collection because the 1985 Topps/OPC Mini truly is, an oddball with many tales.

Thank you for reading and let me know if you have any of these minis and/or you have come across them in your collecting travels.

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9 thoughts on “Quite the Sox Oddball”

  1. Since I’m not on Twitter it’s awesome to see some new content here! Very cool card too, had no idea these existed before reading this. Great job researching and thanks for posting all the info.

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