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Premier Box Breaks

Updated: Feb 5




I opened my first box of 1990-91 O-Pee-Chee (OPC) Premier in May of 1999 to celebrate Jaromir Jagr's brilliant 1998-99 season. I opened my second yesterday to mark Premier's 30th year of existence, and to mark the fourth week of staying inside my house due to COVID-19.


1990-91 OPC Premier Foil Pack

These boxes still sell quite regularly, so I figured I would share the results of both breaks. The information could be useful to someone thinking about buying one.


This set is loaded with rookie cards, the key being that of Jagr. But other notables include Sergei Fedorov, Mike Modano, Mats Sundin, Jeremy Roenick, and Rob Blake. If you care about recouping any of the $150 it would cost to pick up a box of Premier, a graded PSA 10 (Gem Mint) copy of the Jagr rookie typically sells for about $100.


Premier is only a 132-card set, and a box contains 252 cards (36 foil packs with seven cards per pack). So you have a great chance of finding at least one copy of those rookies, and a decent shot at finding two.


Of course, you never know if those odds can be counted on, so let's see how they played out for me.


Break Results, May 1999


The first box I opened was purchased at a card show in Ottawa in 1996. I decided to open it after Jagr and the Penguins were eliminated from the 1999 Stanley Cup playoffs. It had been an amazing regular season for Jagr, one that cemented his stature as the best player in hockey, and one that - a month later - would be recognized with the Hart Trophy as the NHL's Most Valuable Player.


Needless to say, when I decided to tear through this box of Premier, I was after a crisp Jagr rookie card, maybe even two. I was also hoping to find a complete set.


This box delivered. I struck two Jagrs! In fact, I found two copies of most major cards in the set, with the notable exception of Fedorov. And not only did I get one complete set, but more than 75% of a second.


Here's the summary:


All the cards from this box were sharp. There were no dinged corners or factory creases of any kind. Sure, some had less than ideal centering, but that was expected. Both Jagr cards (shown below in high-resolution) were in fantastic shape.


The two Jagr cards from my 1999 Premier box break.

I'm not sure how aware of professional grading I was back in 1999, so I never even considered having these cards graded. Nor have I thought about it in the years since. After taking a close look at both cards again, here's how I think they would grade.


Jagr Card #1 (Left):

  • Left-right centering of 48/52 and top-bottom of 45/55.

  • Corners, edges, and surface are perfect.

  • This card has the well-known print spot (or block) between Jagr's skates, above the letters J and A in "Jagr." This is common and exists on PSA 10 copies of the card.

  • Card meets the standard for PSA 10.


Jagr Card #2 (Right):

  • Left-right centering of 48/52 and top-bottom of 43/57.

  • Corners, edges, and surface are perfect.

  • The print spot between Jagr's skates is present.

  • Technically, this card meets the standard for PSA 10, but I wonder if the top-bottom centering would result in a PSA 9 (Mint) grade instead.


Break Results, April 2020


My second Premier box was purchased at a card show in Ottawa in 2001, so it had followed me around for nearly twenty years. I figured I would open this box when Jagr was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, but COVID-19 isolation got the better of me.


This turned out to be a partial break, as the box was short four packs. When I bought it, I remember having the feeling that it had been opened before, so it was my own fault for not counting the packs at the time. When these boxes came from OPC, they were sealed with only a single piece of tape - basically to keep the box closed. Not exactly tamper-proof. If you do buy one, make sure it is from a reputable dealer.


I had a lot of fun opening these packs. It had been ages since I opened any pack of hockey cards - probably not since that 1999 box break - but the feeling of anticipation was the same as I remember.


Once again, I was not disappointed. Even with only 32 packs, I still managed to strike two Jagr cards. And had the other four packs been in there, I likely would have come close to another complete set.


Here's the summary:


Once again, both Jagr cards (shown below in high-resolution) were in great shape.


The two Jagr cards from my 2020 Premier box break.

Jagr Card #1 ("2020 TL1" on the left):

  • Left-right centering of 44/56 and top-bottom of 51/49.

  • Corners and surface are perfect. There are two small indentations along the bottom edge. (You might have to zoom in to see them!)

  • The print spot between Jagr's skates is present.

  • I believe the issues with the bottom edge would likely mean a grade of PSA 9.


Jagr Card #2 ("2020 TL2" on the right):

  • Perfect centering! Left-right of 50/50 and top-bottom of 50/50.

  • Corners, edges, and surface are perfect.

  • The print spot between Jagr's skates is present.

  • This card is absolutely perfect. It easily meets the standard for PSA 10. In fact, I've decided to submit it!


Retirement


This was likely the last box of Premier I will ever open, and I have no regrets. It was a lot of fun ripping through these packs, and finding what might be the finest copy of a Jagr rookie I've ever held was a huge bonus. I can't think of a better way to retire from opening Premier packs! Unless, of course, I end up buying another box at some point. You never know.


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Update: PSA Submission Result

Dec 21, 2020


Well, it took a full eight months, but I finally got my "2020 TL2" Jagr RC back from PSA. Maybe it was an early Christmas gift, but either way I was thrilled with the PSA 10 grade the card received. I have to say, I was not surprised. On my original inspection of the card I could not find a single issue. But you never know if the PSA graders will agree with your own assessment until you get the card back.


Here is the card, encapsulated in its shiny new PSA holder.


My "2020 TL2" Jagr RC in its new PSA 10 holder

A lot has changed in eight months. In April you could have purchased a PSA 10 for $100 CDN, which was roughly the average price over the previous year. By July you would have had to pay between $250 and $300. Now, in the second half of December, this card has been selling for more than $500, an all-time high. The market craze brought on by the COVID shutdown continues.


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Bonus: Gallery


Included below are some other highlights of the 2020 box break. Enjoy.


The Stars


Sample of star player cards from 2020 box break.

The Rookies


Sample of rookie cards from 2020 box break.

Cards that Pop


The crisp photography and bright colours is always noticeable throughout Premier. Here are a few examples.


Cards showing Premier's crisp photography.

Lots of Lafontaine!


A lot of the photos used in Premier were taken at games in either Philadelphia or Long Island. As a result, Pat Lafontaine appears on three cards in the set: his own, plus those of Mike Vernon and Vincent Damphousse.


Cards where Pat Lafontaine makes an appearance.

Damaged Cards


There were some damaged cards in this box. A few dinged corners, but also a couple of cards that were caught by the mechanism used to press the foil packs closed. Check out the photo below. Notice the press marks in the bottom right corners on both. This is a good reminder that an unopened box does not always contain cards in mint condition. At least not of Minnesota North Stars players, anyway.


Cards showing damage from foil packs.

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