The Art of Uncut Sheets
Updated: May 16
About fifteen years ago, while packing boxes to move out of an apartment, I came across a cardboard tube leaning in the corner of my bedroom closet. Inside was an uncut sheet of 1990-91 O-Pee-Chee Premier cards that I had bought a few years earlier when I lived in Ottawa.
After carefully laying the sheet out flat on the kitchen table - using hardcover books to hold down the corners - I realized what a waste it was to have it tucked away in a closet. With its crisp photos and bright colours, the sheet looked spectacular. I quickly located the rookie card of Jaromir Jagr, then those of Sergei Fedorov, Mike Modano, and Jeremy Roenick. This was a piece of hockey card history. After all, the hobby changed forever with the 1990-91 season, with Premier causing the biggest stir. Even today, it remains the most popular set from that year.
I decided it was time to get it framed.
I called around to a few places to get a sense of how much it would cost, and quickly learned it was going to be expensive. After all, an O-Pee-Chee uncut sheet contains 132 cards (12 rows, 11 card per row) and measures a whopping 28.5" by 42.5". Not exactly small. I had paid $150 for the sheet, and the first few estimates I got were over $300.
The last call I made was to a framing store that was offering a 40% discount, which put the price at a more reasonable $200. I still remember the lady on the phone telling me to bring the sheet in and they would take care of it. And did they ever!
Getting the sheet professionally framed was a great decision. The store did an amazing job, adding neutral black matting (2") and a black, bevelled-edged wooden frame (1.5") that allow the sheet's colours to come to the forefront.
I'm a huge fan of both the Premier set and Jaromir Jagr, whose rookie card is the highlight of the set, so buying the sheet when I got the chance was a no-brainer. But I also appreciated its uniqueness. Seeing the sheet for the first time was odd. I was seeing something familiar, but presented in an unexpected way. After all, hockey cards were supposed to be sold in packs with gum, for kids to collect and trade and - sometimes - fight over. This sheet had somehow evaded its original purpose and survived intact. It told a story.
In the years since having the Premier sheet framed, I have done the same with two more that I managed to acquire: a 1984-85 O-Pee-Chee sheet containing Steve Yzerman's rookie card, and a 1986-87 O-Pee-Chee sheet containing Patrick Roy's rookie card. I used that same framing store for both. (Their 40%-off sale is an annual event.)
Given the cost of buying the sheets themselves, as well as the cost of framing, I was pretty particular about which ones to go after. All three represent favourite sets from my childhood, but they also share visual qualities that make them perfect for display.
First, all cards on these sheets are vertically-oriented. Between 1984-85 and 1988-89, O-Pee-Chee sets did not include any horizontally-oriented cards. This gives the sheets a consistent look.
Second, all three years have fantastic designs that incorporate team colours on the interior borders. Since the cards have no particular order, the teams tend to change from one card to the next, making the sheets burst with colour.
Finally, I focused on the first sheet (or "Sheet A") of each set, which typically includes the majority of the set's star players. For example, the Yzerman sheet also includes the main cards of Wayne Gretzky, Mike Bossy, Guy Lafleur, and Dale Hawerchuk; as well as the rookie cards of Pat Lafontaine and Tom Barrasso. Another nice thing about these first sheets is they usually contain no subset cards, maintaining visual consistency. The Roy sheet is the same on both counts. The Premier sheet contains the entire 132-card set, which is free of subsets anyway.
Collecting uncut sheets can be expensive - and they do take up a lot of room - but the three that occupy the walls of my home office have become the most enjoyable part of my hockey card collection. They allow me to enjoy these cards every day. And on days when I work from home, they offer an instant break when needed.
They are also a great conversation starter. People that have seen these sheets over the years often look at them initially with the same faint feeling of recognition that I first had. You can see the question forming in their minds: Are they... hockey cards?
When my wife first saw the sheets hanging on the walls of my office, her eyes went wide, and the only word she could get out was, "Wow." Not a Wow, that's so cool! but more of a Wow... what have I gotten myself into...
I'll admit I was worried for a moment, until she said, "Well, I guess if you have them, you may as well enjoy them."
She was dead on.
Now if only I had a bigger office.
Some facts about O-Pee-Chee (OPC) uncut sheets:
Size: Each sheet measures 28.5" x 42.5" and contains 132 cards (12 rows, 11 cards per row). That's why OPC sets are typically multiples of 132. For example: 1984-85: 396; 1986-87: 264; 1990-91 Premier: 132.
First Sheet: The first sheet in the set (or "Sheet A") usually contains the stars. I suspect this goes back to the relationship between Topps and OPC. Topps sets were usually smaller than OPC. Take the 1981-82 Topps set, for example. It contains 264 cards while the OPC set contains 396. The first sheet was likely shared by both companies, so Topps made sure the key players were included. (This rule-of-thumb goes out the window as of 1990-91, when OPC sets bloated in size.)
Order: There is no numerical order to the cards on the sheet.
1990s: Sheets were used as promotional items for sets in the early 1990s, making them more readily available and far less desirable. Those sets are 1989-90 OPC (330 cards, 2.5 sheets), 1990-91 OPC (528 cards, 4 sheets), 1991-92 OPC (528 cards, 4 sheets), and 1992-93 OPC (396 cards, 3 sheets).
Sample Sheet Sections