Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Flashback to My First Love - Wacky Packages

I guess that is only fitting that someone who has a blog with Stickers in the title would fondly remember stickers as his first collecting passion. However, today I'm not going to be talking about any stickers from Fleer.

Before I ever saw my first baseball card or Fleer sticker, there was something that came before that had such a powerful grip on me as a kid that I just had to have every single one of them I could find:If you were a kid in the mid 1970's, you and your friends probably were buying Wackys. It was with Wackys that I first experienced the thrill of trying to complete a set. The feeling of completing a set is a powerful rush that I still feel today, and it all got started with Wacky Packages.

The reason this ties together so well today is 1) the theme of love on Valentine's Day (or probably more accurately obsession) and 2) the fact that a new series of classic Wacky Packages was just released this week including a new Baseball card related title.

To digress a minute, here is a brief history of Wacky Packages:

In 1967 and 1968 Topps released their first set of Wacky Packages, but instead of being stickers, they were actually die cut cards that you would punch out and lick the glue covered back to stick. Supposedly they didn't stick real well. Here is an example showing the front and the back of the cards which are referred to as Die-Cut Wackys:

In 1969 Topps tried again with a product called Wacky Ads which had an ad for the product and a punch out that could be removed and stuck:

Neither the Die Cuts nor the Wacky Ads were a big success.

However, in 1973 Topps re-released a number of the original titles from the Die Cuts as stickers instead of punch-out and lick cards, and they sold much better than expected.

The stickers were successful enough for Topps to issue a 2nd series using many of the titles from the Wacky Ads. Once Topps realized they had a hit on their hands, they commissioned new art for a 3rd series, and the craze continued to build.

I always got a kick out of the line "You'll Never Collect 'Em All". The "Hard as a Brick Bubble Gum" is actually not a joke. I think we would all agree that this was a true statement!

By October 1973 the stickers were big news:

Once the craze was in full swing, new series were released every few months. Many stores had difficultly keeping the stickers in stock as they would fly off the shelves when a new series would arrive. It was even reported at the time that Wackys were outselling Baseball cards at the height of the frenzy.
The fad continued through 1974, but like all big crazes finally started to lose steam as 1974 turned into 1975, and in the summer of '75 the 15th series was issued. It appeared the run was over as no new Wackys showed up after the 15th series, or so most everyone thought.

There was actually a 16th series which was issued in 1977 (although the sticker has a 1976 copyright), but was extremely limited in distribution and is very rare (and quite expensive) today.

Since the mid '70s Topps has occasionally produced new Wacky releases:

In 1979 - 1980 Topps produced 4 reprint series which showcased much of the original 16 series, and gave many collectors their first glimpse at the little known 16th series. Many collectors actually got started collecting Wackys through the reprints.

In 1982 Topps issued smaller sized reprints along with a sticker album, somewhat along the lines of the Baseball and Football sticker sets that were released at that time where you could stick your sticker collection in the album.

In 1985 Topps issued a completely new series of titles, but the series did not sell well enough to warrant a second new series. The Baseball Card parody was rather weak as it used the wrapper from 10 years prior, changed the date, used the newer Topps logo, and changed some text:

In 1986 Topps went back to the album stickers of reprinted titles, but never produced an album!

In 1991 Topps tried again with a new release of brand new titles, but again, the collector interest wasn't strong.
There was some artwork done for a possible 1992 release, but that release never happened.

It looked like Topps had finally given up on Wackys as the 1990's turned to the early 2000's as there were no new releases after 1991.

Finally after 13 years, Topps brought Wackys back in 2004 with a series which they marketed as "All New Series 1", bringing back the idea of a on ongoing series of releases with new titles.

With collectors rediscovering Wackys through the internet, the time was right for a new generation of Wackys. Many older collectors who had started finding vintage Wackys on ebay and reading about them on websites dedicated to Wackys were eager to get back to collecting them, and a new generation of kids was ready for the gross and absurd humor as well.

Since 2004 Topps has released 6 "All New Series" (ANS), and plans may be underway for a 7th ANS.

In the meantime, this week Topps released a "Wacky Flashback" set consisting of many vintage titles.

In additional to some old favorites, the series includes some titles that were painted but never issued, otherwise know as "Lost Wackys". One of the Lost Wackys is another Baseball Card parody which spoofs the Topps wrapper that was used throughout much of the 1980s:

This release started showing up in hobby shops this week, and should be hitting retail stores like Target and Walmart in another week or two. If you remember collecting Wackys as a kid, you might have a good time picking up a few packs to remember how funny many of these stickers were.

One last Wacky news item - a book is set to be published in May highlighting the artwork of the stickers from the first 7 series:

A great book on Wackys is The Wacky Packages Gallery which contains a ton of information on the Die Cuts, Wacky Ads, the first 16 Series, Wacky Posters, etc. I highly recommend this to anyone who is interested in collecting Wackys:

And finally, if you want to know more about Wacky Packages, or want to have some fun taking a look at pictures of all the stickers, I highly recommend The Wacky Packages Website. Many of the pictures that I've posted today come from Greg's website which has a tremendous amount of information on Wackys, and is a great place to go and browse the picture galleries to remember all the great stickers some of us collected as kids, or to find collectors looking to buy or sell Wackys.

You never forget your first love, and this week Topps is giving me a chance to "flashback" to those days when I first discovered Wackys and the joy of collecting.


dayf said...

Awesome post! I missed the Wacky Packages fad, but I bought my share of Garbage Pail Kids. NMBoxer gave me the Beanball parody card in a trade and I might have to pick up a few packs of the Retro stickers so I can see what I missed back in the 70's.

doublenoughtspy said...

I got started with the 79 series.

Seeing that hippy on the cover brings back sweet memories of the "Beg, Borrow, or Steal" pack.

Though that just shows "Beg or Steal".

Bart McClaughry said...

I remember when Wacky Packages where the craze of 73&74.
Great Post!!!

Mets Guy in Michigan said...

Fantastic! I had no idea Topps first came out with these in the 1960s! I was 9 in 1973 -- the perfect age level for "Wacky Pack" humor.

Great post. Lots of memories.

Anonymous said...


What about "CRAZY LABELS"?
Do you have info on that series?
It was a Fleer series.

Fleerfan said...

Glad you should mention Crazy Labels. I've been busy tracking down a few of the sticker variations I need, so I'll be posting them soon.

jhssonofthunder said...

i have like all of the set of 79 but i think tops made 2 sets in 79 willing to see if interested verry rare