Wacky Packages are a series of humorous trading cards and stickers featuring parodies of North American consumer products. The cards were produced by the Topps Company beginning in 1967, usually in a sticker format. The original series sold for two years, and the concept proved popular enough that it has been revived every few years since. They came to be known generically as Wacky Packs, Wacky Packies, Wackies and Wackys. According to trader legend, the product parodies once outsold Topps baseball cards.
11th series sticker (1974)
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Relying on the talents of such cartoonists and comics artists as Kim Deitch, George Evans, Drew Friedman, Bill Griffith, Jay Lynch, Norman Saunders, Art Spiegelman, Bhob Stewart and Tom Sutton, the cards spoofed well-known brands and packaging.
1967 to 1969Edit
The very first Wacky Packages series was produced in 1967 and featured 44 die-cut cards that were similar in size to baseball cards (2.5” × 3.5” or 64 × 89 mm). This series featured parodies created by Spiegelman and primarily painted by Saunders. Two of the cards –"Cracked Animals" and "Ratz Crackers" –were pulled from production after an initial run and have since become extremely rare. "Moron Salt" was pulled later, and replaced by "Jolly Mean Giant" which was also pulled soon after that, with both of them becoming almost as rare as Cracked Animals and Ratz Crackers. In all, 14 cards were removed from this series (and two more were planned but never published until years later, one in Wacky Pack Flashback and the other in Wacky Packages Old School series 3). This series was followed by a somewhat different Wacky Ads line in 1969, featuring gags and roughs by Lynch and Deitch with finished paintings by Sutton. These 30 cards (out of 36; see below), approximately three-by-five inches (76 × 127 mm) long, were designed to look like miniature billboards with a die-cut around the parodied product, so it could pop out of the horizontal billboard scene. Card #25, "Good & Empty", was removed from the initial release after Leaf Brands sued. A substitute #25, "Mixwell Hearse Coffee", was made but never released (and remains so to this day). There were two different versions of the "Ads": the long perforations (believed to signify the first printing) and the short perforations (believed to signify the second printing), as well as an early 5-cent wrapper for the first printing and a later 10-cent wrapper for the second printing.
1973 to 1976Edit
Wacky Packages returned in 1973 as stickers for a highly successful run. Sixteen different series were produced from 1973 to 1977 and were sold in five-cent to ten-cent packs containing two stickers (three stickers in the sixteenth), a stick of bubble gum, and a puzzle piece/checklist. The seventh series was available without gum for a short period of time. There were 27–33 cards in each series and nine puzzle cards with a series checklist on the back of each of them. Series 1 re-used designs that were issued on the 1967 die-cut series (except for 14 of the original 44 cards) and Series 2 re-used designs from the 1969 Wacky Ads (except for five of the 25 out of 30 Ads used; one of the 25 had its name changed from the original Ad and six more cards in that series each had four very small re-releases of some of the die-cuts), with eight extra designs that were brand new. In all, there were 488 different cards over 16 series (one card from Series 2 was used again in Series 14). These cards can be distinguished from all later releases by a lack of a number on the front of the card and having tan and white backs instead of puzzles and checklists.
1985 and 1991Edit
Newly designed series were produced in 1985 and 1991. The 1991 series was successful enough to begin production of a 1992 series, but the set was cancelled prior to mass production. Many of these unused parodies were eventually released, mostly in All New Series 1 and Wacky Pack Flashback 2.
2004 and beyondEdit
Wacky Packages returned in 2004 with the release of the first All-New Series (ANS) set of stickers. New series have appeared almost annually, on average, since that time. The first five sets consist of 55 base cards with two levels of chase cards with the sixth series consisting of 80 base cards and three levels of chase cards. Series 7 saw the return of the 55 card base set, but with more chase card sets, as well as border color variations and sketch cards. (Note: the All-New Series moniker was dropped for this set, but returned with series 8). Series 9 was released on July 25, 2012. The ANS sets have been very successful with the return of original 1970s Wacky Packages cartoonist Jay Lynch plus newcomers David Gross, Strephon Taylor, Neil Camera, Fred Wheaton, Smokin' Joe McWilliams, Mark Parisi, Brent Engstrom, Mark Pingitore, Sam Gambino and Joe Simko. ANS 3 and 4 included the work of underground artist M. Wartella.
Many of the 1973–1977 cards have been reissued over the years in various sets.
1979 and 1980Edit
Four series with 66 cards each, for a total of 264 cards. These sets consisted of images from the 1973–76 cards as well as one previously unused image. Series 4 Card 235 "Frosted Ice Krunkles" was exclusive to the reissue set. Each card can be distinguished easily, not only from its copyright notice, but its number (e.g. 'No. 12 of 66') printed on the front. A fifth series was planned for 1980 but never released.
1982 and 1986Edit
Two sets of album stickers were produced of 120 and 77 stickers respectively. These stickers were of a reduced size in comparison to the standard cards (2.125 by 3 inches (54.0 mm × 76.2 mm)) and were designed to be affixed to a display album that was sold separately. Only the 1982 set and matching album were actually released to stores; for unknown reasons, the 1986 set was never released (even though a large number of stickers were actually made) and no album exists for it.
In February 2008, Topps released a series of Wacky Packages called Wacky Pack Flashback. This series contained artwork from previously released cards and the spinoff posters, as well as unreleased artwork from the original run to make a set of 72 base cards. Moving towards the trend with other types of trading cards, this set also featured a number of rare chase cards. In December 2008, Topps released Wacky Pack Flashback 2. This set also contained more artwork from previously released cards and the spinoff posters, as well as artwork based on a test marketed Wacky Can Labels set (which was a set of 12 small cans of fruit-flavored candy shapes with a paper label adhered to each of them; six of the 12 were herein released as stickers, while the other six remain unpublished) and unreleased artwork from the aborted 1992 series to make a set of 72 base cards.
Wacky Packages have been used in numerous products since the 1970s as incentives to purchase the product or to promote a new series release. The promotional stickers were highly successful as inserts in bags of Wonder Bread, running for three sets of stickers. Promotional stickers also appeared in Hostess products, Shedd’s Peanut Butter containers, Ralston Purina cereals, and more recently in a number of DC Comics (to promote ANS1) and in the Abrams Books line of products.
The success of the Wacky Packages concept has led Topps to create a variety of additional Wacky Packages products over the years.
Wacky Package PostersEdit
In 1973 a set of oversized paper posters was produced for just over two dozen of the gags from the original run, with two of the gags being originally made for the series. These posters were created from new artwork painted at a significantly larger size than was done for the stickers. In addition to being sold in stores, the posters were also advertised on Wacky Packages wrappers and could be obtained by sending $2.00 to Topps. A second set of posters was produced in 1974 with a different wrapper, but it was nearly identical to the first set, except that three of the original posters were replaced with new ones. A fourth replacement poster for the first set was made but never released (it was finally released as a sticker in Wacky Pack Flashback (see above)).
In 2012 a modern-day set of 24 oversized paper posters was produced as a new Series One set, with the majority depicting enlargements of re-used art from the ANS card sets as well as including three new gags originally made for the series. As this series maintained the aspect ratio of the original art, the posters were significantly wider than the 1973-74 posters. This new series was sold exclusively through the Topps Online Store. No new sets have been released since 2012.
Wacky Packages PostcardsEdit
In November 2007, Topps released the first of its Wacky Packages Postcards series. Originally created by artist Neil Camera, the first three-card set was released in two editions: a limited release of 100 signed and numbered sets and a regular unsigned edition. Since then, the postcard sets have been expanded to include additional titles and artists. Currently there are nine sets of the regular series that were released between 2007 and 2013 and five special Halloween sets that were released in October 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013, respectively, as well as several promotional cards released at trade shows. Two binders were also made for the regular series (the first with a red cover and the second with a yellow cover) and one binder for the Halloween sets. One of the biggest draws of the Postcard sets are the inclusion of artist sketch cards, which feature original drawings by popular Wacky Packages artists such as Neil Camera, Smokin' Joe, Sam Gambino and Brent Engstrom. Wacky Packages Postcards were sold exclusively through the Topps Online Store, but no new sets have been released since 2013.
Wacky Packages Old SchoolEdit
In February 2010, Topps released a series called Wacky Packages Old School. The Old School series line, created by David Gross, is designed to resemble the box, wrappers and stickers of the original successful run from 1973–1977. Each series consists of 33 stickers along with a 9 piece puzzle checklist with the gags based on products from the 1970s that Topps did not parody in the original 1970s run. Also included are various chase cards and a sketch card in every box. The Old School series 1 sketch cards were all done by Jay Lynch. Old School series 2 began shipping in late March 2011 with sketch cards by Lynch, Bill Griffith, Bhob Stewart, David Gross, Fred Wheaton, Brent Engstrom, Jeff Zapata, Joe Simko, Neil Camera, Sam Gambino, Smokin' Joe and Mark Parisi. Old School series 3 shipped in mid-February 2012 and Old School series 4 in late December 2012. Old School series 5 came out in late 2015. Ten more Old School stickers were released in 2017 as a subset of the Wacky Packages 50th Anniversary series (these were the only ones that were not sold exclusively online, but in special Collector Packs that were part of that series). There are 175 total Old School stickers at this point. Wacky Packages Old School is sold exclusively through the Topps Online Store.
Wacky Packages ErasersEdit
Topps released two eraser series in 2011, the first in March and the second in October, each of them with 24 All-New Series Wacky Packages designs. In addition to the erasers, which consisted of paper labels adhered to a shaped eraser core, each eraser also had a corresponding miniature sticker included in the pack. No new series have been released since 2011.
Wacky Packages Comic BooksEdit
Topps has released five comic books in the Wacky Packages line. The panels of just the first two issues consist of reproductions of Halloween Postcard sketch card artwork, by Jay Lynch for issue 1 and by Joe Simko for issue 2, that were specifically designed to depict a story when set out as sequential art. Issue 3 was created by Neil Camera and Issue 4 by Brent Engstrom. Issue 5 was released on April 1, 2013, Topps' self-proclaimed Wacky Packages Day, and was a double-sized issue drawn by multiple artists. No new issues have been released since 2013.
Garbage Pail Kids connectionEdit
Tie-in merchandise of endless variety has been, and continues to be, produced by both Topps and by third-party companies ever since the initial success of Wacky Packages in 1973. Examples of recent licensed merchandise include a line of T-shirts from 10 Again Clothing, two coffee table art books from Abrams Books (the first book containing Series 1-7 and the second book containing Series 8-14 (Series 15 and 16 currently remain unpublished)), wall graphics from LTL prints and two sets of collectible erasers from Topps, each of them with 24 All-New Series parodies. Current items include wall graphics from walls360.com and a series of 17 collector's 3-ring binders from Topps using artwork featuring parody characters from the original 16 series and an imaginary "17th Series". Several of these binders have included unique promotional items such as wax wrappers, stamp sheets or bonus cards. The artwork from the 17 binders has also been released by Topps as frameable wall art. The binders and the corresponding wall art were available exclusively at the Topps Online Store. Topps also released two small ANS binders with a red and yellow cover, respectively (with the second one containing a bonus card that was part of ANS4), that were available in stores and two 3-ring binders that were made specifically for ANS7 and ANS8 (with the first one containing a bonus card that was part of ANS7) that were also available exclusively at the Topps Online Store.
Wacky Packages ANS 10 was released in March 2013 and featured first-ever Collectors Edition boxes. Other recent releases include Old School Series 4 on December 28, 2012, Comic Book #5 on April 1, 2013, the first 4 in the Original Series Binder Collection set in May 2013 and Postcards series 9 on June 25, 2013. Later releases included ANS 11, scheduled for September 2013 and additional binder sets in July, September and November 2013. Two more series (both of them labelled "Series 1") were released in 2014 and 2015. A Wacky Packages Chrome set was released in 2014, a MLB Wacky Packages set was released in 2016 and a Wacky Packages 50th Anniversary set was released in 2017.
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- "Digging in the Vault for the Secrets of Wacky Packages: Topps Goes Back to Class in Wacky Packages Old School Series 2", Non-Sport Update Magazine, Vol. 21, No. 6, December 2010 – January 2011. (Roxanne Toser Non-Sport Enterprises, Inc.)