I was seven years old in the spring of 1973, when Topps Chewing Gum released the first series of Wacky Packages peel-off stickers. They were parodies of supermarket items in trading card form. Each card in the first series of 30 featured a lampoon of a familiar product, from Band-Aid adhesive strips ("Band-Ache Brand... strips off skin") to Quaker Oats ("Quacker Oats... Strictly For The Birds"). The parodies, created by a stable of Topps gag writers and painters, were silly, irreverent, and sometimes grotesque.
"Wackys," as we kids called them, were sold in bright red wax-wrapped packs, each of which included two stickers, a checklist card/puzzle piece and a thin pink slab of sugar-powdered bubble gum. A pack cost five cents and they could be found at every five-and-dime, grocer, and ice cream shop in my hometown of Stone Harbor, New Jersey.
I collected Wacky Packages obsessively in the summer of '73. The first series of stickers was followed by a second, and then a third by the fall. Each pack was full of mystery and possibility. Would it contain another "Crust toothpaste", or the elusive "Lavirus mouthwash"? I traded stickers with kids in my small resort town neighborhood as a nationwide craze began. Spin-off (and knock-off) merchandise such as Wacky t-shirts and beach towels became common sights. I barely remember owning a "Blunder Bread" shirt, but in 2002 I obtained photographic proof (below).
As with any kids' phenomenon, Wacky Packages eventually reached the end of their shelf life. I lost interest when the new series started appearing too quickly for me to keep up, and when the products chosen for ridicule became more and more obscure.
The lineage that began in 1973* ceased in 1977 with the sixteenth consecutive series of stickers. Topps continued to milk the Wacky trademark off and on until 1991, when an all-new series failed to generate much interest. A follow-up series intended for 1992 was cancelled, and over the years Topps distanced itself from "the most successful non-sport collectible of all time."
*Topps first released Wacky Packages in 1967, when I was one year old, but they did not generate a nation-wide craze until the 1973 sticker series began.
A search of eBay demonstrates that Wacky Packages remain popular with a nostalgic cult audience that is willing to pay top dollar for rare Wackys and for the original paintings used to create the classic stickers.
Many excellent Wacky Packages pages exist on the Internet. Greg Grant's Wacky Packages Web Page should be anyone's first stop. Packed with pictures, historical information, and the most obscure minutiae that Wacky fanatics can dig up, Greg's site has just about anything you'd want, and links to everything else.
In 2004, Topps is trying to strike Wacky gold again with an All-New Series 1 of Wacky Packages!
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Page maintained by Fred Wheaton
last updated 05/18/04