Wacky Packages 11th series sticker (1974)
Wacky Packages are a series of humorous trading cards featuring parodies of consumer products. The cards were produced by the Topps Company beginning in 1967, usually in a sticker format. According to trader legend, the product parodies outsold Topps baseball cards during the early 1970s.
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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 and 1969
The very first Wacky Packages series was produced in 1967 and featured 44 die-cut cards that were made to be punched out, licked on the back and stuck on surfaces. This series featured parodies created by Art Spiegelman and primarily painted by Norm Saunders. Two of the cards – "Cracked Animals" and "Ratz Crackers" – were pulled from production after the initial run. "Moron Salt" was pulled later and replaced by "Jolly Mean Giant", which was also pulled soon after that. In all, 14 cards were pulled from this series (and one more was planned for it, but never released until years later as a peel-and-stick sticker in the one subset in Wacky Packages Old School Series 3 (see below)). This series was followed by a somewhat different series called Wacky Ads in 1969, featuring parodies and roughs by Jay Lynch and Kim Deitch, with finished paintings by Tom Sutton. These 30 3" x 5" cards were designed to look like miniature billboards with a die-cut around the parodied product, so it could be punched out of the horizontal billboard scene, then also be licked on the back and stuck on surfaces. Card #25, "Good and Empty", was pulled from the first printing after Leaf Brands sued. A substitute card, "Mixwell Hearse Coffee", was made to replace it for the second printing, but it was never released (and remains so to this day). There were two different versions of the Ads: the first with long perforations and the second with short perforations.
1973 to 1977
Wacky Packages returned in 1973 as peel-and-stick stickers. From 1973 to 1977, 16 different series were produced and sold in five-cent to 10-cent packs originally containing three stickers in Series 1, a stick of bubble gum, and a puzzle piece with a sticker checklist on the back of it. Series 7 was also available in packs without bubble gum for a short period of time. There were 27–33 cards in each series and nine puzzle/checklist cards. Series 1 re-used designs from the 1967 die-cut series and Series 2 re-used designs from the 1969 Wacky Ads, plus eight new images. From Series 3 onward, each new release had original designs. All in all, there were 488 different cards over 16 series. These cards can be distinguished from all later releases by a lack of a number on the front of the cards and having mostly tan or white backs.
1985 and 1991
Two newly designed series were produced in 1985 and 1991. A 1992 series was planned, but canceled in mid-production.
2004 and beyond
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, between that time and 2019.ANS1 and ANS2 consist of 55 base cards with one level of chase cards, then, from ANS3 to ANS5, two levels of chase cards. ANS6 was released as a Jumbo Series and consists of 80 base cards and four levels of chase cards. ANS7 saw the return of the 55-card base set, but with more levels of chase cards, as well as border color variations and sketch cards. Card backs in this run had a mixture of puzzle pieces, checklists and parodies of coupons, websites, and billboards and, from ANS7 on, had both multiple levels of chase cards and multiple border color variations. The ANS sets also saw a 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. ANS3 and ANS4 both included the work of underground artist M. Wartella.
Many of the original 1973–1977 cards have been reissued over the years in various series.
1979 and 1980 rerun series
Four rerun series with 66 cards each were produced, the first two in 1979 and the last two in 1980, for a total of 264 cards. These series consisted of images from the 1973–76 cards, as well as one previously unused image – Series 4 Card #235 "Frosted Ice Krunkles" – which was exclusive to the rerun series. Each card can be distinguished easily by its number (e.g., "No. 1 of 66") printed on the front.
1982 and 1986 album series
Two series of album stickers were produced for 1982 and 1986 and consisted 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 series and matching album were actually released to stores; the 1986 series was cancelled.
2008 Flashback series
On March 30, 2008, Topps released a series called Wacky Pack Flashback. This series contained parodies from previously released series and posters, as well as eight unreleased parodies from the original run (titled Lost Wackys), to make a series of 72 base cards. This set also featured a number of chase cards and border color variations outside of the main set. On December 10, 2008, Topps released a second series called Wacky Pack Flashback 2. This set also contained more parodies from previously released series and posters, as well as parodies based on a test-marketed Wacky Cans series (a series of 12 small plastic cans of fruit-flavored candy shapes with a paper label adhered to each of them) and nine unreleased parodies from the cancelled 1992 series (also titled Lost Wackys), to make another series of 72 base cards. Wacky Pack Flashback 2 again featured a number of chase cards and border color variations outside of the main set. Its card backs republished many of the Wacky Ads and a few coupon parodies. No new Flashback series have been released since 2008.
2014 Chrome series
On July 23, 2014, Topps released a series called Wacky Packages Chrome. This series contained a metallic chromium non-sticker card set of 110 base cards consisting of the 1967 die-cuts and the 1973 Series 2 and 3, as well as four metallic chromium non-sticker card subsets containing the 36 1969 Wacky Ads, 10 Lost Wackys, 20 Cutting Room Floor parodies, and five new parodies taken from the base cards and re-done with contemporary packaging artwork (titled Where Are They Now?), for a total of 181 cards. Like the two Flashback series, this one featured a number of chase cards outside of the main set, but it had no border variations. No new Chrome series have been released since 2014.
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 used as inserts in bags of Wonder Bread during 1973–74, running for three series of stickers. Promotional stickers have also appeared in Hostess products, Shedd's Peanut Butter plastic containers, Ralston Purina cereals and, more recently, in a number of DC Comics publications (to promote ANS1) and in the Abrams Books line of products.
Topps has created a variety of additional Wacky Packages products over the years.
Wacky Package Posters
In 1973, a series of 24 oversized paper posters was produced. 22 of the 24 parodies re-used artwork from the original run. 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 series of 24 posters was produced in 1974 with a differently colored wrapper, but it was nearly identical to the first series, except that three of the original posters were replaced with three new ones made for that release. Packs in the 1973 release contained one poster and a piece of bubble gum, while packs in the 1974 series contained no bubble gum.
On August 30, 2012, a modern-day series 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 parodies that were originally made for this 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 posters in this series have been released since 2012.
Wacky Packages Postcards and Wacky Halloween Postcards
On November 21, 2007, Topps released the first of its Wacky Packages Postcards series. Originally created by artist Neil Camera, the first three-card series was released in two editions: a limited edition of 100 signed and numbered sets and a regular unsigned edition. Since then, the Postcards series have been expanded to include additional titles and artists. Currently, there are nine regular series and five special Halloween series called Wacky Halloween Postcards that spoofed mostly candy products, as well as several promotional cards that were released at various trading card shows. Each series (except for Wacky Halloween Postcards 2009) had two editions: a limited edition of signed sets and a regular unsigned edition. Two Limited Edition Official Collector Binder three-ring binders were also made for the Postcards series and one Limited Edition Official Collector Binder three-ring binder was made for the Halloween Postcards series. These series also included sketch cards by Wacky Packages artists such as Neil Camera, Smokin' Joe McWilliams, Sam Gambino and Brent Engstrom. Wacky Packages Postcards and Wacky Halloween Postcards were both sold exclusively through the Topps Online Store. No new series in either Wacky Packages Postcards or Wacky Halloween Postcards have been released since 2013.
Wacky Packages Old School
On February 23, 2010, Topps released Series 1 of an ongoing series called Wacky Packages Old School through their online store. This line, created by David Gross, is designed to resemble the box, wrappers, stickers and puzzle pieces/checklists of the original 1973–1977 run. Most series include 33 stickers, along with a nine-piece puzzle checklist, with the parodies based on products from the 1970s that Topps did not parody in the original 1970s run (Series 8 from 2019, however, had parodies based on products from the 1980s). 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. Eight Old School series have been released as of 2019, with 260 total stickers.
Wacky Packages Erasers
Topps released two eraser series in 2011, one on March 23 and one on October 12, each with 24 Wacky Packages All-New Series designs; each pack included an eraser and a miniature sticker of that eraser. Four of the erasers in each series were rare. No new series have been released since 2011.
Wacky Packages Comics
As of 2019, Topps has released six issues of Wacky Packages Comics. Issue #5 was released on April 1, 2013, Topps' self-proclaimed Wacky Packages Day, with an April Fool's Day theme illustrated by Brent Engstrom.
Garbage Pail Kids connection
There have been numerous other types of Wacky Packages-related merchandise through the years such as t-shirts, art books, wall calendars, wall graphics, three-ring binders, canvas art, and collector albums.
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- Leopold, Todd (August 12, 2008). "When Wacky Packages ruled". CNN. Retrieved June 16, 2009.
- "Topps Wacky Packages 6th Series 2007 (ANS6)". Greg Grant. Retrieved April 5, 2017.
- Toser, Harris (February 11, 2013). "April 1st is Wacky Packages Day...No Foolin!". Non-Sport Update. Retrieved April 5, 2017.
- Pound, John. "Unpublished Garbage Pail Kids". Retrieved June 16, 2009.
- Fleer Corp. v. Topps Chewing Gum, Inc., 501 F.Supp. 485 (E.D. Pa. 1980).
- "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.)