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.
- 1 Concept
- 2 1967 to 1969
- 3 1973 to 1976
- 4 1985 and 1991
- 5 2004 and beyond
- 6 Reprints
- 7 Promotional items
- 8 Spinoffs
- 9 Garbage Pail Kids connection
- 10 Merchandise
- 11 Wacky Packages recent and forthcoming releases
- 12 Notes
- 13 References
- 14 External links
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, such as "Crust" (instead of Crest) toothpaste, "Blisterine" (instead of Listerine) and "Neveready" batteries (for Eveready batteries).
1967 to 1969
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. 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 cards, approximately three-by-five inches (76 × 127 mm), were designed more 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. There were two different versions of the "Ads": the long perforations (believed to signify the 1st printing), and short perforations (possibly for the second printing) as well as an early 5-cent wrapper for the first printing and a 10-cent wrapper for the second print.
1973 to 1976
Wacky Packages returned in 1973 as stickers for a highly successful run. Sixteen different series were produced from 1973 to 1976 and were sold in five-cent packs containing three stickers (later reduced to two) a stick of bubble gum and a puzzle piece/checklist. There were approximately 30 cards in each series and nine puzzle cards with a series checklist on the back. Series 1 re-used designs that were issued on the 1967 die-cut series and Series 2 re-used designs from the 1969 Wacky Ads. In all, there were 488 different cards over 16 series (one design 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.
1985 and 1991
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 in the All New Series 1.
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, 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, Sam Gambino and Joe Simko. ANS 3 and 4 included the work of underground artist M. Wartella.
Many of the 1973–76 cards have been reissued over the years in various sets.
1979 and 1980
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. 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.
1982 and 1986
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.
In February 2008, Topps released a series of Wacky Packages called Flashbacks. This series contained artwork from previously released cards, the spinoff posters, as well as unreleased artwork from both the original and the aborted 1992 set 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 Flashback 2. This set contained artwork from previously released cards, a test marketed Wacky Can Labels set, as well as more 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 cereal, 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 Packages Posters
In 1974 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 original for the series. These posters were created from new artwork painted at a significantly larger size than was done for the stickers. The posters were advertised on Wacky Packages wrappers and could be obtained by sending $2 to Topps.
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 original for the series. As this series maintained the aspect ratio of the original art, the posters were significantly wider than the 1974 posters. This new series was sold exclusively through Topps online.
Wacky Packages Postcards
In November 2007, Topps released the first of its Wacky Packages Postcards series. Originally created by artist Neil Camera, the 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 of the regular series, as well as three special Halloween sets that were released in October 2010, 2011 and 2012, as well as several promotional cards released at trade shows. 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. The Wacky Packages Postcards are sold exclusively through Topps Online Store.
Wacky Packages Old School
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 1973–1976. 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 first series 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 is sold exclusively through the Topps Online Store.
Wacky Packages Erasers
Topps released two eraser series in 2011, the first in March and second in October, each with 24 of the ANS Wacky Package 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.
Wacky Packages Comic Books
Topps has released four 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, Topps self-proclaimed Wacky Packages Day, and was a double-sized issue drawn by multiple artists.
Garbage Pail Kids connection
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, coffee table art books from Abrams Books, wall graphics from LTL prints and two set of 24 collectible erasers from Topps. Current items include wall graphics from walls360.com and collectors 3-ring binders from Topps. Several of these binders have included unique promotional items such as wax wrappers, stamp sheets or bonus cards.
Wacky Packages recent and forthcoming releases
Wacky Packages ANS 10 was released in March 2013 and featured first-ever Collector 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 Postcard series 9 on June 25, 2013. Forthcoming releases include ANS 11, scheduled for September 2013 and additional binder sets in July, September and November of 2013.
- McNellie, Tim (2004-07-28). "Wacky Packages: For John Kennedy of Bridgeville, it adds up to great fun". Bridgeville Area News. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
- Leopold, Todd (August 12, 2008). "When Wacky Packages ruled". CNN. Retrieved 2009-06-16.
- Pound, John. "Unpublished Garbage Pail Kids". Retrieved 2009-06-16.
- 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.)