The year was 1973. I was 9 years old, riding bikes with my across-the-street neighbor George “Scooter” Maurer. One day, I noticed a funny-looking sticker on the seat of his green and yellow Sears Spyder bicycle. “What’s that?”, I asked. “A Wacky Pack”, Scooter answered. It looked like a box of Wheaties cereal. You know, “Breakfast of Champions.” But upon closer inspection, I noticed it was actually WEAKIES, “Breakfast of Chumps.” I thought this was hysterically funny. Scooter continued: “I have some more. Want to see them?” In short order, I was introduced to several new product parodies that didn’t actually exist in the real world: Crust Toothpaste, Skimpy Peanut Butter, Lavirus Mouthwash, Plastered Peanuts, and Fright Guard Deodorant. Thus, my introduction to Wacky Packages, a product of the Topps Chewing Gum Company.
Instantly, I fell in love with these. When school started that fall, I brought some to stick on my desk. Teachers generally didn’t care much for them since they were a distraction to the class. Students would trade Wackys instead of working on their assignments. Mrs. Oftedahl, my 4th grade teacher, actually confiscated my “Wacky Stash” several times for various infractions of her classroom behavior policies.
A Wacky Package consisted of 2 stickers, a puzzle piece with checklist on the back, and a stick of bubble gum. Price was 5 cents. This was more than reasonable, considering that Topps’ own baseball cards went for 10 cents per pack at the time. As I remember, the bubble gum was thin, rather brittle, and not very good. Most kids threw it away. It wasn’t the gum we were interested in anyway.
Each series of Wacky Packages contained around 30 stickers. A box contained 48 boxes. Getting an entire box of Wackys was the Holy Grail. At a price of $2.40, most of us could never afford one with our own money. If you were very lucky, Mom and Dad might buy you one for your birthday. There were 16 original series in all with the final one being issued in early 1977. For last call, the price was doubled from 5 to 10 cents per pack. I’ve always found it interesting that Topps kept the price at 5 cents for more than 3 years, only to double it for the final series. Part of this increase was offset, however, because each pack now contained 3 stickers instead of the previous 2.
Whenever a new series would arrive, kids would line up at their local stores. They would often sell out quickly. Rumors would fly around school about which store still had them. As soon as the dismissal bell rang, off we’d go to (hopefully) grab the latest and greatest Wacky Packs!
There are several websites and pages dedicated to Wacky Packages. By far, the most complete and comprehensive site I have found is WackyPacks.com. Here, you can find specific information on each series of Wackys, including production dates, titles, timelines, and high-quality photos of each sticker. If you’re a late Boomer or early Generation X’er, you definitely remember Wacky Packages!