Visual History of Topps Baseball Wrappers – 1951-2011
Wrappers get no respect (at least when there's no pre-announced wrapper redemption programs). They leave the printer as a card cocoon. Often, we tear them open with abandon, either tossing them directly into the garbage or scrunching them up, stuffing them in an empty box and leaving them for a later that never comes. It's time to look back at the history of Topps Baseball wrappers.
At one time baseball card wrappers were unnoticed mini pop art masterpieces. Instead of canvas, they were done on wax. Intended to sell cards and sticks of pink bubble gum, they often featured ads for other novelties and even more bubble gum.
For the first few years, the wax wrappers took a somewhat generic approach. Topps' initial attempts at packs had the pop but not a lot of flair. In particular, between 1952 and 1954, Topps didn't change the ball motif much.
From the mid-1950s through to the end of the 1970s, Topps Baseball wrappers often offered stylish looks at the game. They often took generic baseball images, gave them a splash of color and conveyed them in an art style popular at the time. They should be viewed as the Golden Age of Topps Baseball wrappers.
1980 to 1991 were a low-point for wax packs where the generic baseball returned. From year to year, if anything changed, it was the date and the color of the background.
Topps Baseball wrappers made a huge change in 1992 with wax wrappers disappearing, being replaced by plastic packaging. Wrappers were also becoming more cluttered with text, cramping in info on additional inserts like Topps Gold. 1992 to 1994 Topps Baseball wrappers also saw the return of the stylized generic baseball player.
Starting in 1995, Topps switched over to foil housing for their cards. They also started using star power for the first time, adding photos of instantly recognizable players. That's how it's remained ever since save for a four-year stretch between 2001 and 2004 where the generic player made a brief return.
The gallery below features just one type of wrapper for each year between 1951 and 2011. Most years had several versions based on series and pack size. Some years also offered multiple designs in similar styles. Wrapper collectors also chase variations in ads on the sides of packs.
What's your favorite? Post in the comments below.
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Does the 1979 Topps wrapper depict Johnny Bench bating?