What are Wacky Packages?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

In 1967, the Topps baseball card company introduced a new line of comic trading cards that parodied existing products and iconic advertisements. Topps called this series Wacky Packages, although many avid collectors still refer to them as wacky packs. They were sold alongside baseball cards and other novelties in the candy section of many grocery and department stores, and could also be found in specialty card trading shops and some drugstores.

Wacky Packages contained a stick of gum.
Wacky Packages contained a stick of gum.

Much like their baseball card counterparts, Wacky Packages contained a random mix of collectible cards and a stick of bubblegum. Unlike baseball cards, the original cards were punch-out stickers. Later editions could also include solid cut-out cards, featuring sections of a larger puzzle on the back.

Parodies of popular brand toothpastes were featured in Wacky Packages.
Parodies of popular brand toothpastes were featured in Wacky Packages.

Wacky Packages parodied most of the consumer products of their time. Crest® toothpaste, for example, might be rendered as Crust toothpaste. The artwork, created by a mix of Madison Avenue and underground artists, would satirize every detail of the original Crest® packaging, from the iconic block lettering to the seal of approval. Grotesque figures and gross-out humor were hallmarks of these parodies.

Other consumer products were also popular targets for Wacky Packages producers. BAND-AID® bandages became Band-Ache, Skittles® candies became Spittles, and Liquid-Plumr® drain opener morphed into Liquid Bummr. All of the artwork and advertising copy was based on these skewed concepts.

In the case of Liquid Bummr, the main image features a depressed man being ejected from a sewer drain. The advertising copy reads "It Spews Bad News" and "Liquid Bummr: For All Depressed Types." In a Wacky Packages spoof, few details go unnoticed.

The Topps company continued to produce Wacky Packages on a semi-regular basis until 1992. At different points during the original production run, they even outsold Topps' baseball card lines. Interest in the cards may have waned for the younger demographic, but nostalgic adult collectors have continued to keep the trading industry alive. Certain original cards and promotional items are extremely rare and valuable, especially uncut panels and cloth stickers issued in 1968.

In 2004, the Topps company decided to reissue classic Wacky Packages and commission new titles as well. These new cards are now sold as foil-sealed collectible packs containing a mixture of paper stickers, solid cut-outs, and special foil stickers. The tradition of including puzzle pieces on the back of each card has also been preserved. New satire targets include familiar websites, movies, television shows, and video game titles.

Gross-out humor was a hallmark of Wacky Packages.
Gross-out humor was a hallmark of Wacky Packages.
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular wiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discuss this Article

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register: