As I have been building the Unopened Archive, I’ve spent a lot of time looking at some truly incredible, rare, and pricey vintage material. And while unopened vintage commands enormous prices and is out of reach for many collectors, a segment of unopened is a bit more achievable. And that hobby segment is vintage wrapper collecting.
Wrapper collecting isn’t for everyone, but they are way more affordable than unopened wax packs. Plus, many variants are pretty challenging to track down (and, unfortunately, kind of expensive). Also, stored in binders, vintage wrappers display very well. Another cool thing about wrappers is that there’s usually exciting hobby history involved, as Topps often advertised giveaways on the wrapper.
I haven’t spent much time discussing wrappers here on the Post War Cards blog. A while ago, I wrote a detailed post about the 1957 Topps Baseball wrappers, and more recently, The Story of the Scarce 1975 Topps Football Team Checklists involved wrappers as well. But, just like my passion for checklists, I am a bit of a wrapper nerd and have a nearly complete pre-1990 basketball run.
Now, if this were a true top-10 wrapper list, it would probably end up being almost all hockey wrappers on looks alone. However, I just want to share a few of my favorites across the four major sports to encourage you to add a wrapper or two to your collection!
1954 Topps Baseball 5 Cent
You could write a short book on 1954 Topps Baseball wrappers because there are so many variations; 1 cent vs. 5 cents, with and without dates, and with and without card counts. So it’s a tough year to finish a wrapper run. But to me, and you will find this as my theme in wrapper collecting, the bold colors and design of the wrapper really stand out. The 1954 Topps Baseball wrappers just look incredible!
1956 Topps Baseball 1 Cent
In a post in October 2020, I wrote about a few of my “favorites” from the post-war baseball card era. I shared that I thought the 1956 Topps Baseball penny pack was the best-looking pack in the hobby, and I’m sticking to that claim. The yellow color pops, and the repeating pitcher and batter design on the sides feels really nostalgic.
1957 Topps Basketball 5 Cent
While the Topps tallboy wrappers from 1969 and 1970 often top people’s basketball wrapper lists, I prefer the simplicity and design of the Topps’ first basketball release in 1957. I like how Topps made the depicted player appear to be dribbling the 5-cent “ball.”
1958 Topps Hockey 5 Cent
Of the major sports, vintage hockey wrappers are the best. Topps/OPC and Parkhurst did a fantastic job capturing hockey’s spirit (and era) on their vintage, unopened products. And while a lot of folks would probably put something like a 1959 Parkhurst wrapper on this list, and it is a great one, I like how the 1958 Topps hockey wrapper lays flat. Other wrappers look great when wrapped around cards, but it’s something to look great opened too.
1966 Topps Football 5 Cent
Perhaps it’s because I’ve been coveting a 1966 Topps Football Funny Ring Checklist card for so long, but I absolutely love the year’s wrapper too. It screams the hard-nosed, tough, pound-the-ball style of football that defined the era.
There you have it, five great wax pack wrappers that hopefully encourage you to dip your toes into vintage wrapper collecting. As I said, it’s a unique hobby niche that still has a lot of space, but be careful; there are quite a few reprints on the market, so keep a skeptical eye. Also, if you’re interested in non-sport trading cards, I recently ran across this article ranking the Top 13 Traded Card Wax Wrappers; happy collecting!