In May 2021, I wrote an article about the 1969 Topps baseball blue cello packs being a test issue at the 10-cent price point to get kids used to the higher cost of packs that was coming. I wrote that I wasn’t aware of any blue wrap cello boxes, but over the past few months, a few collectors have reached out to me, and I’ve done a lot more reading about the packs and boxes and wanted to share what I’ve discovered.
First, a collector sent me the following photo of a 1969 Topps baseball blue cello pack box shortly after posting that previous article.
The box has the Extra Magic Rub-Off (1969 Topps Decal) advertisement on it, clearly shows the 10 cards for 10-cents pack price, and is a 24-count box. The 24-count box also foreshadowed changes in cello pack box counts from Topps. Most 1950s and 1960s Topps cello boxes had 36 packs. In 1967, 1968, and 1969 Topps switched to 48-pack cello boxes before ultimately moving to 24-pack boxes (just like this test series) starting in 1970 through 1989.
Then, in developing the 1969 Topps Unopened Archive page, I saw that Topps had three box types for wax packs; one that had no advertisements for inserts, one for Extra Real Autographed Photos (1969 Topps Deckle Edge), and one for Extra Magic Rub-Offs (1969 Topps Decals).
Topps also had unique wax wrappers for the insert sets.
Since Topps had unique box types and wrappers for wax packs, I thought perhaps there were multiple box types for the 10-cent cellos too. And it turns out there is another box type. While the Extra Magic Rub-Off 10-cent cello box is blue/purple, the Extra Real Autographed Photo 10-cent cello box is red (this one was seen at the National a few years ago).
And in their 2020 fall auction, Robert Edward Auctions auctioned off a 10-cent Cello complete unassembled box; it sold for $510, so while rare, these boxes aren’t one of a kind.
Because there are unique cello boxes, I suspect there are unique 10-cent blue cello packs too, just like in wax, that goes with each box. And here is where there is a lot of hobby conjecture, so if you have any additional details, I’d love to hear about them in the comments, on Twitter, or via e-mail.
First, let’s discuss what we know about 1969 Topps wax packs, of which, unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a hobby consensus on, but I think it still helps guide us on blue cello pack details.
Heritage sold the box without advertisements above as a 1st series wax box. A collector on a forum shared a box rip of 1st series packs in which a pack had the following insert in it, clearly showing a deckle edge card on top and that Extra cards were coming in the next series.
I’ve seen Robert Edward Auctions advertise a 2nd Series (#110-218) wax box with the real-autographed photo in each box, which supports the previous insert. But, BaseballCardPedia implies they were a 3rd series exclusive. A PSA Magazine article from 2013, which features an interview with Steve Hart, said that the “Series 3 wax packs reportedly contained a deckle Edge card rather than the decals.” Also, the following PSA graded 3rd Series wax pack wrapper advertises a deckle edge card in each pack. So deckles were almost certainly in 3rd series packs and possibly 2nd, but not 1st.
Things are even more unclear for wax packs when it comes to decals. That PSA Magazine article said that Topps inserted decals at the rate of one per every five-card, five-cent 1969 Topps baseball wax pack (and they weren’t next to the gum). I also read an article that stated that the decals were issued in packs beginning with the 4th series, and BaseballCardPedia wrote that the decals were a 4th series exclusive. But a trusted collector wrote that he thought they started distribution in the 5th series.
I’ve mentioned Darren Prince’s Ultimate Sports Unopened Wax Pack Price Guide as a good resource for pre-1989 information. The 3rd edition was printed in 1994 and said that 1st/6th/7th series wax wrappers had no ads, the 2nd series had the Magic Rub-Off wrapper, the 3rd series had the deckle wrapper, the 4th series had no ad, and the 5th series had the Magic Rub-Off wrapper. Over on the Unopened Archive, you can see a GAI graded 5th Series pack with the decal ad and a 6th series pack with no ad.
We can take from the wax pack research that the seven different series of 1969 Topps baseball cards had different inserts in them, but almost certainly, the 1st Series packs had no inserts. The Topps Archives wrote that Topps probably locked in the decal design just after the 1st series of cards were composed and printed.
So what’s been written about blue cello packs? In the PSA Magazine article, Steve Hart wrote that Topps also inserted decals in 10-card cello packs, and Sports Collectors Daily reported that the ten-cent cellos contained ten cards and a decal. But I haven’t found any magazine, forum, or other article discussing deckles in the packs. So our best course of action is to inspect as many authenticated blue cello packs as we can.
First is a 1st Series 1969 Topps baseball blue cello pack, graded 7 by GAI.
There is clearly a deckle edge card on top, and we can confirm it’s a 1st series pack because of the Twins Rookie Stars card on the back. That’s interesting because the 1st series of wax packs certainly didn’t have deckles in them.
PSA has also graded a blue cello designated as a 1st series pack and graded NM 7, so multiple 3rd party authenticators believe these are real.
Here’s a raw pack that Lelands auctioned off in 2014.
This pack also clearly shows a deckle on top and Roberto Clemente (a 1st series card) showing on the back. They said that Steve Hart inspected and authenticated the pack.
A collector shared the following GAI 7.5 graded 1st series blue cello on PSA forums. It’s got a deckle on top too, and it’s a first series pack because that’s card #21, Jose Santiago, showing on the back.
He crossed the pack to PSA, and it came back a PSA 7.
In a December 2004 auction, Lelands sold this 6th series GIA 7 Blue Cello pack that doesn’t appear to have a deckle on top.
In March 2005, Lelands sold this GAI 5.5 5th/6th series pack.
And in June 2005, Lelands sold a lot that had five 5th/6th Series blue cello packs along with a display box. So it’s possible the 5th/6th series blue cellos came in the Extra Magic Rub-Off box; none of the packs appear to show a deckle on top.
I’ve also found a GAI 6.5 Blue Cello photo that indicates Al Kaline on the back. It’s from the Mr. Mint auction, and Kaline is card #410 (4th series). The PSA population report shows a blue cello pack with Kaline on the back, so I suspect this pack crossed. It doesn’t look like there’s a deckle on top of this pack, either.
The last blue cello pack that I’ve found is this GAI 6.5 example that indicates a Drysdale decal on the back of the pack.
It’s clear that Topps didn’t follow the same distribution model with these blue cello packs that they had with the wax packs; it was a test issue after all. All the packs with deckles showing on top appear to be 1st series packs. So my best guess at this time is that the red 10-cent cello box was a 1st series box, with deckles in each pack (per the advertisement on the box), that Topps released around the same time as the 3rd series wax packs.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find reverse images of many of the packs pictured above, so I don’t know if they all have decals on the back, but Steve Hart mentioned the blue cello packs have decals in them. Regular 1969 Topps cello packs often show a decal on the back too. So I’d surmise Topps used the blue/purple 10-cent cello box for the later series blue cello packs and that they likely had decals in them (given that the box advertises them).
As you can see, I’ve only been able to find blue cello packs that are definitively 1st, 4th, 5th, or 6th series packs. That doesn’t mean others weren’t printed, of course. But it’s possible the red box had 1st series cards, and Topps used the blue box for 4th/5th/6th series cards, and the 2nd/3rd/7th series cards never made it into blue cello packs.
Given all the packs pictured above, the two different 10-cent cello boxes, and the wax pack wrappers, what do you think about the box and pack makeups? As always, if you have more detail about these packs and boxes, please reach out to me, and if you’re looking to buy one of these cello packs, good luck and happy collecting!