Readers of the blog know I write about unopened material quite a bit, and I even have an archive that documents unopened products to educate collectors and preserve hobby history. Recently, thanks to a Facebook group dedicated to vintage wax and packs and developing the archives for 1973, 1974, and 1975 Topps Baseball, I learned that while these three boxes can look pretty similar, there are a few ways collectors can differentiate them. And this knowledge is all the more important since many folks incorrectly label empty boxes for sale from these years.
There are three primary ways to differentiate between the boxes:
- The design on the front.
- The serial number (product code) on the back
- The thickness of the box.
Let’s start with the design. 1973 Topps cello boxes are the easiest to distinguish because, in 1973, Topps used tabs to signify the box series. Here is an example of a 2nd Series box.
And here is a box where the tab says “COLLECT ‘EM ALL.”
Collect ’em all could be assumed to be an all-series box, but the box pictured above is a 4th series cellos authenticated by BBCE with this tab. Unfortunately, Darren Princes’ unopened guide says there were 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 3/4/5th series cello boxes, so I’m not quite sure what the reality is. The two 1973 boxes pictured above are the only versions I have ever seen.
The 1974 Topps Baseball and 1975 Topps Baseball cello boxes have a black circle on the front that says, “All 660 cards now available in one series!” So the box design won’t give away which year it’s from alone.
Next, and the easiest way to tell boxes apart, is via the product code on the back of the box. When BBCE wraps them, their sticker covers up the code. But, if the product code ends in -3, it’s from 1973, -4 is from 1974, and -5 is from 1975. Here are four images (two different 1973 boxes) showing the codes.
By the way, my understanding of the product code is that for the 1975 box (1-361-37-01-5), the leading 1 means it’s a box, 361 is related to the sport (as a dedicated product number), 37 means it’s a 24-count box (70 would be a 36-count, for example), 01 is the first production run (02 would be a second production run if they changed the box design, sometimes for another series), and 5 is the year of the decade the box was designed (not necessarily released).
Topps did use up a lot of old inventory, so you may find 1975 cello packs in 1974 product code boxes.
But Topps had to make new boxes in 1974 and 1975 because they dropped the card count in their cello boxes from 27 cards per pack in 1973 to 22 in 1974 and 18 in 1975, but all boxes still had 24 packs. Another fun fact is that you might also find some 1975 Topps cello packs in 1974 wrappers and 1974 Topps Cello packs in 1973 wrappers, but more on that in another article.
A collector on the Facebook group I mentioned shared the photo below showing the decreasing size of Topps Cello boxes from 1973 to 1975 to accommodate a proper fit for the packs.
So there you have it, box design, product code, and box size, the three ways to tell 1973, 1974, and 1975 Topps baseball cello boxes apart. By the way, 1976 and 1977 Topps baseball also used that same green box and had 18 cards per cello pack, but more on this in the future! Happy collecting!