In the world of vintage sports card collecting, Topps is THE brand. For decades, the company has produced some of the industry’s most iconic and sought-after cards. Among these treasures is the 1982 Topps Baseball set, which includes the rookie card for Cal Ripken Jr. And, recently, collectors have been buzzing about the sale of a 1982 Topps Factory-Sealed Cello Case that included an original purchase receipt from Topps during REA’s Spring 2023 Auction. This find gives us a glimpse into the X-Out box process I wrote about previously. In this article, I’ll summarize the auction listing, share insights from other collectors, and examine some 1982 Topps Cello Final Sale cases.
First, despite summarizing Robert Edward Auction’s Spring Catalog Results in Newsletter 32, I overlooked this case until some collectors pointed it out on the Vintage Wax and Packs Facebook page, my favorite place to learn about unopened products, so most of the insights about this item are from conversations on Facebook, but I wanted to document them more formerly here on the blog.
The item of interest here was Lot #2183: 1982 Topps Factory-Sealed Unopened Cello Case (16 Boxes) Including Original Purchase Receipt From Topps. It sold for $12k.
Here’s the complete lot description:
Complete, original unopened cello case of 1982 Topps baseball containing sixteen boxes with twenty-four packs per box for a total of 384 packs. With each pack containing twenty-eight cards, the case represents a total of 10,752 cards. This case was purchased directly from Topps by our consignor, who at the time had a relationship with Topps in which he would purchase overruns, excess inventory directly from the manufacturer. These cases, which were part of Topps normal production, were sold to a select group of dealers, and to the best of his recollection, individual boxes inside this case are likely to be marked on the top lid with a grease pencil. This was a common practice of Topps based on the nature of their relationship with these dealers to ensure that these boxes and cases were not returned. Our consignor’s original purchase receipt dated “1/27/83” accompanies this case. The 1982 Topps set includes the rookie cards of Cal Ripken Jr. and Lee Smith, and many other Hall of Famers including Nolan Ryan, Rickey Henderson, and Ozzie Smith. All the other stars of the day are also included. While it is impossible to provide guarantees with reference to grading of unopened material, it would be hard to imagine that this case does not include a generous supply of Mint or even Gem Mint examples of every player in the set. Original factory seals intact with minor outer-box wear. The size/weight of this item requires that there will be an additional shipping charge for this lot.
Here’s the invoice from Topps to All-Star Cards LTD in Van Nuys, CA:
As REA wrote, the invoice is dated 01/27/83, meaning Topps sold leftovers well after the end of the 1982 baseball season. Next, the dealer bought 35 cases, or 560 boxes, for less than $6 per box.
Some collectors on the Facebook group were surprised that Topps could get more than $5 per box; they would have guessed $2-3 a box for the previous year’s product. Another person replied that cellos were .49 and 24 per box, so $11.76 per box retail, and this being ~50% off retail was not much of a discount from regular wholesale. One collector and previous dealer noted that they, too, purchased directly from Topps in the late 70s and recalled being offered 1978 Topps Rack Cases for $39 in 1979. Another mentioned buying 1978 and 1979 Rack Cases at season end from a candy wholesaler for $19.75, meaning he now sees that he got a better dealer from the wholesaler than buying from Topps directly.
REA had previously sold a case of 1982 Topps Cello Boxes, wrapped by BBCE, with each box showing the X in black ink across the lid. This case also had a leading RE on the case stamp; however, it had a “FINAL SALE NOT TO BE RETURNED” stamp, while the recent case doesn’t seem to have that Final Sale stamp. However, both cases have the All-Star Cards LTD shipment label, and the same repacked stamp of RE432221, meaning both were stamped on December 22, 1982.
Topps cases, I believe (please correct me in the comments if I’m wrong), were stamped not at the moment of production but more likely on the loading dock; i.e., they were stamped as an order was filled and ready to be sent out. So the December 22 date, with an invoice date of January 27 the following month, makes sense.
The 1982 Topps Cello case I have in the Unopened Archive has a pair of stamps. The first is 431712, stamped on December 17, 1981. Then it was presumably returned to Topps, who re-stamped the case RE410121, or October 1, 1982.
The sale of this 1982 Topps Factory-Sealed Cello Case with its original purchase receipt is a cool find for collectors with fascinating insights into Topps’ sales practices and history. Namely, they sold the leftover stock well after the 1982 season ended and didn’t discount as much as many would think. Happy collecting, and don’t forget to subscribe to The Post War Cards Newsletter.