The dominant pack configuration for Topps baseball cards throughout the ’50s and ’60s was the 5-cent wax pack: five cards and a stick of gum for your hard-earned nickel.
Topps also offered less-common 1-cent wax packs through until the mid ’60s– these change-makers gave you gum and one card for a penny.
In addition, the company issued various iterations of rack packs throughout the ’60s, some containing three individually wrapped windows of 10-12 cards each, and others made up of three unmarked 10-cent cello packs.
Topps seemed to flirt with the idea of marketing discrete cello packs more aggressively in 1964 and 1969, producing colorfully wrapped ten-card packs in both years. (The 1964 cellos even doubled up on the coin inserts, placing two of the metal discs face down on the top of each pack.)
But the 1970 cellos represented a bold new step for the company. These packs were big 33-card bricks, which retailed for a quarter. The packs themselves were unmarked, but they were nestled inside green cardboard boxes that contained small cutout windows, giving the buyer a partial view of the top card.
I was an active bidder in a recent auction for this empty 1970 cello-pack box, but once the price crested above three digits, I bowed out.
And how could I justify even considering dropping $100 on an empty box? Well, it’s all about the Tom Seaver “card” that appears on the box art.
Seaver’s regular-issue 1970 Topps card contains a slightly impassive portrait shot of The Franchise, who was coming off a dominant 25-win campaign for the Miracle Mets.
The “alternate” Seaver card on this box shows him in the mock follow-through pose that graced a thousand Topps cards in the ’60s.
I assume that the box design was finalized prior to the proofing and approval of the card set, and that someone made the subsequent decision that Seaver commanded the dignity of a capped head shot in the regular set.
And as much as I agree with that choice aesthetically, I confess that I’m enough of a trainspotter to be a bit dazzled by the fact that there exists an officially issued variation of Seaver’s 1970 Topps card…