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Getting Wrapped Up in Packaging

Visually pleasing, memory-evoking and most importantly affordable, vintage card pack wrappers and displays have now become a popular hobby niche.

Often discarded, vintage card pack wrappers and display boxes have found a home in the hobby.

The primetime holiday season is here, and for many people that involves some wrapping paper and boxes in the gift-giving equation. For several sports card collectors, if they’re lucky, this “packaging” is not so much part of the presentation process but the presents themselves, as in empty vintage pack wrappers and display boxes.

Collector Chris Battaglino likes these “accessories” so much he recently launched the website

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“We’re up to nearly 350 different wrappers and boxes with images, spanning a period of nearly 80 years,” he said. “As a baseball fan and collector, I enjoy not only owning pieces of baseball history, but also compiling information about them and sharing it with others. I think it will be useful for both new and long-time collectors.”

As a graphic artist, Battaglino said it’s the box and wrapper designs that have attracted him.

“It’s interesting to see how they evolved over the years and the ways in which card manufacturers tried to catch the attention of kids.
“Wrappers sort of put the finishing touch on a collection and they allow you to own a piece of a big picture,” he said. “I will likely never own a near-mint 1952 Topps Mantle, but I can pick up a near-mint wrapper in which it originally came for a fraction of the price.”

Anthony Nex’s collection contains dozens of these vintage “next-level” items, some about a century old, and he also appreciates their visual qualities. “The graphics often do a better job at portraying the time period than the actual cards do.”

“Plus, for a few sets, it’s pure nostalgia,” Nex said. “Nothing takes me back to the summer of 1970 like the wrapper and the box it came from.”

Some of Nex’s other favorite Topps baseball boxes from that time period include 1965 (with Sandy Koufax, Harmon Killebrew and Mickey Mantle on the lid) and 1969. “The 1969 box pictures Gibson, McLain, Yaz and Mays, and the type-design is so indicative of the era it can only be described as groovy.”

In the baseball wrapper “top-picks” department, Battaglino includes 1963 Fleer “purely for the design” and 1973 Topps. “It’s an early example of Topps changing not only the side-panel offers, but the front images as well.”

Good Deals
“Anytime there is a large “find” of old material there are bargains,” said Nex. “1933 Sport Kings wrappers can be found for under $100, which is a steal considering how old they are 1951 Topps Red Back boxes can be found inexpensively, as can 1955 Topps Doubleheader boxes.”

Other “relative bargains,” according to Nex: 1973 and 1974 Topps boxes ($25-$50 each), as they “feature a collage of cards on the box, and picture many of the stars of the day.”

“1951 Topps Red Backs, 1961 Fleer Greats, and really most Topps wrappers from the 1970s and beyond, can be found for less than $10 each,” added Battaglino.

Wish List
“The pre-1960s wrappers are, in general terms, the most valuable and often the hardest to find in good condition,” said the webmaster of “Several variation wrappers from the early days of cards can also be hard to find. One example is the orange/green 1949 Bowman Baseball wrapper. There are several Topps test-issue wrappers and boxes from the 1960s and ’70s that can command some very high values 1968 Topps Plaks is a good example.”

Another challenge? Nex pointed to the 1953 Bowman Baseball issue.

“They are tough in both boxes and wrappers. There hasn’t been any large finds that often bring a lot to market, and with Joe DiMaggio’s image on there, they are highly desirable.” Comparable items from the 1971 Topps Greatest Moments test set, he said, are scarce. “I’ve never seen a wrapper from that issue and only one box,” he noted.

Running On Empty
A strong complement to many collections, vintage display boxes and pack wrappers give sports enthusiasts something extra to hunt for, and often these pieces – and the journey to find them – can fuel fond memories. And that’s like a fun holiday, any time of year.