If you’re reading this (and I know you are), chances are you remember when Upper Deck revolutionized the baseball card industry with their suitcase full of innovations back in 1989.

We’ll leave the cards themselves for another day, but one of those big advances wrought by the first UD issue were foil packs that made it tough—or, impossible, as the rhetoric went—for bad actors to pop them open, pull out the good cards, replace them with fruit rollups, and then reseal the packs.



And, if you’re reading this, then chances are you also remember how Score accomplished the same exact effect (minus the ability to bake potatoes in their card coverings) a year earlier, with their plastic-baggy-wrapper innovation.

(Well, OK, except that you could see through parts of the design if you pushed the plastic up close to the card, revealing who was on top or bottom of the pack.)

And, if you haven’t wiped the acid-trip experience from your memory banks, you might even recall how Sportflics beat them both to the punch with their — yes — foil packs in 1986.

So, for as great as Upper Deck was, it turns out they didn’t really invent some of the things they were credited with.

The internet, for example.

And tamperproof baseball card wrappers, for another.

But you know what?

Score wasn’t first in that endeavor, either. And neither was Sportflics.

In fact, before any of the upstarts changed the game with the most dramatic episode of The Bachelor pack design ever, it was none other than good old Topps out there, trying new things and taking notes on what worked and what didn’t.

And so it was, right smack in the summer of 1983, after months of feeding my new wax-pack addiction, that my mom and I walked into our local drugstore to find … well, not wax packs.

No, there in the Topps box on the wire candy shelf was a stack of deep, shiny blue packs that looked awfully familiar, but that were … different:

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I picked one up and, though it sort of looked like a Topps pack, with the design elements I had eaten up all summer long, it was all wrong, like a precursor to New Coke.

Slick, plasticky, too long/tall, with crimped, melted-together sheets of synthetic encapsulation separating me from my cards.

Where was the wax?

Where was the paper?

Where were the baseball cards, man?

“Don’t you have any baseball cards?” I asked the lady behind the counter.

She rolled her eyes and pointed to the pack I held in my grubby, chubby little hands.

“No, I mean normal baseball cards.”

“That’s all we got,” she said and went back to reading her copy of the latest Pharmacy Pro.

And so … it was what I got.

I trudged out to the car with Mom, bummed about my bad luck, but still happy to have something to open, and so I did.

Of course, I couldn’t just slide a finger under the wax flap to get the show going, because there were no wax flaps.

Instead, I tugged and pulled and bit and tore until I coaxed a strip of the plastic wrap to rip free, slicing open the pack and revealing the cards — and gum — inside.

All was good, mostly.

When I was done opening however many packs I landed that day, I was left with a stack of gorgeous 1983 Topps baseball cards, a mouthful of sweet pink confection … and a pile of blue plastic confetti.

And, of course, that was the point.

There was no putting these Humpty Dumpties back together again, no matter hard I might have tried. Or … no matter how hard the bad guys might have tried.

Topps had, in effect, introduced a tamperproof pack of baseball cards.

Like, six years before Upper Deck.

And five before Score.

And even three before Sportflics.

Of course, none of that mattered to young me. All that mattered to me was that I had my cards, and my gum. And, sure, I’d have preferred to have my wax, too, but I still had Fleer and Donruss for that.

The wax was back with Topps the next spring, too, and all was forgiven, and pretty much forgotten.

Over the next few years, I’d learn that I had run headfirst into a batch of “Michigan test wrappers” during that first summer of my hobbyhood, so named because they were released only in Michigan.

Because, who has their finger on the pulse of the hobby better than a pack of wolverines, I guess?

Only, I knew better.

I knew that the unsinkable were also unveiled here in Indiana, too.

It was all part of Topps’ masterful obfuscation that culminated with letting Upper Deck take the credit — or is that blame? — for changing the way we open baseball cards forever.

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If you’re more in the mood for Junk Wax than 1980s classics cocooned in an innovative wrapper, then maybe our 1990 Fleer video on YouTube will set your collector’s heart aflutter …


End Date: Thursday 05/02/2024 17:31:32 EDT
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1983 Topps Baseball Card # 391 Rickey Henderson (A1)

End Date: Sunday 05/19/2024 10:16:52 EDT
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