by Unopened Pack Guy
It’s just before Christmas 1961. Darkness is coming earlier and earlier as autumn is quickly coming to a wintry end. The news of the day is that unbeaten Ohio State qualified for the Rose Bowl BUT its faculty council voted 28-25 NOT to accept the invitation, declaring the school's emphasis on sports over academics was excessive. At roughly the same time, the 1962 NFL Draft is taking place with the Washington Redskins drafting Syracuse star Ernie Davis with the first pick.
It probably seemed like everyone was either focused on football or the upcoming holidays… everyone that is, except for the intrepid Topps baseball card salesman. Now seven years removed from direct competition in the market, he is making his rounds with candy distributors all over the country, offering a variety of 1962 Topps baseball card products that should be rolling off the production line in time for the start of spring training. Once again, baseball mad kids across the country will be ready.
The Wax Pack
The first of two products the salesman can offer is the nickel wax pack. This year, the “extra incentive” for a kid to buy a pack is a full color baseball stamp that is added to the pack. The wax packs are sold through wax boxes, with 24 packs to a box and 24 boxes to a case. Topps is selling a case, which weighs 31 pounds, for $17.28 but if payment is received in 15 days, there is an additional 2% discount which could lower the price per case to $16.94.
Think about that for a second – 576 packs for $16.94. At today’s prices, that same case would generate well over $200,000!
However, let’s return to the late fall 1961. If the case was sold pack by pack, box by box, at full retail price of a nickel per pack, it would generate revenue of $28.80 per case and that would still be a couple of months away. While that would be the “ideal scenario” in terms of profit – making roughly 70%, the reality is that most candy distributors will sell it by the box to candy stores who in turn will sell it by the pack.
The Wax Tray
For what may be the first time, the Topps salesman is also offering a 1962 Topps “wax tray pack” or what eventually will also be known as a “grocery tray”. The pack consists of three nickel packs inside a cellophane wrap. From at least 1964 - 1969, Topps will alter this to increase it to 6 packs in a tray before finally settling back in 1970, on the three-pack wax tray. The last cardboard tray Topps will make will be the 1980 Topps baseball tray pack. At some point during production in 1980, Topps will get rid of the cardboard and shift to a format of simply putting three wax packs inside a plastic sleeve.
In 1961, Topps will pack 36 of these trays in a case and then sell the case for what seemingly appears to be the low price of $3.42/case (again with a possible 2% discount for quick payers). As far as innovations go, this is a very subtle one but the astute buyer will realize this item actually sells at a 5% premium to regular wax packs. It is probably this increase in revenue that motivates Topps to keep wax trays in their product line for the next 18 years.
One additional item to glean from this is that Topps sold both the wax packs and the wax trays at the same time. At least for me, the assumption had been that in an effort to dump the extra wax packs at the end of the season, Topps repackaged them in a tray form. However, this clearly tells us that was not the case in 1962.
As the salesman closes the deal, it will not be the last time he pays a visit pitching 1962 Topps baseball cards. He will eventually be back offering cello and rack packs, with the latter being another fairly new innovation.
The Unopened Pack Guy is a long-time collector who specializes in unopened packs and pack research. You can read more about his unopened pack insight on his eBay About Me page.