It might sound strange in these days of multiple baseball card sets sometimes being issued in the same month, but back in 1975 when anyone put out a new set, it was big news in the collecting world. With no competition, Topps wasn't forced to do anything beyond cranking up the presses for its first and only major product each year. In 1975, though, there was another set to collect. You had to be a fan of Twinkies, Suzy Q's, HoHos and Ding Dongs (or King Dons on the east coast), or know someone who was, but they were there for the taking.
The latter gave you an instant card fix--and satisfied your hunger--but came with a giant grease stain. The former gave you the option to save the cards in three-card panels, giving rise to one of the most popular collecting phrases of the 1970s: "Hostess panels".
The recent news that Hostess has filed for bankruptcy protection as it negotiates with its union was sad for a lot of collectors who remember those trips to the grocery or thrift store to see if new cards had hit the shelves. The '75 Hostess cards were a big hit, even if they weren't much of an artistic succes. Successful enough, it seems, to have spawned four more issues before the program came to a close in the summer of 1979.
There were quirks with that first set that fans quickly discovered. Bill Madlock was turned into a pitcher during the first printing. Rangers' catcher Jim Sundberg had his name changed to "Mike" and George Hendrick became George "Hendricks".
Quality control aside, the 1975 Hostess set is still popular today--even with collectors who get their panels graded. At last check, there were nearly 700 1975 Hostess cards, panels and boxes listed on eBay.
Kevin Glew writes extensively about one of our favorite sets here in the Sports Card Market Report.