What Happened to Baseball Card Packs on Every Corner?

Kids and cards won’t mix unless they’re easier to find.

If you’ve over 30 and still involved in the hobby, your favorite memories as a kid probably involve buying packs of cards. In the late 1960s and 70s, you could find them everywhere and I vividly remember the variety of places I plunked down a dime and grabbed a pack (or two if I could manage to save that much).

The local grocery store always had a couple of boxes in the candy rack. So did the dime store.

1967 Topps baseball packK-Mart usually had them. In ’74, they had vending machines between the double doors at the front of the store. 5 cards for a nickel. I pushed my nickel in and the first card that popped up was the #1 Hank Aaron.

In ’72 I remember buying a couple of packs at a nearby bakery and being disappointed because they turned out to be leftovers from ’71(it was the coin insert that fooled me). Even liquor stores had them on the counters, which made an otherwise nothing stop on the errand trail something to look forward to.

In ’75, I walked into a shopping mall variety store in a bigger city and my brain was spinning. They had boxes and boxes of Topps cello and wax packs sitting on a display case. I think I had a dollar to spend. I found two cello packs with my once-beloved Cardinals on the front and one or two wax packs (regular packs as we called them then).

I think about all of the hand-wringing that’s out there now over kids disappearing from the card collecting hobby and wonder why one of the more obvious possibilities is seldom talked about. Go into any of the places I just mentioned these days and the only place you can be pretty much guaranteed of finding packs and boxes is K-Mart (or modern day equivalents Target and Wal-Mart). That eliminates a lot of villages or towns not blessed with a big merchant.

If the card companies want kids to start collecting and keep collecting, they need to do what they can to get as many different stores as possible to carry cards. You can’t buy what you can’t see. It’s out of sight, out of mind for many, I suspect, who are then distracted by a video game or some other kind of hip candy product. They should be on the counter at the gas station, or at least under it. They should be near the checkout at the market so when Mom or Dad is checking out, the kids have a chance to beg them for a pack or buy one themselves. We’ll save the pack-searching problem for another day.

Maybe they’re trying and the merchants aren’t cooperating. I don’t know. And I’m not trying to drive business away from hobby shops. It’s just that cards are often an ‘impulse buy’ and getting them in front of potential customers, young and old is something that isn’t happening. I feel bad for kids who want to buy them like we old folks once did but get tired and frustrated having to look too hard.


  1. […] had found one of our stories on 1970s baseball cards in which a reference was made to nickel sports card vending machines that you used to see in places like […]