If the image that immediately comes to mind when you see the words “Topps vending box” is a long, blue and white box with red trim, you’ll have to hold that thought when you consider what the company had to do when it experimented with oversized cards in the 1960s and 70s. In an era when the effort to create something specific to house a new product was probably substantial, the company did what it had done since the early 1950s.
In the tail end of the 1960s, when there really weren’t any vending machines to house the 2 ½ x 4 11/16-inch “tall boy” basketball cards and the number of dedicated sports card dealers across North America could probably be counted on one or two hands, they just turned their traditional wax pack box into a vending one to carry out the distribution. Now, one of those surviving—and very rare—treasures is up for auction.
A 500-count box of 1969-70 Topps Series 2 basketball is being offered in the Summer Sports Card Auction at Heritage Auctions. Undoubtedly originating in the Fritsch Cards vault in central Wisconsin, the box has since been authenticated by Baseball Card Exchange.
The second series includes card numbers 89 through 176 (the last card in the set). With good distribution, one could reasonably expect to receive about five untouched examples of every card in Series 2, including the much coveted Pete Maravich rookie card, Jerry West, Willis Reed, Walt Frazier,Connie Hawkins, Dave Bing, Billy Cunningham, the complete run of All-Star cards including Oscar Robertson and John Havlicek and the rookie cards of Calvin Murphy, Jo Jo White and Jerry Sloan.
The pre-sale estimate is $100,000+ with current bidding at roughly half that figure.
Boxes have come to auction before through the Fritsch archive, but they’re very rare. Based on images from another auction of a box that hadn’t yet been BBCE wrapped, the cards sit lengthwise from front to back.
Topps went to standard sized trading cards with its NBA license in 1971-72 but reverted to oversized cards for one year in 1976-77, those measuring even larger than the skinnier sets of 1969-70 and ’70-71.
Bidding is set to close Thursday, July 22.