Your memories of them may include Randy “Macho Man” Savage or another pro wrestler exhorting you to “Step into a Slim Jim!” You may have recently eaten one (ConAgra sold about $575 million worth last year). For football card collectors, it’s a ride back to the 1978 Slim Jim football disc set, a one-and-done issue that turned folks who’d never tasted one before into avid consumers.
The mid-to-late 1970s hobby was all about disc sets, most produced by MSA and tied to some sort of product promotion. Restaurants, ice cream parlors and soft drink companies were just some of the sponsors of football, baseball and basketball sets but meat sticks were something a little out of the ordinary.
1978 Slim Jim Disc Distribution
The Slim Jim NFL promotion put two discs on the back of Slim Jim boxes, each with perforated edges, but smart collectors who had the room saved the complete boxes. There were 70 players in the set, but the same two players were on each box, so once you found all 35 boxes, you had a complete set. Still, it was not a cheap set to complete unless you found them on sale.
Slim Jim Checklist
The discs were 2 3/8” in diameter and included a bit of a strange mix of players. Walter Payton was included. Larry Csonka was too. Terry Bradshaw and Roger Staubach were just two of the stars who were not. You could reasonably hypothesize that landing the bigger stars was a major challenge and the company sort of took what it could get.
Slim Jims were sold in five different flavors, with each having a different colored box. There were 12 packages inside each display box and each display box also had a disc if you were collecting them individually and could convince the checkout person to let you have the outer box for buying what was left.
A Relatively Low Cost Food Issue
Because of how they were distributed and the thin cardboard packaging, individual discs, panels and boxes are sometimes not found in top notch condition, but there was a collector mentality in place at the time, which means a decent number have survived fairly well.
In addition to Payton (expect to pay $100 or more for a full box that’s in nice shape) and Csonka, the set includes Joe Greene, Fred Biletnikoff, Archie Manning, Alan Page, John Riggins, Ahmad Rashad, Lee Roy Selmon, Gene Upshaw, John Hannah and Charlie Joiner, among others.
Grading companies will authenticate and grade Slim Jim discs, panels and flattened boxes with high-grade examples of Payton and a few other stars bringing surprisingly high prices. However most ungraded singles, panels and even full boxes in pretty good shape can be found for $5-$10 or even less. You can see what’s currently offered on eBay by clicking here.