If you’re of a certain age, you might remember walking down the candy aisle in the days leading up to Halloween and seeing something way better than the bags of fun size Snickers, Baby Ruths and Reese’s. Resting inside a similar bag were the kind of treats collectors preferred. “Fun Bags” is what they came to be called and for the price, both dentists and collectors preferred them more than 2-1.
The history of Halloween trading card repacks goes back further than you think, though.
To the card companies, they were a good way to sell off excess packs of cards and take advantage of moms and dads who were looking for something different to hand out on Oct. 31 that didn’t involve mounds of sugar.
They were most prevalent on the shelves at K-Mart and other discount stores but you could also find them at your five and dime or drug store. Most recognizable are those produced in the late 1970s through the mid-80s.
Topps usually tossed a half dozen full size packs of football or basketball cards together with the same amount of non-sports packs and then a group of two-card packs in a generic wrapper that could be just about anything. The bags touted what would have been the retail value of the packs on the front ($3 or $5 in the mid-to-late 1970s) and they were typically sold for less than two bucks. If you collected both sports and non-sports cards it was a heck of a deal. If not, you could open the sports card packs and dump the rest on trick-or-treaters.
In 1978 and ’79, Topps added full sized hockey packs to the mix. There were 1976-77 packs in some bags that came out in the fall of 1978. In the early 80s, the Fun Bags weren’t quite as common but were still being made. The crown jewel is the1981 bags that held not just multiple packs of 1980-81 Topps basketball (Bird/Magic rookie cards) but also 1981 Topps Football (Montana rookies) and a couple of 1980 Topps Football cello packs.
Those late 1970s and early 80s bags can be found on eBay quite often and occasionally at bigger shows.
The truth is, though, that the repacks made for the Halloween aisle go back much further.
1960s and Early 70s Topps Halloween Packs
They looked different, but Topps was creating bags focused on gum in the early 1950s and then made cards the focus in 1962. The small bags contained 100 one-card packs and a piece of gum. Topps promoted them in some of its literature the following year.
Here’s an ad ad from a New Jersey newspaper in October of 1965, listing the 100-count bags of cards and gum for 69 cents:
Similar ads appeared in newspapers over the next several years as Topps continued to sell what were discounted penny packs well beyond 1965, when they stopped marketing their traditional one-cent packs baseball and football cards that had been a staple since 1952. The 100-count packs were clearly designed for sale at Halloween.
Those 100-count bags contained a mix of sports and non-sports cards and the store sale prices turned out to be about the cheapest way to buy trading cards at retail during the era at seven to eight-tenths of a penny.
In 1963, Texas K-Marts were offering the 100-count packs of cards and gum at an even lower price: 63 cents.
In 1967, Topps sent retail outlets a picture of a fancy kind of Halloween oriented product it had available. The box contained cello packs of 1967 baseball cards (100 cards in all) along with a mix of fruit flavored bubble gum cigars and Bazooka Joe gum. There were 48 of these gems per case.
No unopened packages have ever surfaced as far as I know. One could only wonder what they would bring at auction today.
Topps also produced more generic Halloween card packs for its bags of goodies as one decade turned to the next.
Here’s a picture of what one of the wrappers looked like in 1969…
Those packs were produced until at least the early 1970s before Topps changed how it did the Halloween repacks. In 1974, two-card football card packs were part of the fun bags and eventually, they turned to the mix of regular and two-card packs to fill the bag.
The quantity of packs per bag stayed fairly consistent: There were typically 30 or 27 packs per bag, but sometimes 25. The quantity was front and center at the top of the bags, along with the “value” of the contents that appeared at the top of the bag.
Donruss Halloween ‘Value Bags’
Donruss took a page out of Topps’ book and did their own Halloween bags in the first half of the 1980s and again in 1991. The Donruss bags usually carried full size packs of baseball cards, often in generic wrappers, along with non-sports packs like BMX or Dark Crystal and/or a similar group of specially marked smaller packs, some of which held cards from the company’s golf card sets. $1.29 unopened bags from 1982 seem the most prevalent today, which isn’t a bad thing considering they could contain a Cal Ripken Jr. rookie card.
In the mid-80s, the company also utilized its oversized ‘Action All-Stars’ and ‘Parade of Champions’ packs inside the Halloween bags.
In 1991, Donruss brought the Halloween packs back, touting them as “great party favors or holiday handouts.” The special packs held three baseball cards and puzzle pieces. Today, those bags can be bought for as little as five bucks.