There was a lot going on in Topps’ New York City offices and in their Duryea, PA plant in 1974. The San Diego Padres were thought to be moving to Washington, D.C., creating headaches for the company that prided itself on keeping its cards as current as possible.
They were, for the first time, making plans for a “factory set,” allowing collectors to buy the year’s entire 660-card issue (except for those Washington, NL variations) in one fell swoop.
And, they knew they had to commemorate Hank Aaron in some way as he was sure to break the home run record not long after the first packs rolled off the delivery trucks.
Nevertheless, when March arrived, the company was ready to do what it had done for 23 years: deliver cards to a hungry audience of kids and a growing audience of adults.
This week’s edition of Vintage Pack Facts takes us back 45 years, when there were plenty of options for acquiring 1974 Topps baseball cards.
- Topps issued two different wax boxes in ’74: a 24-count box with 15-cent packs containing 12 cards and the far more common 36-count option that offered eight cards per pack for 10 cents.
- Some boxes sold at retail included a blue and white promotional sheet aimed at the owners of stores who carried Topps cards.
- Wrappers featured ads for the Topps storage locker, an MLB team t-shirt and the Topps mail-in uncut team checklist sheet. One wrapper version boasted that the product contained “all 660 cards in one series” (the first time Topps had done that) while another version promoted the “bonus team checklist insert” found in each pack. Today, wrappers are an easy eBay pickup at just a few dollars while full 36-count authenticated boxes run over $10,000.
- Cello packs included 22 cards for 25 cents–down from 27 cards a year earlier. Topps either didn’t produce many ’74 cellos or they sold well at the time of issue because full boxes are very rare today.
- Also rare are the 42-card rack packs, which sold for 39 cents. Each included a blue header card, but Topps also partnered with some Major League Baseball teams for a promotional giveaway that included rack packs with a special team-oriented header card. The Detroit Tigers, Baltimore Orioles and Oakland A’s seem to be the three teams where the promotion may have taken place and has been noted by collectors who have seen or owned the special rack packs.
- More Pack Facts after the gallery…
- Topps also produced “fun packs” that contained two cards and were sold as part of a Halloween candy bag sold in stores.
- The earliest print runs of Topps cards contained those “Washington N.L.” error cards. Not every player is pictured on both the Washington variation and the corrected edition created once the Padres decided to stay in San Diego, most notably Dave Winfield.
- Vintage Pack Breaker JustRipIt recently opened a pack of ’74 Topps and out popped one of those Winfield rookies…
- Later print runs would include the Topps “Traded” cards; a fresh concept the company would bring back in 1976.
- Topps’ “factory set” was an effort to put the company’s entire 660-card set in the retail market. Packed in a colorful box that pictured the cards, the sets sold in the Sears catalog and perhaps elsewhere.