Things were stressful as summer turned toward fall in 1974.
Watergate. The war in Vietnam. Inflation. Moms, dads and older siblings were stressed.
Kids looking for a little stability in life could still count on dropping a dime on the counter of their local drug store and getting a fresh back of cards, though. It had been that way as long as we knew. New season. New sport. New cards. Same price.
And then they looked at the box.
FIFTEEN cents. Three dimes now bought just two packs instead of three.
Inflation had hit home.
Of course we couldn’t have expected Topps to hold the line forever. Who knows what sparked the increase but there it was. It didn’t stop kids from buying cards but building a set looked like an insurmountable task.
This week’s Vintage Pack Facts from VintageBreaks.com is focused on the fall of ’74.
- No, you didn’t get more cards for your extra nickel. Each wax pack still held ten. Cello packs, which had contained 24 cards in 1973, contained only 20. Rack packs were a serious bummer. Gone were the bargain priced 39-cent packs that held a whopping 54 cards. Now, you received only 36. Thirty-six!
- At least Topps didn’t increase the size of the set. It was much the same as the year before with 528 cards, all in one series, along with a set of team checklists (one per pack).
- Even though its 1973 set had started the trend of putting the entire set in one series, Topps still touted the “all 528 cards in one series” line on its wax cases and boxes.
- The set’s design was fairly simple but the ‘goal post’ design accentuated the ongoing issues Topps had with printing cards that were cut properly. Off-center cards remain in abundance today.
- The 1974 set marked the beginning of the cardboard careers of players like John Hannah, Ray Guy, Jack Reynolds, Joe DeLamielleure and Ahmad Rashad and the end of the line for Johnny Unitas who was suiting up for the (!) San Diego Chargers. There are over 60 Hall of Famers in the set, meaning your odds of snaring at least one in a pack are pretty good. The lack of Hall of Fame rookie cards tends to keep prices for surviving unopened packs today at a fairly reasonable level, despite a generally increased interest in vintage unopened material.
- During Halloween, Topps put two-card wax packs inside bags aimed for handing out to trick-or-treaters. While they’re much cheaper than a standard packs, wax stains and other issues tend to keep collectors from opening them.
- A childhood mother lode of unopened boxes entered the hobby not too long ago.
- Vintage Breaks is currently offering a ’74 rack break at $15 per spot.
You can watch a 1974 Topps wax pack break below.