It was the NFL’s 60th season, but there wasn’t much historical commemoration inside 1979 Topps football packs. The company stuck with its typical formula of players, league leaders, highlights and checklists.
There were, however, a lot of different types of packs to choose from.
The latest edition of Vintage Pack Facts from Vintage Breaks is all about the final set of the crazy decade that was the 70s–and the packaging that they came in.
1979 Topps Football: Sell sheets, wax, cello, racks and more
*Terry Bradshaw was the league’s MVP and had led the Steelers to victory in Super Bowl XIII. While he wasn’t identified, it was Bradshaw’s image on the sell sheets distributed to candy wholesalers and others prior to the season.
*As was standard for the era, the complete 1979 Topps Football set included 528 cards. Among the top rookie cards were Earl Campbell, Ozzie Newsome, Donnie Shell, James Lofton and Doug Williams. Topps still didn’t have permission to use team logos in its photographs, something that wouldn’t change until 1982.
*Topps held the line on traditional wax pack pricing in 1979. Football packs were still 20 cents–at least for one more year–but the number of cards in a pack shrunk from 14 in 1978 to 12 in ’79. With 36 packs per box, that meant 72 fewer cards–a disappointment for those who pieced their 528-card set together the old fashioned way. Today, unopened boxes cost around $3,000.
*1979 Topps wax wrappers featured a generic design on a blue background with a few different ads on the side panel including the mail-in team checklists, the Topps “card locker” and an ad for Soft & Juicy Bubble Gum.
*Cello packs held 18 cards for 30 cents with 24 packs per box.
There was also a “Super Cello” pack that contained a block of three pieces of (what else) Soft ‘n Juicy bubble gum and 28 cards. The cost was 49 cents, about the same as a regular cello but you did get the bonus bubble gum.
Tough to find today, one Super Cello pack sold via Collect Auctions for $161 last month. It was a packaging option Topps trotted out in the late 70s and early 80s but one that didn’t have a long shelf life (in more ways than one).
*Rack packs were back, with each pack holding 42 cards for 69 cents. Once again, rack packs provided the best bang for your buck (1.64 cents per card) and and the ability to see six of the cards you were getting.
Rack pack boxes contained 24 packs with three boxes per case. Of wax, cello and racks, the rack cases seem to be the most prevalent today, with several entering the hobby through Fritsch Cards’ inventory over the past several years. One sold for over $5,300 in July.
“In my experience the nicest condition cards come out of rack packs,” says Vintage Breaks’ Leighton Sheldon, whose company has broken just about every type of ’79 football pack over the last several years.
*There were grocery and tray rack packs, too. The grocery packs get their moniker from the fact that they were sold primarily in grocery store displays. Tray packs were found there, too, but more commonly in retail stores like K-Mart. “1979 Topps football tray packs and super cellos are the hardest to find,” Sheldon remarked.
The 1979 Topps Football grocery racks held three regular wax packs in a red overwrap while the tray packs had a cello overwrap and rested in a cardboard tray with an ad for the sports card locker on the back. Both types of three-packs typically sold at retail for a few cents less than three individual packs from a wax box might cost. Today, both typically sell for $150-$175 each.
*As usual, Topps sold vending cases holding 500-count boxes with a growing number of dedicated sports card dealers and vending machine operators serving as the customer base.
*Topps also offered “cut cases” to some dealers during that era, with thousands of cards from unsold stock packed double decker style and sold at a discounted price.
The cards were loose in the case, meaning not all would emerge in mint condition, but overall, the cases turned out to be a pretty good deal if they survived the shipping process in decent shape.
You can participate in a pack, box, or set break anytime at VintageBreaks.com which offers a variety of options across all years and sports.