Anyone who collects Wacky Packages, and specifically the Wacky Poster set, knows that Topps released the posters at two different times, once in yellow packs (touted as a test-set), and then again in blue packs (as the regular release). And, as mentioned in the Wacky Package Handbook (a great book by Paul Argyropoulos and Phil Carpenter), three designs were pulled from the yellow-pack set, and replaced with new titles in the blue pack set. So now, the older variations, "Toadal", "Cheepios", and "Weakies" have become very valuable due to their rarity. But WHY, I have wondered, are the posters still collected as one single set of 24 plus 3 "variations"?
Well, when I recently delved back into Wacky Package collecting at the beginning of '97, I popped open all my boxes and found all the Wacky treasures I had as a kid. In looking at my poster set, the memories started to flow. Back in the 70s, I had not just one, but two or three of each of the variation posters. Yet, for some reason, I didn't keep them. I kept the regular set of 24 instead. Why? That was the question that bothered me and has led to a big discovery.
At first I thought my childhood reason for this was that, contrary to the experience most kids had with the posters, the yellow-packs were available to me AFTER the blues. The ice-cream vendor who serviced our little suburban street in Southern California was good at finding older wax boxes at his warehouse, so for me the 5th series stickers came AFTER the 8th, and the yellow-pack posters came AFTER the blue. So, when I opened packs with #5 Toadal, #21 Cheepios, and #23 Weakies, I didn't need those numbers anymore since I had already finished my set.
Recently, I have been trying to compile a set of posters strictly from yellow-packs, just to account for all of them, because most people just mix up the common titles and don't care which pack they CAME from, since they look "the same". I wondered if the remaining 21 titles were all really represented in yellow-packs. And as I assembled the alternate set, I examined them closer...and I remembered! The BIG reason I didn't replace my commons with the variations in my set was that they were too BIG. They didn't fit in the tight little box I had made for them.
When the yellow-pack & blue-pack posters are compared side by side, even folded the difference is noticeable. But open them up, and it's obvious!
The test-set posters from the yellow packs are almost a half-inch longer, and quarter-inch wider than the regular-issues. (About one 16th shy of those figures, actually.) Furthermore, the paper stock and folding style are quite different as well. The earlier posters were printed on a stock that was slightly thicker and shinier. It has a tendency to split very easily on the back of the folds, even fresh from the pack. And the folds were sometimes haphazard and showed a strip of the artwork on one side. (They also had a tendency to have a huge wax-stain on one back-panel, which the later ones don't commonly have.)
When Topps printed the regular set, they must have decided to fix all the printing and folding problems since they were replacing three titles anyway. By cutting them down a half-inch to an even 18" long, they folded down nicer. The blue-pack posters fold neatly, totally flat, and the paper is a bit thinner, rougher and duller. It is amazing that this has gone unnoticed for so long. But, now we can see that there really IS a DISTINCT "test-set" to be collected.
So, an obvious question would be, "Are common titles pulled from yellow packs (the larger ones) just as rare as the 3 variation titles?" I don't see why not. I've never seen an uncut sheet, or know exactly how many titles would have been printed together, but as long as the distribution was the same for all 24 original titles, ANY of the larger variety posters would be equally rare.
Obviously, demand for larger commons wouldn't be as high since their designs were repeated later. But let's hope that the distinction will be noted and commons separated eventually, since there really ARE two distinct Wacky poster sets to be found.
So, what's next? Trying to figure out if the rumors of the variation titles coming from BLUE-packs is true or not. I think I've proven that the LARGER ones could not have, since the actual blue-packs themselves are too small to house a larger version poster. But if 18" Toadal, Cheapios, or Weakies exist, who knows. (I've already found two common titles which are larger format, but the paper stock and folding is more like the shorter ones. It makes you wonder if the changeover happened mid-stream during blue-pack season.)
At any rate, I hope this information will put some more fire into the poster set, start some dialogue, or just add even more questions to the Wacky equation. The mystery of these great old Wackys is half the fun of collecting them.
(If anyone has any info to add to this, or has any yellow-pack posters they would like to trade or sell, please contact me by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org)