I can’t believe that it’s been 50 years – half a century, folks! – since I bought my first pack of Topps’ Wacky Packages.
I was reminded of that earlier this morning when I was browsing through my hardcover copy of Wacky Packages (2008, Abrams ComicsArt) and saw that the first series of those subversive stickers that featured parodies of iconic brands and consumer goods packaging created by cartoonists such as Art Spiegelman, Jay Lynch, Kim Deitch, George Evans, Norman Saunders, Drew Friedman, Bill Griffith, Tom Sutton, and Bhob Stewart.
I don’t remember the exact date that I was introduced to Wacky Packages, but it couldn’t have been too long after Topps reintroduced the stickers – forerunners to the 1980s Garbage Pail Kids stickers that were a big fad when I was in college – in March of 1973, sometime after my 10th birthday. I do recall that I found out about them through some of the other guys I hung around with in my Coral Estates Park neighborhood in South Florida.
As I wrote in my 2020 review of Wacky Packages:
I was 10 when I was introduced to Wacky Packages by one of the kids I hung around with in the Miami (FL) suburb of Westchester. My mother and I had moved back to the U.S. from Colombia one year earlier and I was still relearning English, but even then, I thought Wacky Packages were the most hilarious trading cards I’d ever seen.
And, like many kids my age, I just had to have them.
“Where,” I asked my friend, whose name was Patrick, “did you get these?”
“Oh, at the 7-Eleven on 97th Avenue,” Patrick said, in reference to a convenience store located just five blocks away from our houses on SW 102nd Avenue.
Southwest 97th Avenue was, even then, a busy thoroughfare, and I wasn’t yet gutsy enough to walk from my house to the 7-Eleven store alone. So, every week, I’d ask either a trustworthy friend or my mom to get me five sets of Wacky Packages for a quarter. The retail price for one set was a nickel, so I usually asked for five at a time so I could build my collection of stickers quickly.
In 1973, a nickel’s worth of Wacky Packages consisted of:
- two Wacky Packages stickers
- a puzzle piece with a checklist
- a piece of Topps Chewing Gum
Among my small circle of friends, the norm was to buy one quarter’s worth of Wacky Packages at a time, though other kids in the neighborhood (usually older ones who earned money by mowing their neighbors’ lawns or washing cars) could buy more than that. One kid, whose father was a doctor, became the talk of the block when he bought an entire unopened box of Series Two Wacky Packages at that 7-Eleven store (which has been replaced by another business) for the princely sum of $5.00 and 4% Florida sales tax!
Later, as I grew older and bolder, I learned how to follow a relatively safe route from Point A (my house) to Point B (the 7-Eleven store) on my own. My mom wasn’t thrilled at first, but after I reassured her that I could cross 97th Avenue on my own without getting myself killed, she eventually consented, even though she couldn’t understand my fascination with Wacky Packages.
Collecting Wacky Packages was my first fad-related hobby, and one that my Mom – grudgingly at first – assented to because (a) it was harmless and (b) it gave me joy. Not that I had an unhappy childhood. Far from it. But (as readers of my Tempus Fugit posts well know), only a year had passed since we’d returned to Miami from Bogota, Colombia, and even though I was resilient and adapted to Stateside folkways and mores, deep down I missed my relatives and the few friends I’d made in Colegio El Nogal during our half-decade sojourn “south of the border.”
I don’t remember when I stopped buying Wacky Packages; according to various sources, including the book I was reading this morning and Wikipedia, Topps’ original run lasted until 1977. By then, Wacky Packages was in its 16th series, and I had other things on my mind that year, including:
- My first breakup after a romantic relationship
- The death of my maternal grandfather
- The sale of my favorite house, the one in Coral Estates Park
- The release of Star Wars, a movie that also became a “culture fad” for people my age and, as far as collecting things goes, replaced Wacky Packages as both a source of joy and a collection to accumulate
(I can’t be sure, Dear Reader, but I believe my passion for Wacky Packages cooled in late 1975 or early 1976, but I do remember buying one last pack of stickers at the now-vanished Carousel Gift Store in the shopping plaza near my then-new home in East Wind Lake Village a short time after we moved in. That must have been in March of 1978, cos that’s when Mom started sending me on simple errands – like buying a gallon of milk when we were running low – to give me more responsibilities as a young teenager.)
I’m 60 now, but I’ve not forgotten the kick I used to get when I would go to that 7-Eleven store on SW 97th Avenue to get my weekly “fix” of Wackies. They were subversively fun, and they shaped my taste in humor, particularly satire and parody.
So, wow. 50 years have come and gone since I first got a glimpse at those hilarious (then and now) Quacker Oats, Bustedfinger, Plastered Peanuts, and Cram stickers at my friend Patrick’s house back in the spring of 1973.
And, you know what? They still make me chuckle!
 One of my current fantasies is that I’ll write a bestselling book, make enough money to be self-supporting, and have enough cash on hand to travel to Miami and buy back the house from the current owners, even if I have to offer them more money than the house is currently appraised for. The house on SW 102nd Avenue is not as ideally placed vis a vis nearby shopping centers, the airport, and movie theaters as my former home in East Wind Lake Village, but it would suit my housing needs if I had more disposable income, which I currently do not have.
 Former friend, sadly. Patrick, like his older brother Robert, was raised in a conservative, Baptist family, and as he grew older, became more aligned with far-right, pro-MAGA Republicans, especially after he moved, along with his dad and mom, from Miami to Ocala, in the early 2000s. We briefly reconnected on Facebook after I moved to the Tampa area in 2016, and we even talked about a face-to-face reunion a couple of times. However, once Patrick saw that I was not a Trump supporter, he expressed his displeasure in the comments section of some of my politically themed Facebook posts. He did not unfriend or block me, but after the January 6, 2021 Stop the Steal Capitol riot, he closed his Facebook account.
4 thoughts on “Tempus Fugit – 1973 Remembered Edition: Wacky Packages Turned 50!”
Thanks for sharing this.
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I remember these. I was a couple of years younger than you but I had a few. I was more interested in baseball cards, though.
I have to wonder if your former friend might have participated in Jan 6 if he closed his account afterwards.
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About Patrick: It’s possible. He is a Trump loyalist, and he believes many of those far-right conspiracies (Democrats are Marxists; Obama was born in Kenya and is a secret Muslim, Trump won in 2020…). He also works as an armed bodyguard, so he owns firearms. I stopped hanging out with him a short time before Mom sold the house on 102nd Avenue in 1977 because our 6-year difference in ages was widening the gulf between us anyway, and after that, the only time I saw him was at a mutual friend’s wedding in 2000. By then, he was already living in the I-4 corridor near Ocala, which is a “deep red” GOP bastion, so I suppose he was radicalized there.
As for the Wackys…I still might have a few mixed with my loose Star Wars cards in a duffel bag somewhere. They were (probably) made by the same company that made your baseball cards.
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