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Area man ‘Wacky’ about card collecting
Sun-Gazette Staff Reports
    There are things from childhood that captivate and capture a person’s imagination. Years later they revive many great memories. Simpler times, when life was less stressful and the biggest concern was which cartoon to watch or game to play. They take adults back to remember times when bills, insurance, layoffs and responsibilities were unfamiliar words. Life was easy.
    One such childhood item that for many was a “must have” from the 1960s through the 1970s were “Wacky Packages.” When it came to “Wackys” there were two mind sets: children loved them, parents hated them or could not quite understand their appeal. Produced by Topps Chewing Gum Co. between 1967 to 1992 the cards were a hit with youngsters everywhere.
    Topps first introduced the cards in 1967 to 1968 in a die-cut format where the sticker had to be pulled apart and was never very sticky.
    Next came “Wacky Ads,” which came out for a year in 1969 and were fashioned to look like amusing billboards.
    It was in 1973 when Topps introduced its first series of “Wacky Packages” that the idea took off and became popular.
    During the 1970s Topps issued 16 series of cards that continue to become one of the most popular card series.
    A pack, then, cost only a few cents and contained two stickers, a petrified piece of cardboard-tasting bubble gum (no one ever really chewed the stuff) and a checklist. The checklist was a card that listed all of the cards included in that series. As an added bonus, when all nine on the checklist were collected, the backs of the cards would form a large picture of one of the cards in that series.
    Although they had a long run, the high point for “Wackys” was the 1970s. Similar to the size of a baseball card, Wackys were colorful collector cards that also were stickers. They parodied common household products using artwork similar to the style used in Mad magazine.
    The premise was to take a simple, common household product like Cheerios and spoof it. The picture might resemble a box of Cheerios closely, but with a twist. Upon closer inspection it is evident that it is not the traditional breakfast cereal but Cheapios. Other popular take-offs were Quacker Oats (Quaker Oats), Brittle Soap Pads (Brillo Soap Pads) and Dull Pineapple (Dole Pineapple).
    Whether it was for the funny art work, the connection to products used at home or that parents found them questionable, children loved them. Mark Shoemaker of Williamsport, an avid collector, recalled what interested him in Wackys when he was younger and why he still finds them so interesting.
    “When I was a kid, they were cheap to buy and featured great art work,” Shoemaker said.
    He vividly recalls many childhood trips to the corner mom and pop store to pick up “Wacky Packs” and also buying them when he went to visit his grandmother.
    “It brings back a lot of great childhood memories,” he said.
    He added one unique thing about the cards was that they were also stickers and could be placed throughout a bedroom or on other items. As much as youngsters loved them, parents had different feelings. “I can speak first hand,” Shoemaker said. “Lots of parents hated them!”
    The “Wacky’’ collector, who works as a deliveryman for Pizza Hut and a news carrier for The Williamsport Sun-Gazette, still finds the hobby of collecting cards as much fun today as it was when he was younger.
    He started collecting them in 1973 when he was 10 years old.
    Shoemaker can be spotted at numerous shows featuring the cards in the Philadelphia area, which he said draws about 400 to 500 people from across the country each day. Often you will see collectors buying, selling or trading cards, all trying to obtain a full collection in mint condition.
    According to Shoemaker anyone interested in starting a collection better have a few extra dollars. He said average cards are priced at $1.50 to $2 each with some rare and hard to find cards reaching prices of $500 to $1,000.
    Shoemakers’ collection of different cards overall totals roughly 1,750 including all 16 full sets from the 1970s.
    With so much investment, proper care and handling is required. He suggests storing cards in special acid free binders or in baseball card sleeves. They should be kept away from any heat sources and away from bright lights. Special albums designed specifically for Wacky Packages are an option for the serious collector.
    Shoemaker may need to make more room in his house for more cards since Topps recently announced it is issuing a new series for the 21st century. Although the price has risen from five cents to $1, the series will include 55 features and 10 “Wacky” tattoos. Six features will come in each pack and should retail for about $1 per pack and will be available this month at local stores.
    Although Shoemaker enjoys other interests such as Penn State sports and Yankees baseball, collecting Wacky Cards still brings back happy memories. Most importantly, he adds, “They make me feel like a kid again.”
Section: Life        Date Posted: 6/1/2004

As appearing in Tuesday - June 1, 2004 edition of The Sun-Gazette

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