The Daily Telegram (Adrian, Michigan) - July 11, 2004 - contains article about Wacky Packages
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The Daily Telegram (Adrian, Michigan) contains article about Wacky Packages
July 11, 2004
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Wacky Packages unwrap youthful humor
By Michael S. Miller
Daily Telegram News Editor
If laughter were a natural element that needed to be extracted from the
earth, it would be more precious than platinum, more valuable than
diamonds. To the balanced mind and spirit, laughter is an essential
element, just below oxygen and just ahead of HBO.
It was pre-teen time spent with Mad Magazine and Topps' Wacky Packages
stickers that helped my internal humor compass find its true north.
While other kids my age were suffering through violin lessons, Hooked on
Phonics, preschool, summer reading programs, parental guidance and
regular meals, I was giggling over the satire and puns in Mad and
trading Wacky Packs, as we called them.
I was 7 or so when I first found Wacky Packages, which, for those of you
who were never kids or never had kids or were busy with violin lessons
and father-son sack races, were stickers that took familiar products and
lampooned their names and artwork. So, Band-Aid became Band-Ache, which
stripped off skin," Wheaties became Weakies, the breakfast of chumps,"
Crest toothpaste became Crust toothpaste, Ajax became Ajerks, Minute
Rice became Minute Lice, and Quaker Oats became Quacker Oats. The
old-school Wacky Packs even made fun of adult products such as
cigarettes. And in the ultimate super combo, there was a Wacky Package
that made fun of Mad, renaming it Mud, the humor magazine for pigs.
Funny stuff, when you're 7.
Topps has unleashed its Wacky Packages on a new generation of card
collectors. A new 55-card series debuted this summer, aimed at today's
kids and yesterday's collectors. Many of the new cards fit nicely beside
the classics. Gatorade becomes Gutterade, the Lemon-Slime Sewer Water."
Frosted Flakes becomes Frosted Snakes (They're G-r-r-r-oss!"), and
Goldfish crackers become Coldfish, with a little sunglasses-wearing fish
Ira Friedman, vice president of publishing and new product development
for the Topps Co., based in New York, has as much fun talking about the
new Wacky Packages as he probably did opening them as a kid. He said
there is a lot of thought that goes into each product parody.
We try to stay away from parodying the same products from the past.
Older collectors are on board, and we want them to find the jokes
fresh," he said. We look at how eye-catching the original product's
graphics are, and how the joke plays. We might use one for every 10
jokes our team suggests."
To reach kids, Friedman said Topps is advertising Wacky Packages in
children's publications such as Nickleodeon Magazine, and young readers'
Older customers get that warm and fuzzy feeling from when they
collected Wacky Packages as kids, and kids today are discovering the
fun," Friedman said.
He said a second series is already in development.
Greg Grant, 38, a mathematician for the University of Pennsylvania in
Philadelphia, runs the Web site www.wackypackages.org, which
exhaustively catalogs Wacky Packages and its spin-offs.
I had my stack since 1973, and when I moved I would see it, and think I
was the only one in the country who remembered these things," Grant
said. But in '98, I checked on the Web, and I was blown away; there
were Wackys all over the Web. I started buying stuff, meeting people,
spending money, one thing led to another, and I went crazy. I was
working at it more than my full-time job."
Grant said he was flabbergasted" when he learned Topps was planning a
modern series. He was the owner of the Web domain name
www.wackypackages.com, which Topps wanted. He said he traded the Web
name for the original artwork for the Log Cabin syrup parody Log
Cave-In, some rare promotional cards, the right to retain
www.wackypackages.org, and a permanent link from the Topps site.
They tried to bring them back in the '80s and '90s, but they've really
pulled it off this time. Old-timers are loving it, and the response has
been great," he said.
Grant said the original art pieces have dramatically escalated in price.
Recently, he bid almost $23,000 in an auction for the artwork for Crust,
and lost to a competing collector. On July 7, in a flurry of eBay
activity, four art pieces sold for a total of more than $60,000.
Investment potential aside, how do Wacky Packages fare with today's
kids? Two of my nephews, Kegan Olsen, 10, and his brother Marek, 6, of
Clarkston, discovered Wacky Packages while on a recent trip to Florida,
and are collecting them with the excitement and magic only young minds
They're fun to collect. I like the surprise when you find a new one,"
Kegan said. They're super funny. My favorite is Lame Boy, instead of
They're funny and I like them," Marek said. My favorite is Choperation
(based on the board game Operation)."
Not that it's all fun and games.
I'm going to save mine so I can put them on eBay when I grow up," Kegan
Kegan and Marek's father, Dan, a 38-year-old project manager for
Daimler-Chrysler fleet services, said he remembers collecting the cards
with his brother.
We used to love that they made fun of the real products our parents
bought, and that they got such a reaction from our parents, the faces of
disgust they would make," Olsen said. We used to stick them on
lunchboxes and bikes."
Olsen said he remembers showing up for his second grade school photos in
a Wacky Packages Fright Guard" T-shirt and being caught by a teacher,
who made him turn the shirt inside-out for the photo. Olsen said he is
having fun watching his boys discover the humor in Wacky Packages.
They get a kick out of them. They're silly, ridiculous, and the minute
detail in the artwork makes them fun."
And with thousands of dollars at stake, there's something for grown-ups,
"It's an amazing time for the hobby," Grant said. "There's a lot of
future in this."