By Chris Nerat
Ever since the age of nine when I started collecting baseball cards, which to those of you who don’t know me would have made it 1987, I can remember seeing ads in “Sports Collectors Digest” for Christmas Rack Packs. These packs are basically three stacks of vintage Topps baseball cards, usually from the 1950’s and 1960’s, wrapped in cellophane that is decorated with Christmas designs such as wreaths and jolly old Saint Nick.
These intriguing packs seem to have always been around and are usually sold as genuine vintage items, but nobody seems to know who issued them. Were they were packaged legitimately by a novelty company in the 1950’s and 1960’s or recently made up by an innovative entrepreneur who’s merely trying to make a buck off collectors with an uncontrollable thirst to get their hands on some vintage unopened baseball material?
I asked my old buddies Bob Lemke and T.S. O’Connell from “Sports Collectors Digest” fame their thoughts.
As far as I know, Topps had nothing to do with these Christmas rack packs. Some people claim they date back to the 1960’s, when second-party repackagers made them up from cards reportedly remaindered by Topps, but most seem to have been made in the past 10 years.
– Bob Lemke
They seem to have surfaced in the hobby about 15 years ago and have been sold intermittently over the years, most typically on eBay. Thought to contain 12 cards, the Christmas Racks are not typically thought to have been a Topps product, but rather cards that have been repackaged and sold through the hobby. While the cards are usually in nice condition, they are not thought to be uncirculated, with the cards in this instance apparently about EX-MT. – T.S. O’Connell
Below are links to Collector’s Universe message board posts about these packs. The one I found the most informative was written by user name “bishop”: Mark Murphy was first selling these exclusively, he and his business partner claimed the cards had been bought by a 3d party from Topps, repackaged in around 1982, and then sold in retail stores. He said the packs ran from 54 to 63. Later packs surfaced from 52 and 53. Now I have heard some exist for post 63. Murphy and his partner could not or would not say who the 3d party buyer was or which specific stores retailed them. I have had people say they remember them but they cannot be very specific about where or when. Whatever they were originally, I don’t think there is any doubt that someone else is continually recreating them today. So, not only are you not getting untouched Topps cards, but you may be getting 2nd, 3d or 4th generation repackages. But, it would be interesting if someone had first-hand knowledge of how and when the first such packs came to be and where they were originally sold. A hobby mystery.
Some interesting reading, but I will admit, I don’t think we will know the exact origin of Christmas packs. If anyone has any detailed information on this topic, please email me at ChrisN@HA.com.