Thrift Treasures Part XXX: Scratch That Itch? (Factory Sealed Vintage Topps Odd Ball Find)

I’m telling you, if you’re not checking your local thrift stores for sports cards, you’re missing out.  Sure, there will be a fair share of junk from time to time.  I’m talking mounds upon mounds of 1988 Topps and Donruss, 1990 Score commons, and of course various years of Pro Set football.  All of the aforementioned are items you can just leave there for someone else who believes that just because a card is now 20 years old it is worth something.  But every once in a while you’ll unearth some good stuff, or something just so odd that you can’t possibly pass up.

During a lunch break last week, I stopped at a thrift store I had not visited in two months.  I’ve hit gold here before, like this uncut 1961 Post Panel featuring Hall of Famer Hank Aaron. But in my last few trips there has been nothing for me.  And then last week, from beneath the carnage that is the display case of all things glass and tattered books was a stack of sealed baseball cards.  The price tag $10.

From my vantage point, all I could initially see was a bunch of black dots.  There were no obvious identifiers that this was some sort of baseball card.  The faces shown on the front of these were obscured by a copy of some old book that had been chucked on top.  But from my experience in cards, I knew that this field of un-scratched black dots looked familiar.  As it turned out it was a stash of factory sealed 1981 Topps Scratchoffs game cards.

In 1981, Topps created a game that consisted of 108 player cards — 54 from the National League and 54 from the American League.  The cards were issued in three-card panels that are perforated for separation.  Each individual card had a player’s name and face and then a field of 24 scratch-off dots which I presume conceal some sort of baseball term (i.e. strike out, hit, home run, etc.)  The idea I believe was to have two players square off in a game.  Remember, this was before home video games.  This WAS cool in 1981.

I digress.  These cards were typically issued in six-three-panel packs which gave the buyers the equivalent of nine American League player cards (when separated) and nine National League player cards per pack.

Are they worth much? No.  Beckett Baseball lists the entire set (with the cards separated) in the $4 to $10 range.  The Beckett Almanac states that the cards are worth 20 percent more of they are still attached to their panels.  On the “real” market, most of the individual cards or panels can be had on eBay for less than $1 and no more than $5.

But here’s what made this find special:  The cards/panels are in bricks and appear to be sealed in a factory form.  Each brick looks to contain roughly 50 three-card panels.  And judging by the striations on the side, there appears to be an even number of American League and National League panels in each brick.  The bricks are wrapped in plastic and then folded over and sealed with tape.  This appears to be consistent with the way factory sets would have been sealed in the 1980s.

This is a prime example of where rarity and oddity supersede what any pricing information that any price guide would show me.  I had to have it.

What I particularly love about this find is that one of the stacks has George Brett — one of the best cards in the set — showing on the front, and another has Brett showing on the back.  Additionally, one brick has Dale Murphy and Andre Dawson showing on the front; another has Rod Carew on a back panel.

What would have made this even better?  If Rickey Henderson’s card were showing somewhere.  Then again, if Henderson were showing, I’m certain this stack would not have made it into my collection.  Remember, I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, not too far from Oakland, where Rickey is a legend.

See the entire 1981 Topps Scratchoffs checklist here at Beckett.com.

2 Responses to “Thrift Treasures Part XXX: Scratch That Itch? (Factory Sealed Vintage Topps Odd Ball Find)”

  1. Good find.

    I’ve checked my local thrift stores — multiple times.

    First of all, they’re not “local.” The closest ones to me that I know are 2 1/2 hours away. Secondly, all they have are ’88 Donruss and ’90 Score.

    Crazy world you have there.

  2. I’ve always been curious about this set. I remember seeing them when I first started collecting, but never picked any up. I might just have to chase down this set, since it’s so affordable. Thanks for sharing!

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