For a certain kind of kid, probably most kinds of kid, the phrase "Wacky Packs" triggers immediate memories of playground conclaves in which the titular cards and stickers were shown off and traded as aggressively as pork bellies at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
For those sadly left out of that Venn diagram, this is a Wacky card:
It's a simple concept. A silly, unexpected or gross-out pun on a popular consumer product is played for laughs. Children, slobbering teens and adults with severe cases of arrested development in the pop culture realm, fell under the sway of Wacky Packs.
Most of the artists responsible for Wacky Packs were of the '60s and '70s comic underground movement. We hope Topps, the baseball-card and petrified gum company that produced Wackys, paid the artists well because kids spent plenty of allowance and paper route earnings on the cards.
Seeing Wackys now gives us a better understanding of how a bunch of Mad magazine types helped shape a generation or two of consumers happy to bite the tail of the commerce beast. We may eat Doritos, but we can laugh along with Don't Eat Those.
There are two astounding archives of Wacky Packages, and probably more, on the web. Lost Wackys catalogs some of the rare specimens, while WackyPackages.org is a buyer's guide run by a fellow named Greg, who will also sell you sets.
Before we release you into the galleries of Lost Wackys, we want to share with you two examples from the '70s era sets that simply wouldn't fly today. "Hostage Cupcakes" is far too grim for modern parenting and "Commie Cleanser" requires both a knowledge of the existence of Comet cleanser and Communism. Discuss?