Topps on Sesame Street

Topps Cards are Part of the Sesame Street Canon

Date: Feb 29, 2024
Author: Michael Salfino
Topics: Football, Pop Culture, Sesame Street, Topps
Length: 584 Words
Reading Time: ~3 Minutes

I watch a lot of Sesame Street. A LOT. Waking up at 5 a.m.? “Let’s watch some old episodes!” Everyone screaming for their iPads? “Let’s turn on some old episodes!” Date night without the kids? “How about a little ‘Maria tries to get her hat back from Oscar’?” 

And one otherwise nondescript day, in the background of a Season 5 episode I’ve seen a thousand times… there it was, hanging from the shelf behind Mr. Hooper’s counter.

A brand new rack pack of 1972 Topps football cards. 

And in season 7, during a conversation with Biff the construction worker, the camera pulls out and reveals that there are suddenly… two. 

Topps Cards Sesame Street

Biff the construction worker with 1972 Topps Football rack packs behind him (red arrows pointing to the packs)

So… in official Sesame Street canon, Topps football cards exist—specifically, 1972 rack packs. And in unofficial Sesame Street canon, it appears nobody wanted them, which is a little odd.

If you really pay attention, you’ll notice a strong undercurrent of collecting on the show. Bert, of course, is the most famous — his meticulously put-together paper clip collection is the stuff of legend (but he also had a thing for bottle caps). Oscar the Grouch has a giant, well-maintained trash collection. According to the official Sesame Workshop page, even Big Bird likes to collect “things.”

But nobody seemed to want these football cards. Which, as we can all relate, Was a big “R” for “regret.”

A rack pack of 1972 Topps Football cards when Season 5 aired (1973-74) cost 39 cents and had 54 cards. Someone shrewd enough to have bought it and somehow kept it unopened — and that seems impossible for a neighborhood full of monsters and giant birds preaching friendship, sharing, and curiosity — would have turned a tidy profit. In their fall 2022 auction, Robert Edward Auctions had an unopened 1972 Topps rack pack sell for $4,080

Topps Cards Sesame Street

1972 Topps Football rack pack

Even if someone bought and opened the pack and maybe just kept them in decent shape, you’d be sitting on something special today — the set of cards (first series) featured the rookies of Archie Manning, John Riggins, Jim Plunkett, and Roger Staubach — plus regular cards of Gayle Sayers, Joe Namath and Terry Bradshaw. In PSA 8 condition, the Manning would be worth about $55, while the Plunkett would run around $70, The Riggins would be worth about $125, the Terry Bradshaw would be about $300, and the Staubach could be worth over $2000. 

If you want to break the fourth wall and step into the real world, there aren’t many Sesame Street-themed cards to collect. The most famous (and ubiquitous) is a 1992 set produced by the Children’s Television Network. Full sets can be had pretty easily for under $15, but unopened boxes are a little harder to find. In 2018, Topps had a “Sesame Street Debuts” card as an insert in the Heritage set, and Topps’ 2011 “American Pie” set featured a Sesame Street card and two other Jim Henson-related ones. Of course, they’ve been immortalized in GPK sets as well — both Elmo and Grover have “their own” cards that can be had with relative ease.

But as for those 1972 rack packs? We like to imagine Bert grabbed them both one day for under a dollar, opened them, sorted the cards in numerical order, and packed them away tightly in a box far out of Ernie’s reach.

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