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Talking Baseball Cards with Ryan Cornell of Repacked Wax

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Longtime reader/pal Jeff Ash recently hepped me to something interesting: a new company called Repacked Wax, which takes old baseball cards from the 1950s through the 1980s and packages them in 15-card packs with old-fashioned wax paper wrappers for $3 a pack.

The idea is pure nostalgia: old cards in an old-school wrapper. The guy behind it, Ryan Cornell, does a good job of explaining his motivations and goals in this video:

Personally, I have no interest in purchasing vintage cards, but I’m intrigued by the notion of a project based largely on a nostalgic package design, so I got in touch with Cornell and asked if we could do a phone interview. Here’s how that went:

Uni Watch: First, please tell me a little bit about yourself. How old are you, where do you live, and what do you do for a living?

Ryan Cornell [that’s him at right]: I’m 43, I live in Akron, Ohio, and I work in public relations. I used to be a newspaper reporter.

UW: I assume you’ve been collecting baseball cards for most of your life.

RC: Yeah. I bought my first pack when I was eight years old. I was very big into collecting throughout the 1980s and into the early ’90s, when I discovered the guitar and dating, so I started spending my money on girls and guitars.

UW: How many cards do you own, roughly?

RC: Just a couple of thousand. It used to be more, but I’ve pared my collection down to just the key stuff, mostly vintage. Also I collect unopened wax boxes, which was one of the influences on how I created Repacked Wax.

UW: Give me a short, elevator-pitch version of how you got the idea for Repacked Wax.

RC: I was in the grocery store last summer, and they had this product that consisted of maybe 100 baseball cards packed in a clear plastic wrapper — a mix from all different years. It was maybe $5 or $7 for the 100 cards. I looked at it and I thought, “I wish someone would do this better.” First, put some good cards in there so it’s not all commons. And then I thought, “What if they sold it in wax packs? I might actually buy something like that, just for the fun of it.”

So that notion was sort of kicking around in my head for a few months, and then in October I was pulling out of my driveway one day and it hit me: If nobody’s doing this, why don’t I do it?

UW: Was “Repacked Wax” your original name for it, or did you go through some workshopping on that?

RC: My wife and I have a little farm with alpacas, and that’s part of where the name came from — alpaca, Repacked. As I was backing out of the driveway that day, I saw the alpaca right there out front, so the name came along with the idea. I guess I have to thank my alpaca for that.

UW: Is the project just you, or are there other people involved?

RC: My wife is very gracious about helping me, but that’s it for now.

UW: When did the card industry move away from using wax paper, and why?

RC: In 1991, I’m pretty sure. They switched to plastic and foil because it was more secure — tampering had become a problem with the wax packs. The hobby was taking off, so people would open the wax packs, slip out the best card, and then reseal it with an iron and put it back out for sale. It was a legitimate problem.

UW: Why do you find wax paper more satisfying than the newer packaging formats? Is it simply nostalgia, or is there more to it than that?

RC: There’s definitely a nostalgia factor to it. We all miss those bygone things we grew up with. I found I really missed the wax packs, so I just wanted to bring them back. And sure, you can go on eBay and find some unopened original wax pack product, but you’re going to pay a lot for it, and then you’re not going to want to open it.

And let’s face it, nostalgia is a big part of the trading card hobby. Topps does all sorts of throwback or retro card designs…

UW: Have they ever done a limited run of retro wax wrappers?

RC: Not that I’m aware of. Maybe there have been some boutique one-offs, but I haven’t seen anything like that.

UW: How well do you feel you’ve captured and replicated the feel of the old wrappers?

RC: I spent a lot of time opening vintage product to refamiliarize myself with the feel of it, and then testing various papers to get the right thickness. I tracked down a vendor with thinner paper, so it tears the way the original wrappers did, and then we did an offset printing process on it, instead of digital printing — ink, not toner. And then we have a waxer with paraffin wax, so we run each wrapper through the machine. The result, I feel, is very similar to the vintage product. I spent a lot of time getting it right.

Same thing with the boxes: I tried to find the same chipboard and cardboard that they used to use.

UW: Who did the graphic design for your wrapper and boxes?

RC: I did the layout myself. The graphics are licensed from stock image sites. Again, I tried to recapture that old feel.

UW: Once the wrappers are waxed, how do you package the cards? Like, by machine, by hand, or what?

RC [sounding weary]: Every … single … pack gets wrapped by hand. There’s a huge learning curve to getting that right so it looks crisp and clean and sharp. I can do approximately 85 packs an hour, but I’m hoping to get faster. At some point, if this project becomes more successful, I’ll have to look into automation.

UW: What adhesive do you use to seal the packs?

RC: Wax. You apply heat from a sealing iron and it basically adheres to itself. [Ryan later provided the following video that shows how he does this. — PL]

UW: Do you do all this in your garage, or basement..?

RC: I have a spare room. If the project grows, I have a workshop outside that would probably be a good fit.

UW: A skeptic might say, “You’re just putting the same old stuff in a different wrapper, and then asking me to pay a premium for the wrapper.” How would you respond to that?

RC: In some ways, that’s accurate. But it’s not just about the cards — it’s about an experience that’s hard to get elsewhere. But I also want people to get good value, and that means good cards — not just common cards every single time, but a mix similar to what you would’ve gotten in a new pack as a kid.

That actually takes a lot of time and effort, to track down old cards, sets, and collections. I buy private collections, and also sets, and try to do it in volume so I can bring the price down and make everything economically viable. I want people to have fun, and I also want them to feel they get good value for their money in terms of the cards they get in each pack. One of those collections had a Johnny Bench rookie card, so that’ll be in there. I want people to feel good enough about what they get that they’ll want to come back for another purchase, or purchase it as a gift. I don’t want to rip people off.

UW: Is this strictly an e-commerce project, or do you hope to get Repacked Wax stocked in card shops?

RC: I’m starting to line up a few places where we can sell this at brick-and-mortar retail. But for now, online is the way to go, because you can reach so many people.

UW: I’m sure everyone asks you this, but if you’re bringing back the old wrapper, are you also bringing back the stick of bubble gum?

RC: I actually was contacted by someone who’s getting into the bubble gum business, and they think they’ve hit on a recipe that’s very similar to the old “pink sticks” from the old Topps packages. So yeah, while I’m not doing it yet, I’m not ruling it out at some point down the road.


Good stuff. Shortly after we spoke, Ryan sent me a note: “Sales are pretty brisk for a new product. So far, the people who have given feedback seem to like it. Someone even opened some packs live on YouTube the other day!” Here’s that video:

Ryan also sent me a pack of cards so I could experience the product for myself. Having grown up collecting cards in the 1970s, I can say that the wrapper did indeed feel very familiar, although it opened more easily than the old packs I remember. The wax seal didn’t put up much resistance. I realize that may vary from pack to pack, of course, and I don’t mean it as a complaint or a criticism — just an observation.

As for the cards, here’s what I got (Ryan says this pack was given to me randomly, not assembled specifically for me; click to enlarge):

Fun enough, I suppose. Honestly, it has never occurred to me to want to purchase or own old baseball cards, no matter how they’re packaged, so I can’t say Repacked Wax is something that really appeals to me. But I like the idea behind it and the DIY spirit of what Ryan is doing, so I hope it catches on. If you want to try the product for yourself, it’s available here.

Since my pack opened so easily, the wrapper is still in good shape, so I’m going to seal the cards back up in the wrapper and raffle them off in our next year-end raffle.

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Click to enlarge

And gimme a 12-pack of Post-its while you’re at it: Beau “Bear” Mills, the 18-month-old grandson of Indians bench coach Brad Mills and son of former Indians first-round draft choice Beau Mills, died on Monday, so the Indians wore a patch for him yesterday. Except it wasn’t really a patch, at least not in the traditional sense of the term — it appears to have been just an Avery label. If you zoom in, you can even see the toner flaking off some of the letters.

I can’t recall a major-level pro team using such a low-tech jersey patch before (although it’s worth noting that Pirates skipper Danny Murtaugh wore a paper Roberto Clemente memorial patch on at least one occasion in 1973; additional details here). I hate to think what happened if a player took a head-first slide.

To be clear: I am not criticizing the Indians here. Just noting how unusual it is to see this type of patch.

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Phanatic update: After Monday’s post about the new-look Phillie Phanatic, some people asked about the legal issues surrounding the Phanatic and how the changes to the mascot’s look played into those issues.

Now reader James Ryan, who’s an intellectual property attorney, has written a good primer on all of that. You can check it out here.

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rafflet ticket by ben thoma.jpg

Another membership raffle: Today I’m raffling off a complimentary Uni Watch membership that has been donated by a generous reader who prefers to remain anonymous.

This will be a one-day raffle. To enter, send an email to the raffle address by 8pm Eastern tonight. One entry per person. I’ll announce the winner tomorrow. Thanks!

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Working Class Wannabes™, continued: Reader Timmy Donahue (who, as you may recall, gave us lots of insights about military uniforms two months ago) has been intrigued by the blue-collar marketing phenomenon and has taken it upon himself to track a particular aspect of it.

“I have been searching Twitter for schools that give out hard hats and lunch pails as awards,” he says. “I wanted to see if there was any rhyme or reason to the use of this trope.” He’s summarized his findings in this PowerPoint slideshow and this spreadsheet, both of which are fascinating. Highly recommended!

Why did Timmy take the time to do this? He explains his reasons as follows:

While my immediate family is white-collar (I am a lawyer; my wife is a lawyer; my sister is a lawyer; my brother-in-law is an accountant; my brother is a writer at NBC; my dad is an accountant; and my mom is a school teacher), my extended family was blue-collar.

My maternal grandfather drove a cloth diaper delivery truck in the 1950s and ’60s before his untimely death at 36. My paternal grandfather was a WWII vet who worked construction and then became a mailman. My maternal grandmother worked in a clothing factory. My dad worked in that clothing factory, and my mom folded diapers to make money for school. My great-grandfather worked in an asbestos plant and my other great-grandfather worked on the railroad.

My parents were the first in their families to go to college and my siblings and I are the first to get graduate degrees. In short, my family of Irish/German immigrants made the American dream and would likely be shocked to know that, three generations removed from jobs that took years off their lives, we live comfortably and wear suits to an office every day. So, I find the blue collar awards obnoxious.

Also, these hard hat and lunch pail awards make it seem like white collar people do not work hard, which is just obnoxious. I used to work 16- to 18-hour days in the Army; public defenders [Timmy’s current job — PL] work nights, weekends, and holidays; my wife went to law school at night while working 40 hours a week; my brother got his master’s at night. Those are just a few examples. So along with caricaturing a whole class of people (blue-collar workers), these awards devalues the work of others. But you already knew that, so I will stop ranting.

Well stated, Timmy.

You know, there’s one other thing related to all of this that I haven’t mentioned: The sports world routinely panders in various ways for a wide range of holidays and “awareness” months. But you know which holiday gets no acknowledgement whatsoever? Labor Day. Think about that the next time you see this blue-collar bullshit being foisted upon us.

Meanwhile, since we’re on this topic, here’s the latest Ticker-style roundup:

If you want to play a round of blue-collar bingo, Virginia Tech football has managed to cram an unusually large number of working class clichés into one 58-second video (from Andrew Cosentino). … Jonathan Hayes, coach of the XFL’s St. Louis BattleHawks, says he likes St. Louis because it’s a “blue-collar town” filled with “hard-working people who just want good, real, hard-nosed sports.” Not like, you know, all those other towns (from Jake Klein). … Former NBA player Kendrick Perkins says that when you’re playing the Thunder, “You better bring your [motherfucking] lunch pail and your hard hat or be prepared to get smacked up!” (From Chance Plett.)

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Cap surgery update: As you can see above, reader Brett Baker has been very productive lately. As we saw earlier with reader Wes Muniz, there’s something extremely satisfying about seeing all those little piles of contrast-colored thread next to the caps. Nicely done, Brett!

If you want to join the #NoEra movement, you can get a seam ripper at any fabric store, or you can order one from me. And if you need a tutorial on how to perform cap surgery, there’s a good video (now viewed over 1,500 times!) here.

I want to reinforce the point that it’s also fine to leave the logo on your cap if you prefer it that way. No pressure, no imperatives. To each his/her own!

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The Ticker
By Lloyd Alaban

Baseball News: It’s no suprrise to see spring training games that are color vs. color, but yesterday the Nats and Cards went red vs. red (from multiple readers). … The Angels wore caps to honor Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli yesterday. Altobelli, along with his wife and daughter, was killed in the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash last month (from Mike Chamernik). … Kentucky wore their cream unis yesterday (from Brandon S. Turner). … It’s a bit hard to see in this picture, but Georgia P Garrett Brown wore very nice stirrups yesterday (from Mason Cantrell). … Red vs. orange for Houston and UTRGV last night (from George Rafael). … The Philadelphia Flyers’ mascot, Gritty, who’s usually all orange, had blue eyes and a blue tail last night to match the new-look Phillie Phanatic (from @UntillTheNight). … St. Cloud State’s baseball diamond still has a very visible football gridiron painted on it (from Kurt Crowley).

Football News: Alabama WR Jerry Jeudy, speaking at the NFL Combine, explained why he wears a Star of David necklace (from Mike Chamernik). … As you can see in that last link, the Combine warm-up jackets are being made by New Era this year. They had previously been made by Under Armour. … A logoless Patriots team plane was spotted on the tarmac at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Here’s what the plane usually looks like. More info here (from Corey, who didn’t give his last name).

Hockey News: Capitals F Ilya Kovalchuk wore a pair of teammate Jayson Megna’s gloves at practice earlier this week (from Eric Griffin). … Speaking of Kovalchuk, he’s now wearing yellow laces, just like teammate Alex Ovechkin. That link has really good background info on the yellow lace phenomenon (from @OlegKvasha). … G Robin Lehner will wear No. 90 with the Golden Knights. Lehner was asked by the Hurricanes if he’s honoring recent fill-in emergency backup goaltender Dave Ayres, and Lehner said “Sure, why not.” Lehner had worn No. 40 his entire career (from Mike Chamernik). … G Louis Domingue was just acquired from the Devils by the Canucks. Domingue still didn’t have Canucks-colored gear, so he had his dad bring him his old Lightning mask and gear. His dad lives in the Montreal area and the Canucks are there on the road right now (from Wade Heidt). … Reader Noah Sidel recently went to the Bell Centre, the home of the Canadiens, and saw these fantastic retro-style posters. … The MSG Network and its sister station, MSG Plus, both broadcast the Rangers/Islanders game last night, and had different score bug designs (from Steven Woj). … Cross-listed from the baseball section: The Flyers’ mascot, Gritty, who is usually all orange, had blue eyes and a blue tail last night to match the new-look Phillie Phanatic mascot (from @UntillTheNight).

NBA News: PF/C Dragan Bender will wear No. 10 with the Warriors (from Etienne Catalan). … For the latest on NBA uniform updates, follow Etienne’s Twitter feed. … Raptors C Serge Ibaka told the origin story of the massive scarf he wore before Tuesday’s game. … If you’re going to be promoting a Bulls hat, it might be good to use better letterspacing.

College and High School Hoops News: New throwbacks for Georgia Tech men’s (from Timmy Donahue). … Also from Timmy: Color vs. color last night for TCU and Iowa State. … Iowa men’s had mismatching collar designs last night (from @B1GKurt). … Virginia’s men’s is wearing white for an away game against Virginia Tech today (from our own Jamie Rathjen). … It was senior night last night for Utah State men’s. Seniors received framed jerseys, but they were from last season (from @akaggie). … Fans in attendance at the current Carrier Dome’s final game will receive a commemorative Carrier Dome-shaped tin (from James Gilbert). … Also from James: New floor for Fordham. … One more from James: UNC wore throwbacks last night against NC State.

Soccer News: Fox mistakenly used Bayern Munich’s logo after a goal by Atlanta United (from multiple readers). … New shirt for San Antonio FC of the USL Championship (from multiple readers).

Grab Bag: NASCAR driver Ryan Blaney will be driving a Kobe Bryant-themed car for this weekend’s race at this weekend’s Pennzoil 400 (from multiple readers). … Fellow NASCAR driver Daniel Suarez will wear Bryant-themed gloves and shoes at the Auto Club 400 on March 1. Auto Club Speedway, located in Southern California, will also have a No. 24 painted on the infield grass (from James Gilbert). … Due to uniform rules for the Olympic marathon trials this Saturday, one particular singlet will be the most common attire. Approximately 20% of runners will have it on according to reader @Hahntourage. … One of the characters in the TV series Bosch is written to be from the 1st BN 5th Group — part of the US Army Special Forces — but his character uses the patch of the 173rd Airborne (from Timmy Donahue). … The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services is holding a competition open to state residents to design a logo for the new Southwest Montana Veterans Home under construction in Butte. … When candidates drop out of the race for president, here’s what happens to their promo apparel and merch (NYT link) (from Tom Turner). … Here’s the finisher’s jacket for this year’s Boston Marathon. … Great article on the shop that produces stop signs and other road signage in NYC (from Rob Walker).

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If anyone is still having trouble with the mobile version of the site (or, for that matter, with the desktop version), try adding or removing “?amp” after the slash at the end of the URL. If that doesn’t help, please email me directly (rather than posting about it in the comments) and let me know if you’re using iPhone, Android, or other, and which browser you’re using. Thanks. — Paul

Comments (28)

    I think a point is being missed. The appeal of the old baseball cards, nostalgia-wise, was not the packaging. For me, it took in all the senses, including smell and taste. Why no mention of bubble gum?

    Games are seriously scheduled at 5 AM and 10:30 PM on weekdays? The stadium must be really concerned about attendees trying to see more than one game for one ticket.

    Bayern Munich and Chelsea going color vs color would have been a bigger story if both teams wore white; these contrasting color matchups in soccer are commonplace and really not newsworthy.

    Paul, I’m still seeing the desktop version of the site on a Galaxy S9+, using Google Chrome on Android 9.

    Paul, do you anticipate any more significant MLB uni changes? I am looking forward to your annual preview.

    To my knowledge, all of the major redesigns have been unveiled. There could still be (and probably *will* be) some random one-off throwbacks or theme nights or something like that, but no more permanent additions/changes to a team’s wardrobe, at least that I’m aware of.

    I can’t see the note about Jeudy’s Star of David necklace without thinking of Dave Parker, who wore one because “My name is David and I’m a star.”

    Jeudy’s necklace makes me wonder, if, say, an athlete named Timothy Leibowitz wore a cross, because, you know, it looks like a T, and Timothy starts with T… would he get… um… comments? disapproval? outrage?

    Sorry Paul, I am seeing the mobile version of the site as the desktop site now, except when posting comments.

    “…NASCAR driver Daniel Suarez will wear Bryant-themed gloves and shoes at the Auto Club 400…”
    Suarez will also be wearing a #24 Lakers jersey for pre-race ceremonies.

    William Byron, driver of the #24 car, will also have a Kobe Bryant tribute paint scheme for the race:

    “Auto Club Speedway, located in Southern California, will also have a No. 24 painted on the infield grass”.

    I Still Call It California Speedway.

    I believe that is the Patriot’s backup plane – they bought two.

    Only one I think is painted with the actual pats logo – the other looks like, well, this, I think. ;)

    Those Bell Centre posters are the bomb! Wasn’t it the Devils who had similarly awesome game posters a couple of years ago? Paul, I recall that you interviewed the designer of those.

    There are multiple environmental issues concerned with wax paper. Though it is biodegradable in its unaltered form[citation needed], oft-applied additives such as petroleum rid it of that quality. Wax paper also cannot be recycled.

    The last time I picked up a pack of baseball cards, the wrapper was mylar, or a close equivalent. So given the alternative, waxed paper would seem the preferable option. Still, absent the presence of a perishable and water-sensitive foodstuff like a stick of chewing gum, what’s the advantage of waxed paper over just plain paper?

    1) I think you’re really stretching the definition of “foodstuff” there!

    2) For Ryan, the guy behind Repacked Wax (and apparently for some other card collectors of a certain age), the advantage is strictly nostalgic. It evokes a certain period of their youth. No more, no less.

    Could really do without the inappropriate language in reference to the St. Louis blue collar team. This just helps in the coarsening of society. Sad. No class!

Comments are closed.