Tuesday, August 23, 2005

the statistics of collection

as some of you might know, i've gotten pretty heavily into wacky packages (unofficial fansite here). the original wacky packs were around for decades, from the '60s into the mid '80s, then topps stopped making them. recently (i want to say last year) topps started making new ones; the "all-new series 2" just came out this summer.

where garbage pail kids parodied cabbage patch kids (originally; legal problems caused them to redesign later GPKs so that they would no longer resemble cabbage patch kids, taking much of the bite out of the concept), wacky packs parody consumer products and advertising. they're still geared largely toward children, so a lot of them are boringly scatalogical (like GPKs), and the new ones no longer have alcohol or cigarette parodies like they did in the old days, some of them are pretty cool.

so i've been collecting the new series 2, generally a few packs at a time. most packs have 6 stickers, but some replace one of those stickers with something else, like a window cling or temporary tattoo. clings and temporary tattoos are pretty lame, i know, but the coolest thing about this new series is that some of the packs now include refrigerator magnets! (in fact, i think they replaced the window clings with the magnets, though the "checklist" lists clings but not magnets: i suspect that might have been an error.)

so i made a quick stop at target today to get worm medicine for the cat (they didn't have any, though i did get some flea+ treatment). while there, i intended to pick up a few packs: 4 to 6 maybe. but i saw that target had one of the boxes for sale: these boxes are intended to be sold as a unit, and contain 11 packs + 1 bonus sticker for $9.99. (the bonus stickers are extra stickers, not available in the packs.) it was more than i had intended to get today, but that bonus sticker was appealing so i grabbed it.

here's the crazy part. there are 55 stickers in the series, not counting bonus stickers, magnets, or window clings. excluding the bonus sticker, the box had 66 cards/stickers in it. of those, i got 2 magnets (actually kind of low, as i think 1 in 6 or more packs have magnets) and one tattoo, leaving 63 stickers remaining.

out of only 63 stickers, the box alone contained the whole series! only 8 doubles! and one of each of every sticker in the series!

surely that can't be intentional... a less-devoted collector might just buy one box and quit. topps wants people to keep buying lots of packs. so the probability of getting one of every sticker inside the box must be extremely slim. (i was never a statistician and have been out of school for a long time, so i won't attempt the math, but if you want to, feel free to post some math in the comments.)

now, even though i have the whole series (and lots of doubles of some stickers), i'm not done collecting series 2 just yet... when i collected series 1, i collected until i had at least 2 of every card: that way, i could actually use at least one copy of any sticker i want, and yet still have a spare copy "for the collection". i'll probably do that again. also, ideally i would like to collect all 9 of the magnets: i only have 5-6 of the magnets now.

but still... wow. the whole series in one box. i'm still reeling from the unlikelihood of it all.

p.s. if you're curious (since the unofficial site doesn't list it yet), the bonus sticker in the target box is for Easy-Burn Oven and Scortch Center. if you look closely, you can see that the timer on the oven says 666

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