It’s been awhile since I thought about baseball trading cards. However, a recent article in the Chicago Sun-Times Sports Section caught my eye, which stirred up some memories. It referenced Topps celebrating the 60th anniversary of having introduced baseball trading cards, which included, of course, a stick of Bazooka bubble gum.

The New York City-based company has launched a variety of promotions to kick off the diamond jubilee, including issuing special code cards in every sixth pack of this year’s Series 1 baseball cards.

The code cards will allow collectors to win vintage cards, a diamond engagement ring or a Topps diamond commemorative ring. To ensure everyone understands the history behind this anniversary, Topps has engaged Hank Aaron and Frank Thomas as their baseball spokesmen.

It’s also created a web site allowing fans to vote on their Top 60 trading cards, which was – you have to give those New York boys and girls credit on this – a great idea on getting collectors and casual consumers involved in the anniversary.

They followed up the voting, which lasted 30 days, with a countdown of that Top 60 (beginning with number 60 to number 1) from December 18 through February 15. Also clever.

I recognize some of you “young ‘uns” may not be baseball card collectors, but I’m sure several of my graybeard companions were. I was. This contest brought back several memories of yours truly spending hard-earned money gleaned from returning empty soda bottles for a 2¢ refund and then spending that cash on a pack of cards.

Back then ― and this will certainly surprise some of my colleagues at work ― I was a Sox fan, although I lived on the near Northwest side of Chicago, now known as the chicly Bucktown neighborhood. Luis Aparicio, No. 11 who played shortstop for the Sox, was my favorite player and I longed to get his card. That longing turned into quite a collection ― yes, the proverbial shoebox. At some point in time, the shoebox was either lost or throw out when we moved. (“I coulda been a collector!”)

Forgive me for reminiscing, but my flashback illustrates how way back then, well before the Internet, the Topps company had hit on a grand idea: interactive confections. By combining candy, in this case, gum, with sports collectibles, Topps was able to engage the consumer, specifically boys (although I’m sure there were a few girls who collected baseball cards as well), by highlighting sports stars and stats (lots of information on the back of those cards).

While that may appear to be pretty static interaction by today’s standards, I recall getting into heated debates about a particular player. Of course, then there was the well-honed art of trading for a particular card, say Luis Aparicio, for example.

Sadly, in reviewing Topps Top 60 Trading Card list, I’m afraid to say that Luis Aparicio didn’t make the cut, although the cards of two Chicago Cubs stars did: a 1954 Ernie Banks (No. 27) and a 1987 Greg Maddux (No. 53).

So thanks for the memories, Topps. As for all of you confectioners out there, consider a collectibles promotion for your products. I think it might be interesting for chocolatemakers to have some kind of collectible stamps featuring all the cocoa-growing regions in the world. Upon garnering all the stamps, voila, you get a fresh box of chocolates. All right, so there’s a reason why I’m not in marketing. Still, it’s the premise that’s valid, one of engaging the consumer in your product. By the way, does anyone out there have a Luis Aparicio card?