Vending Box: A method of packaging, used primarily by Topps, originally produced to stock trading card vending machines.
Topps made vending boxes as early as the 1950s. But while trading card vending machines were relegated to antique shops by the 70s, Topps kept making the boxes up until the mid 1990s. They became a popular way for dealers put together sets (you can get most of a set out of two boxes), and a way for collectors to get a lot of cards for relatively little money. Think of them as a 500-card pack.
A typical Topps vending box contains 500 randomly collated cards, and a vending case has 24 boxes (for a total of 12,000 cards). Since the cards were cut directly from the sheet and packed into the box, none of the cards will have any wax or gum stains, making the odds of finding gem-mint cards that much better. Because of the random collation, it is possible for multiple copies of the same card to appear in the same vending box.
Collectors should be be advised that, while cases were factory sealed, the individual vending boxes were not making vending boxes easy to search. Fortunately, there is a telltale way to determine if a Topps vending box has been searched.
An unsearched Topps vending box will have a "ribbed" pattern (a series of alternating color changes, light, dark, light, dark, etc.) that should be evident when it's opened. There should also be some card shavings across the top of the cards. The cards were cut right from the sheet and then directly placed in the box, accounting for the shavings. Once the cards have been removed and looked through, the ribbing pattern will not be evident.
Topps was not the only company to produce vending boxes. From 1981-1985 Fleer also made vending boxes, but with a twist. Just like Topps, each Fleer vending box had 500 cards, but each Fleer vending box was labeled with a number (either 1, 2, 3, or 4). The boxes were packed in such a way, so that if you were to take one box of each number and collate the cards, you were guaranteed to get three whole 660-card sets. Each 24 box vending case came with six of each number, meaning an entire case would produce 18 hand-collated sets.