What I am referring to is this......
With help from a reply to the original post that made me decide to dig into this matter over at Hand Collated I was led to an apparently dark corner of the Topps website where these codes could be entered. When you enter the code you receive production information based on the item you are entering the code for.
Now, me being the geek that I am I found this to be fascinating and was compelled to find out just what the purpose of this code was. So, where does any self-respecting info-hound go when first starting out an info-search on the series of tubes known as the interweb? Yup, the fountain of all m is-information otherwise known as Wiki.
As it turns out the Consumer Product Safety and Improvement Act was a knee-jerk reaction to a series of incidents involving manufactured product from another country. In other words, because someone else produced inferior product that harmed individuals who bought said product, it was decided that legislation needed to be enacted in order to scrutinize a manufacturing process that had been working just fine.
Let me put that in terms I can understand. Due to the fact that "my brother" went out and hurt himself while riding his bike, I am now required to wear a helmet, elbow-pads, knee-pads, mouth-guard and training wheels when I go biking.
Anyway, the particular part that involves the tracking numbers we see on the backs of cards belongs to Section 103 of the Act entitled 'Tracking Labels for Children's Products'. If you are so inclined you can read the section for yourself here. For those of you who are not so inclined the gist of things is this;
Section 103(a) of the new law requires manufacturers to have a tracking label or other distinguishing permanent mark on any consumer product primarily intended for children twelve and younger. The tracking label must contain certain basic information, including the source of the product, the date of manufacture and more detailed information on the manufacturing process such as a batch or run number. The scope of this provision is quite broad in that it applies to all children’s products, including, but not limited to, items such as clothing or shoes not just toys and other regulated products. Congress modified the requirement for tracking labels with the phrase “to the extent practicable” recognizing that it may not be practical for permanent distinguishing marks to be printed on small toys and other small products that are manufactured and shipped without individual packaging.
So, there you have it. The purpose behind the mystery tracking codes solved. As any child of the '80s can tell you, "Now you know, and knowing is half the battle."