View-Master reels have been available in a number of ways, from the single reel to sets of six, seven, twenty or more reels. The most common forms are the single reel and the three-reel set.
Many early reels were reissued in later packets, as is the case with this Alice in Wonderland packet
The three-reel set was introduced in the early 1950s. Some of the first sets were from the Fairy Tale series - reels showing popular stories using clay figures in tableaux. Alice in Wonderland was issued in 1952 (reel numbers FT-20A, FT-20B and FT-20C); others which followed included A Christmas Carol (1956), The Littlest Angel (1957) and The Wizard of Oz (1957).
Three-reel scenic packets were introduced in 1954. At first they were simply three of the existing single reels issued in an attractive packet. For example, the Cornwall set issued in 1963 contained reels 1050 (Cornwall Beauty Spots, 1956), 1051 (Cornwall II, 1959) and 1052 (St. Ives to Newquay, Cornwall, 1960).
A 1963 London Airport packet
Later, the reels in sets were not available as single reels.
Booklets to accompany the reels were often part of the package. It is important that the booklet be present, if there should be one; a missing booklet can adversely affect the value of the packet.
View-Master packet "The Easter Story" - this packet style dates from about 1954
Many changes were made to the style of the packet front so that it always looked fresh and up-to-date.
View-Master packet "The Vatican City" - this packet style dates from the early 1960s
The packet title changed in size, font and positioning and the position of the View-Master logo changed. Some sets were issued in more than one packet style; keen collecters seek to acquire all of the variations.
A Nations of the World packet for Sweden. The coin is missing (often the case).
In 1963, the Nations of the World series was introduced. Each set contained three reels of colour pictures, a stamp (where permitted), a full-colour flag, national anthem, a coin (where permitted) and a descriptive booklet including outline notes of the nation's history.
The Swedish National Anthem from the fold-out information with the Nations of the World packet
After 1965, the sets only included the coin and stamp. A special 3-volume album set was issued to hold all 29 "Nations of the World" packets plus the "Seven Wonders of the World" packet. In 1969 thirty new "Nations of the World" packets were issued, complete with an album to protect them. Many of them were later issued as blister-packs.
A variant of the three-reel packet was the folding packet. This was a booklet with a pocket in the back cover to hold the reels.
An example of the album-style packet containing three reels
The original three-reel packet was too small and too easy to steal. New packaging brought about the three-reel "album" in which the reels were contained in a cardboard folder.
Inside the "album" packet. The story is told on two fold-out pages to either side of the three reels. The reels are held in place by clear plastic covers which are not very robust.
This packet style was never used for any scenic reels, and did not catch on.
An unopened View-Master Thundercats blister pack
The blister pack - also called a stereocard - proved popular. The reel contents and any ancillary information was on the back of the card. Unfortunately, most blister packs were not opened carefully, the reels were often separated from the card which was then lost and the reels are often not in good condition as a result of this. Despite this, blister packs are popular and reels are still packaged this way.
A set of View-Master reels in a round, plastic box
Larger sets could be packaged in plastic containers. Reel Paks were introduced in the early 1960s. Some Reel Paks have a theme e.g. Famous World Cities, while others were a collection of reels from other series.
Sets were also issued with viewers. A popular example is the 1981 Royal Wedding set in which three reels are packaged with a special "royal purple" viewer in a clear plastic drum.