In this post, I’m looking specifically at the two different formats of boxes TSR used in the late 70s and early 80s.
[This is a re-do of an earlier post I made in 2014. It was on my old blog and Google+, which are gone.]
In the Holmes D&D Basic Set (1977-80; Eric Holmes, editor; David C. Sutherland, cover art), TSR used a box blank with the graphics as a glued-on sheet, both top and bottom.
When TSR transitioned to the 1981 Basic and Expert (B/X) Sets (Tom Moldvay / Dave Cook, editors, respectively; both have Erol Otus cover art), this glued sheet box format was retained for a brief time, before being replaced with a box with the graphics printed directly on the paperboard.
Both formats of Expert Set, side-by-side.
Below is the inside corner of Basic Set, later-format box.
More TSR box format switch examples: Boot Hill early print box set
If you’re curious about the transition from the 1st D&D Basic Set (Holmes) to the 2nd Basic set (B/X), Dragon Magazine issue 52 (August 1981) has side-by side articles from BOTH editors, J. Eric Holmes and Tom Moldvay, describing the thought process that went into their editions.