In this post, I’m looking specifically at the two different formats of boxes TSR used in the late 70s and early 80s.

In the Holmes Dungeons & Dragons 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.

Dungeons & Dragons Expert set prinitngs comparison
Holmes 5th prt set comp detail

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.

D&D Expert Set 1st comp b

Both formats of Expert Set, side-by-side.

D&D Expert Set 1st comp a
D&D Expert Set 1st comp c

More TSR RPG box format switch examples:  Boot Hill early print box set

Top Secret: 1st and 2nd editions – The evolution of the black box

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.

See Also:

Original D&D: Where It All Started (The 1975 White Box in photos)

Holmes D&D: The First Basic Set (1977-80)

Dungeons & Dragons Expert Set – A shrinkwrap discussion

MINIATURE COLLECTOR’S BOX – Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) Expert Set

B/X D&D Basic Rules book: 1st print vs subsequent prints

Holmes Dungeons & Dragons, ready for the road