Saturday, August 1, 2015

Type Cast

The odd and unique stuff that comes my way takes many forms.  In addition to my collecting goal of having one example from every set sport and non-sport set Topps put out from 1948-80 (and sometimes one of each subset), I also pursue pieces related to the company proper. A little while back I acquired two "sorts" used by Topps for printing their stationery.  One was clearly heavily used to produce letterhead for the company, the other turned out to be a red herring.  Here is the letterhead sort (a "sort" being the entire unit used to typeset something):

This sort was heavily used, as you can see and appears have a copper plate affixed to a lead slug which in turn is affixed to a wooden block.  Here is a mirrored look at it:

I'm reasonably certain this was used to produce letterhead after World War 2 as the italic "incorporated " was not used prior to the war (the font used back then was more like the main font for "Topps Chewing Gum").  I've got a prior look at some stationery here.

Here is a pre-war letterhead from late 1940, signed by Abram Shorin no less; you can see the fonts are similar atop the piece:

A year later Topps had unincorporated and took a DIY approach, this time for a Philip Shorin missive:

I'm not 100% certain but believe they unincorporated so they would not subject to as much scrutiny once the war started and sugar and other staples and goods needed for their business became regulated. Eventually they cleaned things up a bit once the old supply was exhausted:

After the war the italic "incorporated" appears once Topps changed their ownership structure around 1947.  I would wager my sort was used to produce this stationery.  Other elements would be added as needed; the reference in the form letter below to pre-testing of Tatoo dates this specimen to 1948-49:  

That's an interesting lead paragraph as it may explain why Tatoo has a different style wrapper in 1949 from when it was first released in mid 1948. Tatoo of course was the first Topps novelty item. I wonder if the text instructions were changed to semi-graphic after the testing (scale is off, the wrapper on the left is from the original issue and is the same width but a little shorter than the one on the right):


The famous Topps testing procedures were firmly in place from the beginning!

Just for fun, here is another form letter for the 1949 World Coins issue, better known as Play Coins of the World:

Sy Berger also got into the act:

Sometimes the color element was omitted, as this 1952 letter shows:

The "Topps Chewing Gum" was still using the same typeface for the company name in 1959 but "incorporated" changed somewhere along the way, which means my little slug had been retired:

I don't think they changed to company name typeface until they moved to Duryea in 1966 and went with the much better curved logo.  Here is a stylized version from 1980:

I mentioned the other piece I obtained had a twist.  Here it is, it is a heavy steel item, quite suitable for a paperweight, which is what I am using it as:

The kids, the "profits from pennies" all make it seem like it belongs to "our" Topps but after a little research I first thought it was for the old department store of the same name.  More research however, shows that a trademark was granted to a Topps brand of motor oil under a filing by Plymouth Wholesale Corporation in 1962. That trademark included the phrase "profits from pennies" so I guess this piece is unrelated.

Saturday, July 25, 2015


I thought I would take another look at the 1961 Magic Rub Offs Set today. Inserted in one or two of the middle series cards in '61, this humorous set keys in on nicknames, with a player from each of the then 18 MLB teams represented along with a fanciful team logo that stuck with the theme.

Since it's not a well documented set, as well as one where the images are reversed on the original inserts, I thought a visual checklist would be in order, with each subject mirrored to make life easier for all of us.  And now, without further ado...

The Orioles logo shows the good and bad of the set.  The artwork is pretty good to great, with a lot of subjects illustrated (I'm sure) by Jack Davis. Unfortunately roller marks from wax pack sealing mar the images on many of these and browning, curling, miscuts and misalignment of colors all conspire against these fragile pieces of paper.

I never knew "Bingo" was one of Ernie Banks' nicknames until I researched it while preparing this post. According to this old Ebony article, it gave way to the much more well known "Mr. Cub". "Bingo" may actually be a corruption of "Bango", which makes more sense given the pop in his bat and what was once a double play call for the Cubbies by their announcer Bert Wilson: "Bingo to Bango to Bilko" (Gene Baker and Steve Bilko filling out the trio), although the only season all three were together was 1954.  I guess Double Play combo nicknames were always a thing on the North Side. Fun Fact, Phil Silvers' character Sgt. Bilko was named after "Stout Steve". 

No comment necessary about ol' Yogi. The bed of nails is a nice touch!

Man, he smoked that one!

Jackie Brandt's nickname was actually "Flakey" and he was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska which is about 500 miles from the Ozarks. I have no idea why Topps dubbed him "Ozark".

The erudite Jim Brosnan was certainly well-monikered. He wrote two well known books about the game, which were well received by the public but not his fellow players.  He was a Cubbie in 1954 so would have seem Bingo-Bango-Bilko up close and personal.

Is it me or does that look more like a wombat?

They were still the Go-Go Sox in 1961, as shown here. To me this is the most "Jack Davis" of all the artwork in the set.

I'm going to go on record and say I have never liked the mustachioed-baseball logo for the Reds (or Red Legs in the post McCarthy era). This version does nothing to change my mind.

What once was a socially acceptable caricature most definitely no longer is.

This might be my favorite team logo in the set. Too bad this insert is so off register.

Dotterer was a backup catcher in the late 50's and early 60's and once caught a baseball dropped from a helicopter hovering feet 585 above Crosley Field and he once hit a grand slam off Sandy Koufax. Fun Fact, his son Mike played for the Oakland Raiders and won a Super Bowl with them in 1984. "Dutch" was once a common nickname for players of German descent, being a corruption of "Deutsch".

Definitely my favorite human image from the set. He's the only manager depicted. 

His resemblance to Harry "The Cat" Brecheen gave Harvey Haddix his nickname. Frankly, that is a frightening human/feline body meld...

Pancho Villa re-imagined as a mediocre infielder.

I'm not sure if this was actually a nickname for Howard but it was likely a shortening of "Tower of Power" if it was. He was also called "Hondo", then picked up "The Washington Monument" and, my personal favorite, "The Capital Punisher", when he played for the Senators.

Two men nicknamed "Sad Sam" Jones have pitched in the majors. The first and more well-known Sad Sam debuted prior to World War 1 and won 229 games over 22 seasons for half a dozen teams. The one pictured above pitched a dozen years for 6 teams and won 102 games.  There is no record of which "Sad Sam" was the saddest.

If I'm not mistaken, that's a pink elephant and he is drunk.

Expansion team gets Topps logo, reminds blogger of Quisp.

The Brooklyn Bum, reborn. I doubt the kids in Brooklyn who got this insert in 1961 were too pleased about seeing this image.

His Wikipedia entry says "Turk" was so nicknamed due to a fondness for turkey.  I ain't buying it, given his Turkish descent.

As far as I'm is concerned, the nickname "Duke" should only be assigned to one Mr. Snider.

I know he played briefly for them, but imagining Billy Martin as a member of the Braves is just impossible for me. Seriously, there's no way this ever happened.

It appears Mr. Maxwell lived (and lives) in Paw Paw Michigan and has done so for quite some time, hence the nickname. He was honored with a monument by the town in 2010.

This logo is just as racist as the one for Cleveland.

The poor color registration makes it seem like there are twin Twins! A pretty neat logo if you ask me. The Twins name was new to the AL, although they had been the Washington Senators until 1961. Washington got an expansion team to replace them, which I'm sure pleased nobody except Calvin Griffith.

Ray Moore, a swingman pitcher for a few teams throughout the 50's and early 60's, actually grew up on a farm. Fun fact, his parents met at an insane asylum.

Like Ray Moore, Moryn debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers and had a fairly unspectacular career, although he showed some pop in the late 50's when he played for the Cubs. His nickname reflected his burly appearance, according to a couple of websites I checked. At 6' 2" and 205 lbs, I can't argue with that.

That resembles a mortician more than a Yankee methinks, but the top-hatted team logo is referenced here on what looks like a Jack Davis drawing.

I'll admit it; I'm scared...yikes!!

Is it me or does that pirate look like the offspring of Alfred E. Neuman and a space alien?

Nicknamed "Honey" by an uncle (no comment) John Romano was a catcher with some pop who was about to embark on his best season in the majors.

Pete Runnels had the given names of James Edward so he was double nicknamed here; oddly enough I can't find any attribution of "Pistol Pete" for him so it was just a convenience for Topps. He sandwiched two AL batting titles around the 1961 season, when he would go on to hit .317 and finish well off the pace in an expansion year.  He was a heckuva fielder too. 

Nice dress.

Probably my second least favorite logo from the set.  I dunno, it's just kind of boring.

I don't know how you feel about it, but this would be more appropriate if he was chasing a dollar sign.

With only two, the Magic Rub Off set has the lowest number of Hall of Famers of any Topps insert set from the classic era.