Saturday, December 20, 2014

So This Is Christmas...

...Topps style!

Santa came to the Main Topps Archives a bit early this year, after I purchased a nice lot of Topps items in October.  I've shown B&W scans before but here is the living color version.

The box is too big for my scanner but you get the drift.  Here is the indicia, which is always of import, left side first:

The item dates to 1951 based upon the sell sheet, which I won't show again as I have done so previously. We know this because the sell sheet shows the box with a 1952 "checklist" on the reverse to record good behavior for Santa's next visit.  This box however, waxes poetic:

I did not end up with a Rudolph Pops box unfortunately, an item that probably dates to 1950. Not to worry though, Sy Berger is on the case:

These cards are tiny and clearly meant to accompany a gift of some sort and each came with a similarly small envelope.  My guess is a bottle of booze was the gift of choice.  I have to say, for a bunch of Jewish guys from Brooklyn, Topps sure did put on a good show at Christmas!

See you after the presents are opened-Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you out there!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Farewell To A Hobby Legend

Sy Berger passed away in his sleep yesterday at the age of 91.  He began working at Topps in 1947 and by 1951 had become such a key man he was entrusted to create the 1952 Baseball set along with Woody Gelman. I've said a lot about him here and in print previously so will just offer up best wishes to his family.  RIP Sy, you were one of the best things to happen to us baby boomers.

Here is his "rookie" card, from the 1964 Topps Rookie Banquet set:

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Therein Lies The Rub

If you really want to drive yourself batty, try giving some of the 1960's Topps CFL inserts sets a go. I don't collect full sets, only an example of each set, issued by Topps through 1980 but I also seek out examples from their Canadian issues.  Some of these are branded as Topps products and others were issued under license by O-Pee-Chee.  I've covered the inexplicable eight year run of Topps CFL cards here and here in the past and today want to examine the first insert CFL set from 1961.

Topps mirrored their US Baseball inserts up North in 1961 with a small set of CFL Magic Rub-Offs. Recently a group of 16 were sold on eBay (the inspiration for this post) and they were in really nice shape.  I have used a mirror-image to show these as they would look applied to a notebook or some other surface:

The above lot represent a significant portion of the entire set.  However, the exact percentage is not necessarily a determinable number as this time.  The back of each Magic Rub-Off  has instructions in English and French and clearly indicates there should be 27 subjects:

Well as you may have guessed, there are not 27 known subjects but only 24. According to Andy Malycky's ridiculously comprehensive Collecting Canadian Football Volume 1, which is my go to guide for Topps and OPC CFL information (and from which the above back scan is pinched), only 24 have surfaced and the set may be complete at that number.  Topps often printed their insert sets in multiples of 12 so 24 is a reasonable landing spot.  

There were 9 teams in the CFL in 1961 (the Western Conference played 16 games and had five teams, while the Eastern Conference played 14 games with four teams) and all nine logos have been accounted for as the Calgary Stampeders, Ottawa Rough Riders, Toronto Argonauts and Winnipeg Blue Bombers were issued in addition to the teams shown in the scan above.  With four players produced that are also not shown above (Don Clark, Gene Filipski, Ron Stewart & Dave Thelen), all teams have three subjects except for Edmonton, Montreal and Toronto, which are each missing a player for a perfectly balanced issue of two players and one logo per franchise.

Malycky states that no unopened was packs are known to have survived from the 1961 CFL issue so the odds of missing subjects hiding in unopened product are astronomical.  Were the three missing players produced?  Probably not but the set is so hard to piece together anything is possible.

Saturday, December 6, 2014


I have posted many times about the practice of Topps to take jobber-returned or unsold card inventory and rewrap it in any of umpteen formats to resell at some point past the original issue's shelf life.  Recently a very strange Rack Pack showed up in an article in the latest issue of The Wrapper, the Les Davis helmed non-sport magazine (hi Les!), that shows just how far Topps was willing to take the concept.

In issue #287 John Juka writes of some odd rack packs that were found in an old store in Kentucky that contained a variety of Bowman non-sports cards. One was just sold in a Roxanne Toser Auction and thankfully it contained a color scan:

There are three 15 card cello packs within and as you can see Power for Peace (1954), Frontier Days (1953) and U.S. Navy Victories (1954) cello's are in this rack.  Others have been described as containing Television & Radio Stars of the National Broadcasting Company (a 1953 set). There could be others as multiple racks were found and the header card indicates as much. The article states that Juka's research revealed these were packs issued by Topps following their takeover of Bowman in early 1956.

The Television & Radio Stars of the National Broadcasting Company cards were also sold in a rack pack, which was a Bowman rewrap:

(from The Non-Sports Archive by Adam Tucker & Marc Simon)

You can see the "Collect 'Em Trade 'Em" motto is on both headers and the Card Collectors Club branding but it's a completely different configuration.  Topps had their own collectors club at the time (Trading Card Guild) so deleting that reference would make sense on the racks discussed by Juka.

I'm pretty sure all the Topps racks used returns or unsold stock from this type of original retail box; it's possible the Bowman rack also did so:

Centering was clearly an issue!

Another writer for The Wrapper, friend o'the archive Bill Christenesen, recalls buying 1953 Bowman Baseball cello's that had been reissued around 1956 so they could have come from either Topps or Bowman depending upon the exact date. They could even have been deconstructed from the "Juka" rack and sold individually by an enterprising merchant.

Does anyone out there have other Bowman racks they can show?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Hitting The Big Time

A few months ago I took a look at a set of inserts Topps issued in their 2014 Archives release honoring the 25th Anniversary of the move Major League. Well they have now issued a jumbo 5" x 7" version of the cards in a wax pack set with a new card added to boot:

As for the bonus card of Jobu, it's a fright:

The actual Jobu, by the way, still carries on

The other five cards in the set repliicate the standard sized cards issued earlier this year. To recapitulate:

Roger Dorn (Corbin Bernson)

Eddie Harris (Chelcie Ross)

Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger)

Ricky Vaughn (Charlie Sheen)

Rachel Phelps (Margaret Whitten)

I still kinda wish they had included a card of Harry Doyle (Bob Uecker):

That ersatz Doyle is courtesy of Chris Olds over at Beckett. That's well worth a click as there are more fantasy cards from the movie/set over there.

While the marketing and timing of the larger set in a big boy wax pack was set up to stimulate sale over the summer, I'll bet some folks will spring for these as stocking stuffers.

I'd love to do a roundup of all the weird little promotional sets and one offs like this Topps has produced over the years.  There are a number of them, some of which I have covered here previously. Many are not well publicized, especially the single cards designed for actual use in a film or given out at awards functions.  I believe these types of sets have seen increased production in recent years.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Wisdom of Gelman

Well cowpokes, I am still digging through the stash from my latest purchase form what might have been, at one time, part of the actual Topps archives and have gotten around to reading a letter from Solomon & Gelman to the Lord Baltimore Press with detailed instructions on printing the 1953 Tarzan & The She Devil set from Woody Gelman himself.  I've shown this here before but it was murky and I think the process described is interesting enough to warrant another look:

Each card in the set, which was drawn by Joe Kubert, had four layers to it when created:

You can see how this created depth. Gelman's instructions indicate each card was to be shot in layers and then because there was to be a 3-D effect, the acetates (apparently prepared by Solomon & Gelman) would be shifted slightly. You can see how this worked on the finished product which is card no. 54 in the set:

This letter also clues us in that Lord Baltimore Press, which printed most of the Topps cards sets through at least the late 1950's before International Paper changed the operation a couple of years after acquiring LBP in 1958 into a folding carton manufacturer, could shoot the artwork in either Manhattan of Baltimore before it was sent to the printing plant in Baltimore.  Topps of course switched over to Zabel Brothers of Philadelphia to print their cards once LBP got out of that line of work.

The (she) devil is in the details sometimes....

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Needful Things

Gonna span the decades today way of a sideways look at premium offers.

You remember of course the retailer premium certificates we have looked at a few times previously; some of the posts that are germane to this discussion can be found here, here and here. The gist was the more a retailer sold, the more he or she could accrue toward gifts, some of which were quite nice.

Well all those certificates had to be mailed somewhere and that somewhere was Topps HQ in Brooklyn (albeit until the early to mid 1950's it was via a PO Box). So what happened to each redemption once it hit Brooklyn?  Well thanks to a recent pickup of mine, it can be told.

Yes, Sy Berger himself (errrr, his secretary actually) would respond to you via form letter once your certificates were dispatched.  It's interesting that war stamps were still being discussed seven years or so after the end of the Big One. It also looks like inflation was rearing its head as well.

The supremacy of Bazooka is on display here; the original certificates lost their Topps Gum headings and changed over to Bazooka by the mid 50's although they flip-flopped sometimes before going over to Topps Chewing Gum later on, probably in the 1960's.

Here is a real early one, which lists Topps' original commercial address, although they used one of the Shorin family house addresses when they started up in 1938:

This certificate has no expiration date, a situation they would eliminate pretty early on in the process. The earliest expiration date I have seen is January 30, 1944. That one also had 60 Broadway as the address so the one above is quite early as its A 1624 registration number also attests. The main group of certificates switched to a format where the letter followed the numbers and was in place by the time the 1/30/44 expiry certificate was issued. The paper is of a type used in the securities field at the time so these certificates were considered to be as important as cash to Topps, almost like a bearer bond.

So anyhoo, the certificates had to be collated and once that happened a receipt was filled out and sent to the lucky recipient.

Can you imagine how much paperwork was involved in this operation?!?!

Even as late as 1970 there was a coterie of clerks keeping track as this internal Topps Teamates trading card shows:

I'm not sure when the program was halted (if indeed it has been) or switched over to some digital or online format but I have some certificates from the mid 1970's, although they were called Gift Certificates by then. They still had registration numbers on them and were validated by the Topps treasurer.  The security paper was long gone by then though.