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.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Photo Finish

A large trove of Topps corporate items have just arrived here at the Main Topps Archives Research Complex, among them old sell sheets and some other goodies that will be the subject of a few upcoming posts.  There are also about a dozen publicity photos and I thought I would share some of the better ones today as much of the material is going to require a camera and will take me a while to get up on the blog.

Here is Sy Berger accepting an ash tray from Frank "Shag" Shaughnessy at the December 1963 Minor League Meetings:
Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick is shown here accepting a large donation from Topps President Joseph Shorin. This is undated but likely taken in the mid to late 50's.  I think Frick looks more like Shag's T206 than Shag does:


See the resemblance? 

Sy Berger with a display of some 1971 Topps Baseball Cards:

Joel Shorin, Mayor White and some kids along with Clarence Jones, October 3 1968 at the inaugural of a kids bike race in Boston. That is a 1968 uncut sheet they are holding and the kids are also holding five cent wax packs . Jones was a close friend and speech writer for MLK:

Those kids are holding 1968 wax packs by the way. Topps and the Shorin family were always major civic and civil rights supporters, stretching as far back as I have been able to find.

Here is an Abbott & Costello promo picture issued in conjunction with Bazooka advertising; I believe they either ran copies of this off for their sales and promotional staff or hung it in their offices as the captions are glued right to the photograph:

This also came with the transcription disc aircheck of the broadcast (or at least the ad) from what I believe was a February 5, 1949 radio broadcast of their Saturday morning children's show (the disc is dated February 7, 1949).  It's a shellac 78 from the looks of it and the darn thing won't spin on my CD player. This is just before the dawn of widespread television viewing.

More to come!

Saturday, November 1, 2014


It has been an auction season of mixed success for your intrepid webmaster. I've won some nice, old Topps companion pieces, made some purchases (some of which will be featured here in future posts) and lost out on some really nice items.  My most recent whiff concerns some Robert Crumb sales material produced for Topps in 1965, during his first foray to New York where Woody Gelman reeled him in for a short time after a hoped for job at Harvey Kurtzman's Help! magazine fell through.

During his nine months in New York City Crumb produced Monster Greeting Cards for Topps and did a couple of other projects.  One of these was an 18 page sales brochure designed for Topps jobbers and their retailers, a piece I did not manage to snag.  The brochure is rare (possibly his rarest extant publication) and also chased after by Crumb collectors, who are legion:

Much like his work on Monster Greeting Cards, Crumb's style was not fully developed in 1965. According to the man himself, he didn't start drawing in the style for which he is known now until after he started experimenting with LSD in late 1965 into mid 1966. I am curious if his LSD adventures were shared with anyone at Topps!

Two pages of interior artwork have been auctioned by Heritage fairly recently.  Here is page 5:

Page 13 is a doozy:

I love the old pasteups; everything was done manually back then.

I'm of the opinion that original Crumb artwork is moving into that magical realm of high end art collectors, if it's not there already.  He's going to be looked back upon as one of the 20th Century's major illustrators and artists.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

The esoterica just keeps on coming kids!  This time it's an American Gas Stations (a Shorin company prior to founding Topps, which partially financed the founding of same) metal key ring credit card. Back before credit cards or even charge plates, there was this:

It is still common for certain items to have postage guaranteed for return but I'm not sure the post office will deliver such things anymore.  The phone number is for AGS HQ, which we know from the matchbooks I have shown here previously was at 1619 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, a mere block-and-a-half from the rightfield wall at Ebbets Field.  I have to scour some old ballpark photos to see if the HQ shows up at all.

It's actually a charge coin, which if you click the charge plate link above, basically dates to just after the end of the Civil War. The truck was called their "Trouble Shooter" by the way. If that is a running count of AGS charge customers, it's impressive!

I tried to decipher the writing on the truck's doors and side panels but I think it's just gibberish, although some neatly executed lettering is evident on one side:

The other side's lettering is similar I think but it's a little rougher than the other view:

I used a high power magnifying glass but cannot resolve anything lettering-wise here either.  Bummer.....

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Juicy Jamboree

Extra! Extra!  Gee, I've always wanted to say that....and now thanks to a recent arrival here at the main Topps Archives Research Complex I can.

Using my immense powers of deduction, it would appear Topps commenced a monthly newspaper for their jobbers in January of 1948.  Jamboree was the name and increasing sales was the game. The lone issue I have is a four pager printed in 11" x 17" tabloid size on very high quality paper.As you can see, Topps treated their top wholesalers very well.  Here is more to that story (I can't fit the entire thing on my scanner, sorry):

I gather Jamboree was also the name of their sales competition.

While there is not a lot of meat as concerns Topps production, this thing is a veritable cornucopia of marketing information. Topps was really slingin' that PR hash, yessir Mr. Walter Winchell even got into the act:

We also get some primordial Bazooka advertising, along with some typical content:

And since it was a man's world back then, what publication was complete without some cheesecake:

Topps sales manager Hugh Spencer got into the act in a big way:

I think this comic strip is my favorite part of the entire issue; it ties in the contest winner from the front cover quite nicely:

Meanwhile, the back cover has a massive list of jobber's salesmen who won Jamboree prizes in March:

This is a neat little cartoon as well:

The whole issue was folded three times and a few copies were likely thrown in with each jobbers orders.  I find the whole Topps sales incentive program fascinating and illustrative of how hard they pushed their reps and customers to move product..

I am pretty sure Topps also had an internal house organ for their employees but I have not yet seen a copy.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Chattanooga Chew Chew

While I was researching my Modern Hobby Guide material two or three years ago, I found a funny thing.  There was a trademark registered by Bubbles Inc. (later assigned to Topps) for Bazooka that indicated the first appearance of this iconic bubble gum occurred on July 12, 1938.

That's an interesting date since it precedes the actual founding of Topps by about five months. I am also wondering if Bubbles Inc. preceded Topps as a company even though the July 1938 date likely refers to Brock's original trademarking of the name and/or logo (but not the soldier as the bazooka itself was not around until 1942) .The soldier and rocket launcher logo is interesting too as it not one seen anywhere else.  Further research led me to this entry:

This is additional information from the US Government database of Patents and Trademarks and it confirms the previous application was successful. First use on April 21, 1947 would have been locally in New York City; the July 23, 1947 date marks the first time it was used in Interstate commerce.

So far so good, we just have a mystery logo.  But a little more digging revealed this nugget:

Brock Candy (once briefly discussed here in connection with the trademark) was a fixture in the Chattanooga confectionery business at the time of this filing and that city figures prominently in the history of Topps as they bought another concern there called Bennett-Hubbard in 1943 and turned it into their southern plant before it was closed up in 1951. Chattanooga was also quite close to Fort Ogelthorpe, Georgia where Phil Shorin, a Topps founder, was stationed during World War 1 and would have been a prime recreational area when on leave from the base.

Bazooka as can be plainly seen, was used locally starting on January 4, 1937.  I can't find the one linking document (not all old records are digitized) but I suspect Topps. bought the brand name at some point from Brock through Bubbles Inc. sometime in early 1947.  Brock was paying back a payroll loan at the time and I am thinking the brand was not in use after the war. I can't prove it but it makes a lot of sense and there is no way the Chattanooga connection is a coincidence, as there are no coincidences when it comes to the Shorin family and their businesses.

Since I was rooting around in the databases I searched out the record for Bazooka Joe and found this:

This dates Joe and the gang to August 1954, although BFF o'the Archive Jeff Shepherd feels it was a few months earlier.