Saturday, March 24, 2018

Woody Tells A Whopper Or Two

Picking up from our last post, the fourth issue of The Card Collector was a more varied affair then the previous number. A prominently featured reader's letter pointed out that issue #3's 1959 Baseball checklist had two errors.  The checklist had #482 as Art Houtteman, a hard luck player who had last pitched in the majors with Cleveland in 1957 and was washed up by age 27.  To be fair, he debuted with the Tigers at the age of 17 in 1945 but in 1959 was pitching in the PCL. The actual card issued at #482, as pointed out, was of Russ Meyer (sic).

And #489 John Powers, who while nondescript, would be appearing in the middle of a personal three Topps card run. But he wasn't Jake Striker, who was listed by Woody. Striker appeared in a single, late September game with the Indians in 1959 (a win!) before his more extensive two game outing with  the White Sox in 1960 and his only Topps card would come when he was with the Pale Hose.  At 10.1 career innings pitched, he must be at or near the top of the heap for a MLB win with fewest innings pitched.  Two pitchers have managed to appear in 80 games without a win, but Striker did the opposite the easy way.

Here is Mr. Striker, who it must be admitted, had an awesome name for a flamethrower:

The observations on Basketball are, frankly, hysterical given the resounding failure of the sole Topps issue at the time for that sport (in 1957-58).  Nice to see Jack Davis get some props though, even though they came from Woody Gelman's teen protege --and Topps employee--at the time Len (Lenny) Brown:

Obscurity seems to be the theme in issue #5.  Interesting comment about the bulk of Bowman's 1949 PCL cards being destroyed.  Topps would have had access to Bowman's records, so it's possible, although as we shall soon see, TCC was not always truthful in explaining why some cards or sets were scarce:

OK, nobody "forgot" about pictures for four semi-high's in 1958.  Instead, they pulled them to make room for the overprinted Stan Musial and Mickey Mantle All Star cards that year, after signing Stan the Man following a period of Rawlings exclusivity.  My guess is that one half sheet of 132 on the semi high press sheet had the triple printed AS cards while the other had the four "missing" numbers.

Armour coins get a nice write up by hobby legend Buck Barker, as Woody started featuring more guest columnists.  1959 Bazooka Football also gets its due, as does the regular issue set as the promotional tie-ins with Topps continue unabated. Nice detail on the Canadian only status of 1960 Hockey cards as well and some competitor's products also get a nod:

All in all, the best issue yet.

Issue #5 led off with a pitch for The American Card Catalog and notice about an office move for Card Collectors Company. This presumably was when Woody moved all the old inventory from his late father in law's office in Manhattan to his storage or warehouse facility in Franklin Square, which I suspect was a couple of rooms in a friend or relative's house or space on a garage (Woody lived one town over in Malverne):

1952 Topps high number scarcity has been covered ad nauseum over the years, here and elsewhere, but it's worth pointing out that by 1959 Card Collectors Co. had run out of them but would restock at some point in 1960, right around the time of the alleged dumping at sea of two truckload's worth.  Hmmmmm....

I'll skip page three, which is all '52 Topps checklist and get right to the good stuff on page four, namely the 14 cards in the second series of Bazooka Baseball, seemingly issued after the Football Bazooka's!

Lionel Carter would join the  newsletter for 1960 as Woody's somewhat erratic publishing schedule  indicates he must have been very busy at Topps (production of all sets at Topps probably peaked in 1959-60) but kudos for going back to pre-war issues:

Regional issues look like they are hitting the radar:

A full page of letters from early hobbyists covered a lot of different sets:

While page four gave yet another checklist, albeit one mentioned on the main letters page:

It appears this issue also came with an insert offering the 1960 Baseball cards and a bonus.

1960 would bring a few changes to The Card Collector, which we will get into next time.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Woody's Writings

Happy St. Patrick's day everybody! Topps never issued a St. Paddy's day set but maybe when I get into my latest acquisition, it will make some of you green with envy!

Woody Gelman, with competition springing up in the card resale market, began putting out a regular newsletter in April of 1959.  He dubbed it "The Card Collector" and if he didn't write the early issues himself, I'm sure he had some editorial assistant do it after Woody dictated articles to the Steno pool at Topps.  TCC would eventually see 38 issues published through August of 1964 and I've  managed to pick up a run of the first 11 issues recently, with a scattershot of later issues soon to arrive. Today I'm happy to share some highlights and amusing tidbits from the first four issues.

Fashioned at first from a single sheet of paper, folded in half (and then folded again for mailing), and featuring awesome Jack Davis artwork throughout, four small pages kicked things off:
Pretty mundane stuff really, although Woody knew his hobby history, being a part of the American Card Catalog editorial team. Things got esoteric early on, although you would not see any kind of depth in these descriptions of the 1951 Topps Baseball Candy releases:

Despite the admonition above concerning the impossibility of completion, the below checklist makes no mention of the three impossible Major League All Star cards:

The Exhibit Card overview is interesting and probably designed to insert some content that was not Topps related.  I would imagine Woody was big on collecting Exhibits based upon his promise to delve into the myriad issued from ESCO. Perhaps he scored them at Coney Island when he was a kid.
I'm not certain if a Card Collectors Catalog came along with these.  It's highly likely to my mind but none were mixed in with the publications I bought.  There was a single paged sell sheet for 1960 Topps Baseball that came with one of the later issues in the run but that's all I saw other than Card Collectors Company advertisements, which commenced in issue two.

Woody was certainly enthusiastic about publication and it only took two months for the second issue to appear:

The album discussion above is strange as Topps had already come out with a Hobby Card album premium that featured slitted pages.

Woody is being modest below as he was a masthead editor of the ACC:

Here's Honus.....and Fleer!

The back page is the most interesting of the issue.  Those are the first nine players in the 1959  Bazooka set. 14 more would be issued (plus an Aaron variation) shortly thereafter, likely along with the original nine. CCC offered this first set of nine for a buck!  I wonder if they got flats from Topps and just cut them down?

The third issue was essentially one long checklist showcasing the 1959 Topps Baseball cards. As you can see, the checklists were a teaser for what would become the Card Collectors Company Checklist Book a short time later.

No point in showing the rest of the issue, its contents are available in any price guide.  Instead, here is the CCC Checklist Book:

More TCC goodness next time out kids!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Waxy Buildup

Topps included all sorts of things in their packs over the years, to the point there are as many things inserted with the regular issue as their are regular issues! Some of these were related to the set being retailed, some not but very early on Topps started including premium offers for all sorts of things.  These were essentially for the same premiums eventually offered on Bazooka comics, starting in 1952 or so but before Topps caught on to promoting these items on the comics they used a catalog system, augmented by small inserts that came with their penny pack offerings starting in 1948-49. I've looked at some previously but have acquired some new ones of late and thought they warranted another post.

You can tell the first couple of releases of these as the first batch of inserts had numbering from #101-108 and second started at #109.  This is one of the early ones then, probably from early 1949:

That #112 offer above was repeated and redrawn, as this one features "Bazooka, The Atom Bubble Boy", who I believe came first in the real world but second in the inserts.  "Bazooka" was the original Topps mascot character and thankfully he did not outlast the 40's.

Once you get to #120 or so they are from the early 50's methinks and then Topps just started mixing and matching.  Things got well in the 400's eventually.

Here's a bunch, courtesy of BFF o'the Archive Jeff Shepherd that all likely predate Bazooka Joe & His Gang, who debuted in mid 1954:

These would have been wrapped around the penny piece of Bazooka, along with a comic, so there were two discrete inserts.

The larger five cent Bazooka gum rolls had their own inserts and two of them them relate to baseball premium offers.  These are two separate pieces obviously and don't quite fit together here, but you can see how they fit together.  I think these commenced in 1955 given the expiration date of June 30, 1956 and likely continued into the early part of the latter year.  I could see them being inserted into wax packs for the '55 & '56 Baseball cards. Bazooka Joe and his brother Pesty are front and center by now:

Those pennants were offered on the 1952 Baseball Wrappers.

As you can see, the same wrappers also (sometimes) offered team emblems, so those are the same ones presumably, updated for team changes.  But what of these, which I believe also were offered somehow:

By 1953 the pennants had moved to the comics. Buzzy was probably the last comic standing before Bazooka Joe took hold.  Good thing, as he seems like a dolt:

There must be city variants for the early Braves, Browns (Orioles) and A's pennants but these dang things are hard to find! That #121 numbering, which supplanted #112 (and was not the only premium Topps changed the early numbering on) for the pennants would continue into the 1980's. Why the numbering changed, who knows?!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Year Of Ration-al Thinking

One little known aspect of Topps far flung operations was that they provided gum for US Military Field Rations in the 1940's and 50's.

Everybody's heard of K-Rations, which fell out of favor and were discontinued around 1948 (and didn't have any Topps Gum). They were replaced by C-Rations and Topps managed to secure a deal with the government sometime around 1949 to include what would have been a penny tab of candy coated ammoniated gum (2 peppermint Chiclets-sized pieces) in the accessory pack.

Derived from the penny tabs of Topps Gum that were the first Topps product, the C-Ration gum packaging looked like this:

Picture the old one-cent piece of Bazooka if you're of a certain age-that's the size of these. The bottom was similar:

Looks at these tasty ingredients, courtesy of the indicia:

Mmmmmm...Carbanbide!  You can see how "ammoniated" gum derived it's name from Ammonium Phosphate.  That was the big thing after the war actually, although it's hard to believe now.

Here's the 1949 copyright, which I am thinking must have been the date these were introduced into the rations.  If not, they were in them by 1951 at the latest:

An alternate version exists as well, it has a slightly different shape.

That one also has a 1949 copyright, according the BFF o'the Archive Jeff Shepherd, who provided that scan.

I believe Topps was able to keep their contract with the government through 1958, although details are pretty scarce.  I have yet to find a picture of a full ration kit showing the gum, which may have been wrapped in dark plastic along with some cigarettes and a few other small items.  Have a smoke, then pop some Topps Gum for minty fresh breath in your foxhole!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

What A Difference A Year Makes

I spotted a bit of an anomaly while surfing eBay recently but wrote it off before reconsidering.  It's nothing really but this little 2 card proof panel of 1976 Baseball caught my eye:

I love little items like this that show remnants of the production process. This one shows that the process was fully along as Christmas approached in 1975.  I've seen other mid 70's Topps proofs from various sports and non-sorts sets stamped like this but the one above is really colorful.  However, you can plainly see that the sheet information along the right edge is incorrect as it states "1975 Baseball".  Weird, right?

Other things can appear on uncut strips and sheets.  Witness this star driven upper right corner strip from 1977:

"Slits" in Toppspeak are, in this instance, representative of the two 132 card sides of a 264 master.  

Different stars are on display on this 1977 strip:

Sorry it's so blurry. "Side A S. Guide Gripper" is what is says to the left of the stars.  I've seen many miscut cards over the years with some gripper stars showing, usually cut into some bizarre geometric shape. Those edge cards bedevilled Topps for decades!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Valentines Slay

As seen in our last adventure, while things got a bit wobbly for Topps for the 1966 Valentine season, it looks like they got a lot looser the next year and even moreso following that.

At some point in 1967 Topps issued  a set of 32 Nasty Notes, designed to look like the folded up sheets of paper kids passed as notes in class.  The box is pretty generic looking:

The actual product though, is a Wally Wood tour-de-force:

You can see how the Nasty Notes were designed to be folded to fit into a standard sized wax pack.  And see that blank space above the series and printing information?  That's important in distinguishing this set from it's Valentines related cousin, which we will get to in a moment. First though, the gag:

Measuring at 6 7/8" x 9 11/16" when unfurled, the 32 subjects in this set are mixed up in various checklists with a series called Valentine Nasty Notes.  Those look like this:

See how the empty back panel now has a "To" addressing the intended recipient. These also measure out a quarter inch shorter than Nasty Valentines at 6 7/8" x 9 7/16". You can see they are still a series of 32 however.

More Wally Wood awesomeness:

I have to say the larger, paper Topps issues of the late 60's are almost unparalleled in quality-and the best artwork seemingly went to the most ephemeral sets of the era.  As noted (hah!) above, the two sets need their checklists disentangled. A task for another day....but what about year of issue?  Well here is the box for the Valentine version of the notes:

That plastered on sticker makes me think the VD version is from 1968.  I am assuming they didn't bother to change the wrapper:

This brings us to 1969, a year where I have no clue what Topps did for their Valentines issue. It's highly likely to me they reissued something because 1970 brought no less than three distinct issues, all with -0 Commodity Codes and also sold together in a "Subscription Series".  I have to think the first in the series (more on that in a sec), since our carton below is clearly the second release, was from Hallowe'en (more on that in a sec too):

Valentine Foldees were essentially a reissue of the same set from 1963, with some minor alterations plus the "wheel design" of the past was replaced with one amusingly referred to in the hobby as "bananas".  They came in this pack:

I always find it odd when a baseball or sports related premium offer ends up on a non-sports pack:

You can see Babe Ruth peeking out the back and here he is now:

That's actually one of two Ruth cards in the set.  The Babe was still popular a generation after he had passed.

Nice Or Nasty Valentines were quite interactive for the day.  As the card says: 

This was not the first time Topps gave you a postcard to mail; they first did it with Goofy Postcards in 1957;

Here's two of the thirty three stickers in the set.  Pithy, no?

 That brings us to Valentine Postcards, easily the most mundane of the three 1970 sets:

The color scheme makes me think Topps had designed something for Hallowe'en before changing their minds!

The cards are a direct descendant of 1966's Insult Postcards, another set that may have been intended for Hallowe'en as well:

OK, now here's thing.  Friend o'the Archive Lonnie Cummins recently sent me the following about the kick off of the Novelty Assortment Subscription Series:

Those are all 1970 sets as well.  My guess is that, since Football was the current offering they packed 'em all together and dumped the first of the subscription series on unsuspecting wholesalers and retail accounts for Hallowe'en 1970. That would mean the "second series" Valentines offering was sent to subscribers for Valentines Day 1971.

The last phase of Valentines issues ends with a set partially drawn by Art Spiegelman (hey, that's "gelman" at the end!) called Nasty Valentine Notes in 1971, easily the one of the most hippie looking set ever issued by Topps:

According to the Dangerous Minds website, where I nicked that wrapper from, Spiegelman did the box and wrapper art, plus some of the notes proper, while the rest were drawn by Ralph Reece.  most of the artwork is well-removed from Wood's finely drafted pieces (although it looks like he may have done one or two of these) but stellar in its own way:

The R. Crumb influence is hard to miss! Note there are only 30 subjects in 1971.

Like its predecessors, it's a two sided affair:

There's also something floating around out there purported to be "Nasty Valentine Posters" from the same year but are really just proofs of the larger panels, run off two at a time:

Topps must have segregated where the subscription series was sold vs the current (or even test) release in 1971. So anything in the series would have been issued for a retail release as well, making them something like a cross between a test set and a regional release, where the cards (posters, what have you), are reasonably hard to find but not impossible. A neat trick (once again) by Topps to dump their overstock!

Topps went public in 1972 and in preparing for the IPO shaved a lot of expenses.  It looks like the Valentines Day issues were one of the casualties and sales would seemingly have been on the wane as well, making it an easy decision.