Saturday, July 19, 2014

Folding Funny

Topps test issues from the 60's are tough buggers to track down, especially when they involve metamorphic cards such as today's subject: Fold-A-Roos. Generally ascribed to 1966, the actual date of issue is not certain. What is known is that they came in a typical Topps test pack:

The curved-t Topps logo debuted in 1966 but I don't believe the little registered trademark symbol was added until 1967 nor did these style packs debut until then.  Given that and the slightly psychedelic lettering, I would place the date at 1968-69.

There are 24 known subjects, skip numbered to 36,which look like this in their folded state, as per a Legendary auction a while back:

You would unfold the "card", which was made of paper, to reveal a funny response.  For instance, the "I got up to 100 MPH in my sports car" comment is followed by "...the day I saw a fire breathing dragon, as this illustration from Chris Benjamin's The Sport Americana Guide to the Non Sports Cards shows:

I've resorted to a b&w scan as these are scarce and I don't own one. I had to clip a reverse extract from Chris Watson's Non-Sports Bible:

Yes, they are numbered and examples are known up to #36, which appears to be the end number based upon the above scan mentioning "30 of 36".  Bob Marks wrote a great article in The Wrapper #68 about the set and noted original artwork was known for both issued cards and unissued ones. The amount of unissued artwork led him to believe there were more than 12 additional subjects being planned but if the first series was to consist of 36 only, that means a second series must have been contemplated.  Marks also noted the "answer" flap was part of the reverse as issues, lightly glued down until the card was opened. It would appear the flap would be brought around to the front and cover up the previous bottom part of the card, which would also unfold downward along the center fold.

The Fold-A-Roos gimmick essentially reversed Mad magazine's Fold-Ins, drawn by the inimitable Al Jaffee. They measure about 2 1/2" x 4 11/16" in its closed state and the height increases to 3 9/16" once unfurled, according to Benjamin. They must not have tested well and may have been a bit hokey, even by the standards of the day.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Drugstore Blues And Reds

Topps' seemingly never-ending quest to dominate at all levels of the "jobber" retail trade during the baby boom era led to some pretty bizarre doings at times. Some affinity program offers in 1963 perfectly illustrate this point.

Topps was clearly looking to increase their shelf presence in the drugstores of the day by putting three small bottle of Bufferin into their 240 count Bazooka boxes. Bufferin must have sent a lot of tiny bottles to Topps to make this work:

Marketing materials also noted this curious pairing:

This is just the tip o'the iceberg though as a whole host of wellness and personal care products were inserted into Bazooka boxes in 1963.  Sore throat?  No problem:

Five o'clock shadow got you down?  Bazooka to the rescue: 

And if you cut yourself, these is relief close at hand:

And let's not forget the pompadour:

These various products seem to have had disparate owners; I was surprised when researching this post that one company did not own all these brands in 1963.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Transparent Apparent

Some sweet serendipity was at work recently as I managed to snag a series of photographic transparencies that apparently originated with Topps in the late 1950's and feature the irascible and recently deceased Don Zimmer.

The highlight of the lot was the transparency used to create his 1957 Topps card.  Here's the card, with a  typical '57 ragged cut no less:

And here is the corresponding transparency:

If you follow the white lines around the border you can see how the transparency was cropped for the issued card.  I assume those white lines are remnants of the production process.

The three other transparencies are also intriguing.  I can't help but feel I have seen this pose before, maybe on a Dodgers PC or something:

Next up is a great "action" shot: 

That is one fantastic Ebbets Field background, yowsa!  And last but not least,more Ebbets with a bit of a redshift:

All of these exhibit some signs of hand cutting and all but the transparency used for the 1957 card have black borders from the film stock.  The sizing varies quite a bit as the production transparency is a puny 1 9/16" x 2 1/4" while other portrait, without the borders, clocks in at 2 5/16" x 3 1/4". The redshifted transparency is the same size as the portrait, sans borders, while the fielding pose with Ebbets background is a whopping 4 3/4" x 3 15/16" (roughly, as the border is protruding on the sides). 

They all came in this envelope:

There are some bewildering notations on the envelope as there seem to three action poses but I can't swear what the original contents were while these were with Topps. Bob Lemke, from whom I won these on eBay, possessed these since the early 1980's and in fact on his blog has a few more things to say:

"The brown kraft file envelope in which the transparencies have been housed for decades has a number of penned and penciled notations. Besides his name and team there is written, "2 action" and "2 low fielding". Penciled notes read "Reshoot / '59" and "Used '58 / Int Ptg". Al least I think it says "Int Ptg". I have no idea what it means. Also penciled at the bottom-left of the envelope is "GUNTHER," which may be the name of the photographer."

Could "Int Ptg" mean interim or internal printing?  Perhaps that means it was used in a proof version or developmental phase before the LA Dodgers uniforms could be captured on film as Topps did not issue any inserts of ancillary sets in '58, which could also be what the abbreviations represents.  But really, who knows? The reshoot notation likely means newer photos were available in a different, newer envelope, deep in the vast recesses of the Topps filing system or, ahem, archives..

This is a really neat piece of Topps history and I am happy to be its caretaker for the forseeable future.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Retail Recycled

Your intrepid blogmaster was fortunate enough to land this prize piece of Topps retail history a couple of weeks ago:

That is an unopened, albeit poorly wrapped, 1949 Tatoo gum tab alongside (it also came with a '48 tab) and I can report that, despite the wrapper in 1949 being a bit longer than the 1948 version, the tabs are the same size. The colors in 1949 seems a bit muted though. The canister is scarce with possibly only one other example known. Comics, Army and Sports are advertised subjects on this hemisphere while G-Men and Mystery appear around back.  "Every Wrap - Another Tatoo" ballyhoo also appears twice along with the 1 cent price advisory.

Strangely, neither Bubbles Inc. (1948)  nor Topps (1949) manufacturing information appears anywhere on the tub, nor is there any other indicia. There was also a 1953 Tatoo issue but it was in a larger pack that I don't think retailed in these type canisters.

The bottom is pretty blah:

So no indicia but something is printed there on the nonetheless:

BFF o'the Archive (and seller of this piece) Jeff Shepherd thinks the materials used to manufacture this canister were recycled or pulped, hence our two letter vestigial word.  The tub is quite flimsy, especially compared to the snazzy 1946 foil enhanced Topps Gum canister:

There are at least two earlier versions of this other canister by the way, one foil and one plain, and it would not surprise me if even more varieties are out there. All of the Topps Gum canisters I have seen carry dated copyrights.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Wild Things, I Think I Like You

When I started this blog almost six (!) years ago, I envisioned baseball-centric content primarily focusing on the 1960's and 70's test and limited issues and various pack inserts.  The baseball theme has been largely abandoned in favor of an all encompassing millieu and the time frame has stretched back to the 19th century and occasionally forward to the 21st.  Today's subject, 2014 Topps Archives Baseball, is easily the most modern set I have opined upon, mainly due to some good retro-design work by the current creative team at Topps.

Don't get me wrong, I am not a huge fan of the modern retro sets' doodads and geegaws, even if the base sets are well done and appealing.  The fake shortprints, chase cards and autograph inserts generally leave me cold. But it seems like once or twice a year now, Topps comes up with a nice subset that speaks to me.

Today, that subset is Major League. Honoring the amusing, if slightly hackneyed movie in its silver anniversary year, Topps used their 1989 baseball set as a template.  There are four cards in the main subset, which is an insert and I'll start with Roger Dorn (Corbin Bernson), the star third baseman who is reluctant to field ground balls:

Eddie Harris (Chelcie Ross) is devout, a journeyman junkballer:

Then there is Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger), an aging catcher:

And last (in the base insert set), but not least, the Wild Thing himself, Ricky Vaughn (Charlie Sheen):

There are chase cards and autograph inserts as well, which you can read about here. However, the autograph inserts include a fifth subject from the movie, the evil owner Rachel Phelps (Margaret Whitten):

There are some other inserts in the series as well, including a 1969 Deckle-ish one but the Major League cards are the real stars.  It's just too bad Topps could not manage to have cards of actual players who appeared in the movie such as Pete Vuckovich, Steve Yeager and especially Bob Uecker.

This is not the first time Topps created a card to salute a movie.  In 1984 they issued a special card #801 of Daryl Palmer (Michael O'Keefe) in The Slugger's Wife. This card appears to have been a prop in the movie and there may also be promo versions:

Kid looks like he needs some steroids!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Mild Ones

Bazooka was the main Topps bubble gum brand for decades but that didn't stop them from experimenting with some different confections from time to time while still selling oodles of Young America's Favorite. Blony (Bowman's bubble gum flagship at the time of absorption by Topps in 1956) was pretty much the stalwart #2 brand and Bozo gumballs seemingly went off to Canada after going gangbusters in the late 1940's. Topps most famously put baseball cards on the backs of Bazooka boxes for more than a decade but would muck around with other stuff as well, trying to move more and more of the pink stuff. I though we would take a hop, skip and a jump and look at some different things, bubble-gum-wise today.

1968 brought the world (or at least a small part of it) the Wild Animal Surprise Box, a more personal sized box of bubble gum:

Said to measure 2 1/2" x 4 inches by a recent seller, there only a little more than a half ounce of gum inside but I'm not sure what the surprise was. I make the height to be about 3/4".

That gorilla looks a lot more enticing than your standard Bazooka box, since the latter was aimed at moms in the supermarket and not a kiddie consumer. When baseball season waned, Topps would put some odd things on the backs of the Bazooka party boxes.  This Toppscience panel dates from 1966-69:

 I'm all for science but..... NERD!!!!  The dating can be derived from the curved Topps logo on the back and the Brooklyn address on the sideflap.  Remember I posted a guide to dating Topps items a while back...

Of course nothing beats the 1971 O-Pee-Chee Bazooka boxes with hockey cards on the back, courtesy of Bobby Burrell:

Those are miniature versions of the '71 hockey cards, blank backed, of course. Super rare and often counterfeited, the Orr card is one of hockey's most sought after collectibles. That little logo on the bottom right flap must be the printer:

Saturday, June 7, 2014

A Tale Of Two Cities

Here we go again pilgrims, with another tweak to the Topps timeline.  I thought I did a pretty good job with keeping errors to a minimum when I published the The Modern Hobby Guide To Topps Chewing Gum: 1938 to 1956 last year but knew some changes and updates would inevitably occur. I've already listed a few at the blog for the book and this will appear there as well.

In the book I noted there were two variants of the 1939 Topps Gum tab wrappers, each showing a different place of manufacture: Brooklyn and New York City (I know, Brooklyn is in New York City but it is a world apart) and a different style on the bottom or back part of what would be the wrapper when sleeved to the tab.  Furthermore after intense consultation with Jeff Shepherd, the king of all things chewing gum, we both believed that the New York City variety came first as it featured short lived Ginger flavor which we theorized had fizzled out and been replaced by Pepsin:

(Courtesy Jeff Shepherd)

As it turns out, the story is far more complex than initially thought.  Here are the backs of some 1939 NYC wrappers which I believe could still have come first:

(Courtesy Jeff Shepherd)

The wrappers from Brooklyn that have a 1939 copyright were, we thought, all like this:

(Courtesy Jeff Shepherd)

I think that glassine inner wrap dates this to World War 2, so 1942-45 period.  However, I recently picked up this lot of two 1939's on eBay:

I can't say if these examples were produced at the same time but they look like a hybrid of the two previous types. Oh, and Shapiro Candy Manufacturing Company manufactured the one on the right. Shapiro, for those not in the know (and that is almost everybody on the planet given the minituae involved) was acquired by Topps sometime in 1944.  Shapiro's plant was also in Brooklyn and it was clearly a wartime play to stretch out their sugar quota but their new acquisition did also make candy products which Topps was already into at the time.  Topps slowly absorbed Shapiro and it was fully digested by 1946. In addition a new copyright date for Topps Gum appeared on redesigned wrappers in 1946 so the Shapiro example above must date from 1944-45 or maybe just into 1946.

So the big question I have is: when did the 1939 Brooklyn wrappers come out?

In 1946 the wrapper/pack bottoms  looked like this:

(Courtesy Jeff Shepherd)

Also of note is the variant without the asterisk (indicating Registered with the U.S. Patent Office) if you look closely at the indicia

And then we have these two types of 1949-ish tabs with two gum nuggets (this is what Topps Gum turned into once Bazooka started running rampant) from military field ration kits (not sure if they sold these commercially) and which I think differ ever so slightly:

(Courtesy Jeff Shepherd)

Let us not forget this bad boy as well:

(The Sport Americana Price Guide to the Non-Sports Cards 1930-1960, by Christopher Benjamin, 
Edgewater Book Company, Cleveland, Ohio, 1993)

Shep has never seen one and the only place it has popped up so far as I know is in the Benjamin price guide but it looks like true 1946 wrapper.

So we have seven potentially different Topps Gum tab wrappers, with up to six flavors potentially out there for all but the later, Chiclets-like products and it would not surprise me if more pop up.