Saturday, May 20, 2017

Men Among Giants

Friend o'the Archive Scott Gaynor has reached out to me with a query on what is proving to be quite an obscure basketball issue from our friends at Topps.  Now the pre 80's hoops sets put out by Topps have very little air of mystery about them and are about as plain vanilla a line of sports cards as they ever put out. And the 90's and Zips brought a plethora of basketball cards from all sorts of manufacturers, almost all of which is documented up the wazoo and then some. But Scott has found one that slipped through the hardwood cracks.

Described as being about 6" x 8", at least six are known:

Here is a closeup of the Elton Brand card. More on him in a second:

 The backs are pure white, with a small couple of tag lines centered near the bottom:

OK, 2001 but is it 2000-01, or 2001-02.  Well thanks to Mr. Brand, who played his last game with the Bulls in the spring of 2001, we know it's the former.

So what else do we know?  Scott describes that he found the cards behind a trash can at a Washington Wizards game, which makes it seem like they were considered for a promotion but discarded for some reason.  I'm not sure how many he had but no matter, this is a rare one as none of my go to guys for basketball know what they are and I can't find them in any of my guides.

Any thoughts out there kids?! I'm dubbing these 2000-01 Topps Giant Basketball for now.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Whistlin' Dixie

A little bit of fun today folks as we travel in the WABAC machine to the early 70's.

Topps was in the midst of a run of Dixie-lid style sets from 1970-74, where they would issue a small tub of candy or gum with a circular, tabbed lid that had a picture or drawing on the underside.  The most well-known examples of the form are the 1970 and '73 Baseball Candy lids, the latter of which was a full blown retail issue as opposed to a test or small regional issue three years prior. The 1970 flavor had team logos present on the uniforms and caps and these are prized  by advanced collectors and the like, while the 1973 version had airbrushed away all logos as Topps attempted to skirt some licensing fees with MLB.

A non-sports run of these lids, featuring humorous drawings, had no licensing issues of course and first appeared in 1971 as Rocks O'Gum. That 55 lid issue, discussed here, is near to my heart as there is a Woody Gelman card present.  Rocks O'Gum appears to have had a load of returns or sold poorly because you could find the full set for a song not too long ago with some sellers on eBay hawking "9X" sets, where they sold 55 nine pocket sheets full of 'em, nine of each lid per sheet. Undeterred, Topps came out the next year with something called Gum Berries, featuring the same artwork. This seems to have been a grape flavored product and it sold well enough to allow a 1974 raspberry flavored product of the same name.  I've shown some grape varietals here but this is the first chance I've had to examine the raspberry vintage.

If you clicked that last link, you will see the raspberry gum was featured in a 1974 confectionery product catalog.  A winning bid on a recent eBay auction allowed me to bring an example of this fruity concoction home and what follows is a wee bit interesting.

The set itself is on a tabbed lid, of course, with what looks like Wally Wood artwork:

These are clearly raspberries:

Here is the full tub, which is 1 3/4" inches tall (the lids are 1 7/8" in diameter):

 I was quite amused to see that the tub itself came from the American Can Co., makers of Dixie Cups!!

American Can was based in Easton, Pennsylvania, an hour and a half south of the Topps plant in Duryea, as this Wikipedia shot shows:

It's not clear to me if the lids were printed by Dixie or if Topps had them done somewhere else.  I assume the empty tubs were shipped to Duryea sans lids so it's likely the latter. The tub is waxed like a regular Dixie cup but the lid is thicker, unwaxed cardboard.

The Topps commodity code is 5-556-30-01-2, indicating a 1972 issue, or at least creation.

In case you were wondering, the grape version's code is 1-557-37-01-2.  Both were developed in 1972 so they were created around the same time.  What is not clear to me is if grape was ever retailed as the examples I have seen look to be proofs.

Here is the grape lid for comparison:

That was a smart move, just changing the picture so no additional artwork had to be amended.  I'm sure there is more to this story, we'll just have to see what pops up in the future.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Invoice Of Reason

So I picked up a neat little item last week, a Topps invoice from March of 1960:

I really value finds such as this as they help decode some of the inner workings of the boys from Brooklyn.  We have a St. Louis jobber (wholesaler) getting a fairly pedestrian shipment of product, namely a couple of cases of Popeye Tattoos and some Bazooka, which allows me to continue marveling at the small dollar amounts that were the norm before the mid to late 60's.

The Tattoos in question are the yellow labels:

Topps was in the midst of a three series run of Popeye tats when this invoice was printed (off a system using IBM punch cards I'll bet), as the cartoon was being heavily syndicated on television by the late 1950's as the baby boomers began to seriously watch some tube after getting home from school in the afternoon. I'm not positive but believe the tattoo issues of the late 50's into the mid 60's, many of which were timed to the fall and winter TV schedules, were also a financially friendly product for Topps in what would be a somewhat fallow time of the year for them. Remember, after football season they didn't really have a US sports lineup until the spring for many, many years and the end of this type of penny tattoo issue for them coincides with their nascent Basketball and Hockey issues in 1968 and 1969.

I'm pretty sure this, or something very similar, was the proffered Bazooka product:

240 count x 12 boxes x 3 cases weighed 186 pounds-yikes!

However, there is also an oddity on the invoice that the eagle-eyed among you will notice, namely that Baumritter Swivel Chair! I don't have a picture of one in white but I do have this shot, taken from a late 60's or early 70's Bazooka retailer-wholesaler premium catalog of what should be the "luxurious foamold swivel occasional" chair in question:

And that dear readers, completes the order!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Masked Men?

So a short while ago I posted about some Mexican issued Topps cards from the mid 70's.  Part of that post mentioned that some Planet Of The Apes cards were known (but not seen) and that such set likely was hawking the TV show, not the movies.  Well thanks to Friend o'the Archive Scott Gaynor we now have more details on this set and a related, even more interesting set (or two)!

Scott's take on the POTA cards is that they came from an executive the Topps plant in Duryea (where have I heard that before?!) and he only had a couple of sets, since sold off (about 16 years ago now) and no scans or pictures.  So I'm still looking for more details on that particular issue.

What Scott did have scans of though, were these bad boys:

He thinks there were three to the set, which was clearly promotional.  Intriguingly, he also had a back scan:

I ran those bits of Spanish on the back through Google Translate and got:

The exciting TV series, now in stamps for collectors come 3 in each envelope for $1.00
Buy them in your favorite store
They are 66 different and on the back 9 puzzles
Put on this mask and live with your friends the exciting adventures of
The Planet of the Apes in the year 3085

OK, the big question of course is whether or not the stamp set is the same thing as the card set Scott remembers. I have a another question in mind as well, namely did Topps ever produce a US version of these masks? I hope so because I'm thinking a US version would be a lot easier to track down than the Mexican examples. Those masks are really quite nice!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

How To Make A Monster

Topps would often release a set or two of Monster themed products around Hallowe'en every year. They had briefly issued a product called Trick or Treat Bubble Gum around 1950 but it wasn't until the end of that decade that Monsters started showing up on a regular basis with the introduction of You'll Die Laughing.  Those cards and other similar stickers,tattoos and novelties were a staple of many a Hallowe'en well into the early 1980's and card and sticker overstock was often recycled in Fun Packs in years where a fresh set was not issued. I recall getting two "funny monster" card cello packs with gum on Hallowe'en in the early 70's and Topps easily got another ten years out of the theme.

However, there is one Monster set that doesn't seem to be tied to Hallowe'en and it's 1974-75's Monster Tattoo. Harkening back to a  classic 1962 issue (Monster Tatoo), Topps revived the vegetable dye wrapper interior classic with a modern touch.  Consisting of two 30 subject series (Topps helpfully numbered each wrapper) these followed on the heels of a similar Wacky Packages Tattoo series of 1973-74.  The Wacky tats sold for two cents and it's presumed the Monster Tattoos did as well (I have not seen a box).

Monster Tattoo wrappers are quite colorful:


The tattoos are typical Topps fare, drawn by Jack Davis. Here are examples with the "A" and "B" series numbering scheme (30 in each):

I nicked those images above from by the way. 

So how do I know the set wasn't issued around Hallowe'en?  Because of the original artwork:

They look just about ready to go to print at that point, no? That last bit is interesting as it looks like a 2 was changed to a 4 (although I think the 2 is just a check mark) but the real fun is the "Dec" notation. I'm not sure why a Monster set was being prepared for a winter release but the relative scarcity of examples makes it likely sales were poor.  The Wacky Packages Tattoos are not that easy to find either but these seem more difficult. Did Jack Davis did all his artwork on couple of sheets and draw his own registration marks?!

These are popular; monster themed sets certainly draw a crowd!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Willie, Mickey & The Duke (& Cleon)

It's spring, baseball is in the air and your blogmaster is knee deep in outside world problems at the moment, so hang on for what may be a brief run of lighter posts until my schedule sorts out a little bit. I thought today I'd just show some favorite cards of mine and after I picked out the first three realized I was in Terry Cashman territory and decided to just run with it.

My obsession with baseball began in the summer of 1969, when the Mets were making their run to the most improbable of outcomes and I can still remember watching on the black & white Zenith TV in our living room as Cleon Jones secured the final out in Game 5 of the World Series.  The next four seasons were prime ones in terms of sucking up everything I could about the game.  The Mets landed Willie Mays in 1972 and of course this was the biggest thing in the world. The two hugest names in baseball, at least to me at the time, among the non-Mets of the planet were Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.  Having one of them come to my team was just fantastic, although I did not grasp at the time just how close to the end of his career Willie was.

Rounding into form as the nerd I would eventually become, the New York Times Book Review led me to Roger Kahn's The Boys of Summer (still my favorite baseball book) in the winter of 1972-73 and a further obsession with the Brooklyn Dodgers, a team I never saw play as they had left town four years before I was born.  They were my dad's team though and he knew their history as well as anyone. I found the Duke Snider story particularly moving, although in later years realized that perhaps the Duke's failed avocado farm was not quite the earth shattering disaster Roger Kahn made it out to be. A couple of years later a friend gave me a paperback copy of Jim Bouton's Ball Four and I marveled at the antics of one Mickey Charles Mantle within.

So here they are, my favorite cards of four players who define a certain time of my life.  We'll start with Duke Snider in 1952:

I'm not sure if it's the slightly blurry, pastel background (I'm a sucker for those in the 52 set), the follow through pose (not a common one) or maybe the backdrop of the Ebbets Field stands but for some reason this is my favorite card of the Silver Fox and one of the first cards I picked up upon re-entering the hobby in 1981.  

The 1967 Topps card of the Mick is a departure of sorts from the customary shots Topps used of him over the years. I just love this card, it looks like Mantle was remembering the great time he had shooting beaver the night before. Plus it's a dugout shot, which I also partial to as they were pretty offbeat poses back then:

Everybody raved about Willie Mays in his prime in New York but my favorite card of his comes from his last year in San Francisco. The 72 set has one of my favorite designs and Willie is j-u-u-u-u-s-t pre-grin here:

Finally, we have Cleon Jones. Along with Tom Seaver he was my favorite Met and while he had a solid, if unspectacular career and ended his tenure with the team in ignomy, I still count him as such. A favorite pose of mine generally:

C'mon, play ball!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Vacant Lot

So I was perusing the Mile High catalog for the March 10th auction the other day and noted a neat partial uncut sheet within, for the 1968-69 O-Pee-Chee Push Out Stickers. I went to the website to grab a scan but the lot (#600) appears to have been withdrawn.  So I scanned the catalog image instead since it's such an interesting piece, which I will get to momentarily.

The stickers were inserts with the regular OPC cards from the 1968-69 season and had 22 subjects. 21 of these were player images superimposed on a hockey puck and you had to "push out' the puck and then lick the back (like the original 1967 Wacky Packages) to get it to stick to something:

The whole back was ready for expectoration:

The 22nd sticker was a salute to Gordie Howe for scoring his 700th goal. It's quite the sticker actually:

There was no push out option for Mr. Hockey, but his back was gummed so I guess the whole enchilada could have been stuck anywhere! You can see how this special sticker was produced with the rest of the insert set:

That is definitely a partial sheet. There is no bottom gutter and it's clearly hand cut down there. As the stickers are standard sized, my guess is at least a 66 card sheet was made of them, if not the ubiquitous 132/264 array.  A 44 sticker partial also exists.

It's too bad more sheets don't exist.  More used to but many have been cut up for grading over the past couple of decades. I prefer 'em like my Blu-Rays: uncut!