Thursday, December 18, 2008

Boxed In

A little while back I posted about an obscure "vanity" issue Topps created in 1971, commonly referred to as Topps Winners. As you may or may not recall, the theory was you could somehow have Topps create a card for you after being nominated as being a "winner" or sending in a contest card. They looked like this:

Well, it may be a little more complicated than I first thought.

Fearless reader John Moran kindly passed along a scan that is enigmatic but enlightening at the same time and I also found a version of this hidden on my hard drive (a fearful, lawless place) after John's scan jogged my increasingly slow memory. I'll show the one I had first, which looks to have been cleaned up before framing and auctioning, then John's (who found it in an old auction catalog I think):

What you are looking at is an alternate box proof for 1971 Topps baseball wax packs. The baseball coins advertised on the box were inserted early in the Topps packs that year (series 1, 2 and possibly 3) before the reissued Scratch Offs made an appearance, so this proof was likely created at the same time the regular box was designed.

The regular 1971 baseball boxes, which may be the nicest display box Topps ever made, look like this (scan swiped from Ebay):

If you look real hard at the alternate box, it reads 25 grand prize winners would be selected in the contest and receive real baseball cards of themselves. 1000 other winners would receive full color major league card pictures. ( I think the last word is pictures but can't fully suss it out though) . Presumably that was just regular ol' Topps baseball cards.

I am unsure though how the contest would work since I cannot read the box bottom clearly. It appears to be an order form for a Bazooka catalog but could also be a nomination form or entry for the contest. If so, then would your local neighborhood candy store owner have been responsible for the nominations? That seems bizarre and severely limiting so perhaps there could have been pack inserts to nominate people instead.

So, if the contest actually occurred (perhaps it did, more information and research is needed) then the set has 25 cards in it. Given that two examples I have seen have text on the back confirming Pennsylvania residents on them and that there is not a surplus of the alternate boxes or contest cards known in the hobby, is it possible the boxes were never made and distributed and some dummy cards were merely made up as exemplars for internal use at Topps? If so, I would like to think maybe the kids shown are the offspring of Topps employees in Duryea at the time but that is just idle speculation.

So, what is the real story here? Did the boxes make it to retail and were there nomination forms printed as well? Any thoughts and comments from our vast readership are welcomed.

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