Monday, December 29, 2008

Small Order

When I started this blog a few months ago, I figured I would mostly post on Topps test and oddball baseball issues. As it has turned out, while compiling scans and doing research for my posts, I started to really dig deep into the history of the company and have zeroed in on the late 1940's recently. I have discussed some of these before, in a slightly different context.

Since Topps didn't officially introduce baseball cards until 1951, the pre-baseball era is almost all non-sport in nature. At first I thought Topps had issued a few sporadic sets in '49 but it turns out they had all sorts of things cooking. After introducing Bazooka comics around 1947, Topps started inserting plastic coins and cards into their non-Bazooka penny packs a year or so later and by 1949 were issuing stand alone products in both penny and nickel packs on a regular basis.

I want to focus on the penny packs here, in particular the tiny little cards that came inserted between the outer wrapper and the individually wrapped gum pieces (or "tabs" in the confectioner's jargon). Before I do that though, there was a non-card issue in 1948 that amazes me:

(From the Jeff Shepherd Collection)

Choking hazard aside, this may have been the first Topps penny pack to have an insert. It also shows how the packaging was assembled. There was nothing holding the coin in place save for the inner fold from what I can tell. This penny pack likely came out in 1948 and continued to be sold through part of 1949.

Around the same time Topps issued the first Magic Photo, in Hocus Focus Gum:

The cards looked like this:

Interestingly, I am now finding information that Magic Photos may have come with both square and rounded corners. In addition, there may be some back variations and at least one obverse variation. If there is any correlation between the corners and variations I hope to find out, so stay tuned.

1949 also saw the release of X-Ray Round Up, which must have sold well as there are more of these around than any other tiny Topps cards from what I have seen. They came in packs of Pixie Gum (note inner green wrapper):

(from the collection of Todd Riley)

The fronts had Pirates, Indians and Cowboys on them and were quite colorful.

You put some magic X Ray paper over the back to reveal a picture:

Here are some proof and uncut versions from the 2004 Robert Edward Auction, plus a 100 count sheet of stamps, that may or may not have been issued by Topps:

There was also a License Plate set issued in 1949, featuring the first Topps scratchoffs no less. The set was also issued without the scratch off feature (1950 saw a reissue of both type in slightly larger format).

Outer and inner wrapper (Topps usually printed something on the inside of the paper wrapper):

The cards were as you would expect:

Looks like a switch to foil from wax for the inner wrapper:

Want some gum with that?

Last but not least, we have Flags of All Nations/Soldiers of The World. The "front" of the card is on textured, silvery "foil" and the back looks like a normal card's front. Bizarre! I don't have wrapper scans for this set at the moment and will add them when I can. Here are the cards:

There was so much more in 1948-49, including some early text-based little cards and a number of wrapper interiors. Fodder for another day's post. Enjoy these for now!

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