Sunday, November 30, 2008

Odds 'n End of November

A real hodgepodge today, (non) sports fans.

I found a scan on Ebay of the orange gum pack that contained the 1963 Topps Famous American Stamps:

And I also bought a few stamps myself. Here's Buffalo Bill Cody:

Prior to winning Buffalo Bill, I also won a 1949 X Ray Roundup card, which I will post when I do another, much more in-depth overview of the tiny cards Topps issued in penny gum tabs from 1949-56. Here is a grouping of 66 that went for a reasonable price on Ebay last week:

I also found out a few interesting things about the 1965-ish Topps Flash Gordon test set from the Net54 Vintage Non-Sports Chat Board. Amazingly, a cello pack with gum was found years ago in a Fun Pack wrapper. I'll post that scan here, you can read the rest for yourself.

This was apparently found in the mid-1970's! Topps must have really swept through the catacombs to find something like an impossibly rare cello pack years after it was issued.

That's all for now-stay tuned for some Christmas-themed vintage Topps stuff-maybe next time, maybe a little closer to Dec. 25th!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bush League

For some reason, I have run across a number of references to Topps Bush Terminal Plant (and presumably warehouse) this week. Before the move to Duryea, this sprawling industrial facility in Brooklyn hosted a number of metropolitan area business concerns, including Topps. I am fairly certain Topps moved into their longtime Brooklyn home soon after incorporating in 1947. They retained offices there even after moving the printing operation to Duryea in 1965 until they moved into One Whitehall Street in downtown Manhattan in 1994.

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In the current issue of the Wrapper (#239), there is an interesting vignette about an A&P shipping and receiving superintendent who also worked in Bush Terminal and became friends with the trash haulers that used to service the facility. Said hauler used to give the A&P man uncut sheets to take home to his kids. I wonder how many uncut sheets left the Topps plant during the 18 or so years they printed cards in Brooklyn?

This follows on the heels of a story concerning a little old lady who worked in Topps Duryea plant and ended up with a treasure trove of 1968 Topps Baseball Plaks, one of the rarest test sets they ever made. Crazy!

EDIT 11/26: Jeff Shepherd left some valuable comments and here is some better detail on Bush Terminal

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Business Side

I'm on vacation from work for a bit, so of course I thought it would be fun to post a few pictures from the corporate side of Topps. As we all know from watching Mad Men , in the pre-computer days you needed a small army of people to communicate with your suppliers, customers and far-flung salesmen.

Around the time Topps started inserting cards into their penny piece gum "tabs" you would have seen this postmark on an envelope from Brooklyn

which may have even enclosed a letter

maybe with an attached business card from a Topps executive

If you were out in the field, perhaps as a local representative

you might receive your samples in a box with a colorful shipping label

and if you did a really good job, perhaps a nice card around the holidays would be sent in appreciation of all your hard work this past year

OK, some of these are out of chronological sequence and I only own the postage meter cut but you get the idea. Thanks to REA for the letter scan and some anonymous Ebay sellers for the other scans I lifted.

Monday, November 17, 2008

What's In Store

While it seems a little early to be thinking about what Topps might do in 2009 to promote their upcoming baseball card set, in years past (the mid 80's specifically) they practically issued the cards in November. While that is too modern for this blog, I thought it would be fun to look st some 1952-53 Store Displays and ad materials.

Topps had a widespread media campaign in New York (and likely elsewhere in the Northeast) to launch the "Giant Size" 1952 baseball set. They teamed up with Woolworth's and that resulted in displays such as that seen here, in an image I have seen in a few auctions now, certainly in REA and a couple other major ones.

You can see there some some uncut sheet panels hanging above the boxes of cards. This was probably not one of them as it has a double printed row and is arrayed 5 x 5 but you get the idea:

Sadly, I cannot recall the source of the above quadrant, nor the two scans below. If they are yours, please contact me and I will give proper credit.

In 1953 Topps had a very colorful window daisplay featuring Van Meter, Iowa's favorite son:

Not to be outdone by Woolworth's, some grocery stores had an abundance of 53's as well:

That one may be from Jeff Shepherd's collection...I'll take all those packs for a nickel each, Mr. Grocer! What the heck, I'll buy those Wings packs too, just to take them off your hands!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

We Have A Winner

In 1971 it seems Topps ran a promotional contest, possibly in the Pittsburgh area (according to Chris Benjamin) that resulted in a select few local ballplayers being portrayed on their own card. The set, if it can be called that, is of indeterminate length and surviving examples are hard to come by. I am not 100% certain but the subjects all appear to be junior-high school aged baseball and softball players, some in uniform and some not. Here is the lone example I own:

Benjamin's Non Sport Guide shows a female softball player whose favorite NL player is also Roberto Clemente, so the Pittsburgh connection is logical but I am not so sure it's quite that localized. Young Ricky's Oakland League is very possibly from Oakland, PA which is about an hour from Topps' Plant/Operations Center in Duryea. The softball player's league is described as Hutchinson, which is indeed quite near Pittsburgh, although a good five hour drive from Duryea. I wonder if the promotion these cards are the result of was for the benefit of some locally sold product such as bread that was primarily distributed in Pennsylvania.

I have seen the fronts of maybe four other subjects over the years but there must be a few more at least. If anyone has scans, please send them along.

There is also a related set, circa 1970, called Topps Teamates on the front and Grow Power on the back, which unfortunately cannot be discerned on the rightmost picture below. My original scans died with my hard drive last year but I did save a printed copy of the Ebay auction they appeared in. The card below seems to be honoring a group of workers from the Premium Records department of an insurance company. These are less well known and certainly less prevalent than the Topps Winners.

I wish I knew more about these strange "tall boy" cards. The Grow Power theme on the reverse may indicate a tie in to Earth Day, first held April 22, 1969 and celebrated more widely a year later with the Earth Day "teach in," an event I remember quite well from third grade. That green blob on a stick on the right side of the back is a tree, in case you can't suss it out. I feel like finding my old Whole Earth Catalog and reminiscing.....

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Little Help

Something a little different today, I am going to issue a call for scans of 1955 and '56 Topps Hocus Focus cards. There is some background information here, scroll down a bit and you will see it.

I am hoping our dozens (?) of readers out there can send front and back scans (the backs are very important) and advise if the card is a '55 (7/8" wide) or a '56 (1" wide and a little taller than a '55).

Here is a photo from Lew Lipset's Fall 2008 Auction that shows a lone '55 (Schmitz) in a sea of 56's (including a larger version of Schmitz), so you can see the difference.

Wrapper scans and any offbeat information on these two sets would be great too.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Which One Would You Choose?

In honor of exercising our right to vote today, I thought it would be interesting to show something that likely never was voted upon, namely three prototypes for 1956 Bowman baseball cards.

Bowman never really again approached the heights of their landmark 1953 color set but still had some nice issues in their final two years of existence. Prior to Topps buying out Bowman in late 1955, the boys in Philly were working on the '56 baseball cards and developed three prototypes (from the April 2006 REA auction):

The auction description described the cards and binder they were in thusly:

"The entire study, including processes and findings, is elaborately documented in the 24-page report, which is formally entitled “1956 Baseball Card Preference Study.” Only two of these reports were made for Bowman, each including three prototype 1956 Bowman cards. The player featured in the offered report features Clem Koshorek, and the other features Dodgers outfielder George Shuba, so each 1956 Bowman prototype card is actually unique."

The two reports were found among Topps Product Development head Woody Gelman's papers in 1983 and are key historical artifacts, so it is not surprising elements of two of these designs found their way into later sets; the look of the card on the bottom would reappear in the 1957 Topps Football set:

(from, run by Marty Pritchard, an online compadre of mine)

While the "knothole" card on the upper right greatly resembles the 1958 Hires Root Beer cards:

(from, run byanother online buddy Jay Wolt)

Topps must have designed the Hires set, don't you think?

So, which Bowman prototype would you have chosen? I doubt the knothole would have been picked, since it was too close to the '55 design. My money would have been on the two picture horizontal version, especially since Topps used the design the following year. The other prototype looks too much like the '53 Bowman's, just cluttered up a bit.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Easel Does It!

Rob Lifson, of Robert Edward Auctions just came through big time with an unsolicited scan of the easel that was inserted into 1968 Topps 3D Packs. He is the only dealer or auction house that has ever made this particular rarity available to the masses, so far as I know. Horrifyingly, it advises the purchaser to wet the back of the card!

This particular easel will be in REA's Spring 2009 auction. The first reference I ever saw to the easel was in an old SCD ad of Rob's in SCD 22 years ago:

If you can't read that, here is a close up of the easel description:

I have updated my previous post on the 3-D cards to include the new scan of the easel. Thanks Rob!