Thursday, January 29, 2009

Stand Up And Be Counted

One of the rarest Topps test issues of the 1960's is also one of the most sought after; a terrible combination if one is looking to even buy a single type example for one's collection. Yes, if you want to find something on most advanced collector's wantlists, look no further then the 1967 Giant Baseball Standups. Obtaining one of these has been at the topp of my wishlist for a long time now so I must be content with spurious scans from the wee corners of the internet until one is safely ensconced in my collection.

There are 24 oversized Stand-Ups in the set. As you can see from the test wrapper and instruction sheet (courtesy of a recent Leland's auction) these are black bordered headshots designed to be punched out and inserted into a base (also punched out) for display.

The instruction sheet was actually a sticker that closed the flaps on the wax pack, a little known fact Rob Lifson imparted to me. The wrapper shown above sold for over $2,500 in November of 2008, which shows how rare it is, even with the somewhat iffy condition it is in. I would think two cards came in each pack due to use of the plural.

The set is gorgeous, oversized at 3 1/8" x 5 1/4" and loaded with superstars:

That little V notch atop the Mantle is somewhat common to certain Topps test issues that do not conform to standard size or thickness (and these are pretty thick).

There's also a few guys who should have been Hall of Famers but are not for various reasons:

I think one of those two guys above will eventually get in.

Now if I ever do find an example, it will likely be a lesser light:

But most likely one of the least likely players in the set will be the one I snag:

For the record, the other 12 players in the set are:

Jim Lonborg
Ron Swoboda
Harmon Killebrew
Roberto Clemente
Don Drysdale
Dean Chance
Orlando Cepeda
Tim McCarver
Rusty Staub
Richie Allen
Catfish Hunter
Jim Wynn

If either Rose or Santo make the Hall, then exactly half the set will be comprised of Hall of Famers.

There is also a proof version on thinner stock of all 24 players, that does not have the die cuts.
Here is a scan of one, from the staggering collection of Bob Fisk:

These generally sell for a little less than their metamorphic counterparts but even a common in decent shape will set you back a grand or so. That is, if you can find one.

The talented Mr. Lifson also advises that gum damage can occur to these cards from when they resided in the pack and that examples with bits of black scrapbook paper still adhering to their backs came from Woody Gelman's personal scrapbook.

As the noted oddball dealer (I am referring to his inventory, not his personality) Steve Werley once said about these cards, if you see one, grab it!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Yet Another Update to The Team That Topps Forgot

Well, elephant's memory is one thing but blog memory is another. I was tooling around the ol' www and happened upon a new article in PSA Insider, discussing the 1966 Topps baseball set. Lo and behold, the mystery of the missing Astros cards of the late 60's I blogged about last year was due to a lawsuit between the makers of Astroturf and the team over the use of the word Astros. An injunction was issued and Topps had no choice but to follow it, hence no Astros logos or even text could appear on the cards.

Sorry for all the links and no pictures tonight, my scanner is presently myopic, hopefully to work again after a quick tweak by the crack Topps Archives technical staff. Maybe this will suffice for now:

It's just amazing what a little Astroturf can do to reduce maintenance!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Room 222 Where Are You?

One of the odder Topps test issues over the years, Room 222 exists in both black & white and color versions. The original 44 card test set was most likely the B&W version, featuring the stars of this popular ABC show, which began a five year run in 1969 and one which I vividly recall watching when it debuted.

The cards are identical except for the color' the backs feature puzzle pieces..

Topps Vault has identified the color versions as proofs and they sell for about twice as much as their black and white counterparts, for which test packs are known.

Are there any other Topps sets that have black & white and color versions? There may be one or two others; I have the entire Topps Archives research staff scouring the world right now and will see what turns up.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

There Can Only Be One First Time

I have spent a good portion of the last week contemplating the order of all things Topps. This rumination will eventually lead to a massive post on the multiple 1951 Baseball Candy issues (a brobdingnagian undertaking if there ever was one) but for now leads us to tonight's topic: The first Topps standalone card issues for the four major North American Sports.

While Topps issued some cards in 1948 and early '49 that included various sports stars and events, they were really part of non sport sets, such as the Magic Photos (I'll be posting on these shortly as I am still trying to suss out what the first actual Topps insert card was).

The collegiate gridiron claims the top honor here as 1950 saw the release of the multi-hued Felt Backs, although some claim a first issue of these in 1949, followed by a full reissue in '50. These tiny cards, similar in size to the Magic Photos and License Plate cards from the year prior, featured 100 top collegiate football players, including Joe Paterno and Jackie Jensen. The fronts are seemingly modeled on 1941 Goudey baseball cards as they use a black and white head shot set against a colored background. The reverses feature a flocked (or "felt") pennant showing the name of the player's college. This cards are exceedingly hard to find, especially in grades above VG. As you can see, beauty is in the eye of the PSA holder:

Technically speaking, these are Varsity Gum cards. There are 100 cards in the set and various background colors were used: Green, Red, Blue Yellow and Brown. Some muted colors are also possible as hues mellowed as print runs developed. Yellow is though to be the scarcest but there is some debate on the matter. Each card only comes in one primary color, except for the browns and yellows. The yellow background was replaced by brown at some point; this would give some credence to the 1949/reissued in 1950 theory but nothing is conclusive. I nabbed the next two scans on the W3, which show how the uncut sheets looked:

Topps would issue two more sets featuring college stars as Bowman looks like they had the NFL locked up pretty good in the early 50's.

1951 would bring the Baseball Candy issues. While it's not 100% certain, I feel the Red Backs came first in '51, particularly those with tan card stock on the backs (much more on tan and other shades in 1951 soon, I promise). Here is a young Duke of Flatbush, on the cusp of greatness:

The first appearance of the Red Backs was probably in the one cent Doubles packs but nickel packs could easily have been first. These came in two card panels-check out the nubs. When the cards were inserted two to a penny pack, they were separated as an unopened pack will reveal both cards laying the same way, trying to get away from what must have been some horrible caramel. Red Backs are prevalent today and went through at least three printings.

After this it was not until the 1954-55 season that Topps expanded their line with hockey cards. I just showed Mr. Timgren recently but he's the only example I have from this set. While not as tough as the Football Felt Backs, these are not the easiest cards to find as they were only issued in Canada. There are 60 golden age sized cards in the set, which could be found in penny and nickel packs.

Last but not least, we have the 1957-58 Topps basketball set, 80 cards in number.

That Nats uniform is snazzy! They became the Philadelphia 76'ers by the way. These cards were sold in nickel packs, both in the US and Canada (OPC licensed) and are standard sized. It's unlikely penny packs were used for basketball but it is not impossible. A penny wrapper or pack would be a holy grail type of collectible.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Oh, Mexico

In 1977 Topps hatched a plan to print and sell football cards in Mexico. This is not surprising as Topps tapped into the Venezuelan market in the late 1950's with their baseball cards and also produced some other Latin American themed sets in the early 70's.

The entire '77 football set of 528 cards was printed, mostly in Spanish and sold in five different and very colorful wrappers. I snagged this scan from Ebay the other day:

One of the players pictured is that fulminating football felon, OJ Simpson.

Unlike their American counterparts, the Mexican cards were loosely perforated. You can see the nubs in this scan:

I like the fact a German born soccer player is featured on a Mexican adaptation of an American card! The back is not quite all in Spanish as the yearly totals have retained their Anglicized team names:

Topps also produced a Mexican version of the scarce Six Million Dollar Man set, I just can't get a handle on how tough it is to find. It's a fairly tough set in the US (test issue only) and the Mexican version seems much harder to find than these football cards but it seems like these can be bought at a reasonable price. I stole this from Ebay after I made the original post:

The best part of the whole thing is the title in Spanish: El Hombre Nuclear! How great is that?! There may have been inserts included in the packs as well, I am not certain about that though.

A Mexican Star Wars set was also sold, comprised of 66 blue bordered cards which I presume mirror the first US series. They look like this, also a swipe from the 'bay :

The football cards have their own peculiarities and while you can find many of the cards with relative ease, some are short printed and there are other problems that render some cards difficult to find in high grade or with proper centering.

There is a fabulous website covering the Mexican Football cards in detail. You can visit it here, tell 'em the Topps Archives sent ya!

(Updated Jan. 17, 2009-some text changed and scans added of Six Million Dollar Man and Star Wars cards)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Topps Certificates-Update

I've picked up a few more Topps retailer premium certificates and it is clear there were numerous varieties of these issued over the years. These were first discussed here, not too long ago. Note the "gams" back in the original post, it seems pretty common.

This certificate expired on March 31, 1947 and so far it is the largest one I have seen, 3" x 5" in size.

The reverse has some household goods and a pipe available but suggests looking at the Premium Merchandise Folder for more goodies.

This certificate, expiring 1/31/50, is the same as one I showed in my prior post but with a blue framing border scroll on front. As it turns out, the color of the scroll on front looks like it matches the color of the ink used on the reverse. This one has the "gams" back, which seems to be the most common one from this era.

Here's the one I showed last time, for comparison:

Interestingly, certificates were issued without the little sidebar. I thought this one might have had it cut off, or that maybe perforations had been used but it just seems like it's a "shorty", otherwise it looks mostly like the others of this ilk. It is also possible the sidebars disappeared around mid 1952 (1/31/52 expiry on the one below) as Topps started to concentrate on bubble gum and not mint gum. The Bazooka branding is becoming more prominent by now.

Also of note is a smaller certificate, printed on appealing (not) salmon colored paper. It too has the "gams" back. Bazooka grows in stature yet again (1/31/54 expiry):

I am beginning to think Topps could not produce anything without introducing a variation or two.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

License and Registration Please

License Plate cards must have been a big deal in post war America. TV, that popular new gadget, was sending forth an electron beam awash with car commercials as Detroit was entering a golden age so it's no surprise that Topps would issue some cards showing license plates. They liked it so much they issued three different sets in five years!

The 1949 set has been covered here recently. I'll post scans again but you can read all about it on the prior post, just scroll down a bit. As you can see, you had to scratch off the coating on the back to "Name This Car". A small white border surrounds the license plate on the front:

The 1950 set is a bit larger than the '49 version and a black border has been added to the obverse. There are still 100 cards and the scratchoff feature remains. Note the new registration sticker too:

The 1953 set was reduced to 75 cards even while the size of the card grew yet again and was more international in flavor. Alas, my example is from the US but Topps spanned the globe in '53. The border is white but since my Arkansas plate is too, it's impossible to tell. You'll just have to trust me.

Now ordinarily you would need a mirror to see the answer on the back of the 53's. But here at the Topps Archives, we want you to have the best blogging experience possible and have handily done the heavy lifting for you; no need to schlep a mirror over to your monitor:

How do these measure up?

1949: 7/8" x 1 7/16"
1950: 1 3/4" x 2 7/8"
1953: 1 7/8" x 3 3/4"

It's probably easier with a visual:

There are more nuances to these sets than I have time for now, especially in 1950. These are neat little cards, well worth checking out on your own. The fact that in 1949 and 1950 you only needed five digits on the plate is quite amusing these days.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Ice, Ice Baby

It's snowing here outside the Topps Archives main research complex, so I am in a chilly state of mind and thinking about hockey right now.

After baseball, hockey probably has the most fanatical collector base in the hobby. I just picked up a great book called the Vintage Hockey Collector Price Guide, compiled by Bobby Burrell. It's a pictorial reference book covering about all you could think of when it comes to hockey cards and it is the best illustrated hobby reference I have ever seen-a true work of art with hundreds of wonderful color pictures. It has put me in a mood to go after some hockey types and I just picked up two nice cards.

The first is a 1954-55 Topps Hockey card. These were only sold in Canada it seems, probably hitting the market just after New Year's 1955 as Parkhurst used to release their cards first, in the late fall, when the season started. The cards, 60 in number, feature what I gather to be oil-painted photos and they are stunning. I chose this one as it has a cloud of ice being kicked up by Ray Timgren of the Chicago Black Hawks.

Pretty cool, huh?

The back is nice too.

Topps did not produce another hockey set until 1957-58. I am not sure why but Parkhurst missed a year in there too, so some kind of licensing problem may have played a part.

I also picked up a 1968 O-Pee-Chee Push Out along with Mr. Timgren. These were inserts in the 2nd series OPC hockey packs in 1968-69. Instead of being peel-off stickers, once you popped out the puck you had to moisten the back to get it to adhere to something.

This could only be improved if his nickname "Gump" was on it instead of his given name. What a classic shot of a hard-nosed goalie!

These are the first hockey cards I have bought in about 35 years!