Tuesday, December 29, 2009

They Might Be Giants?

I got an e-mail from Scott Gaynor (of Gaynor & Dent Auctions) the other day, inquiring about certain aspects of the 1980 Topps Superstar and undated Puffy Stickers (more on this anon) and as we got into back-and-forthing, Scott sent along some scans of items he had been consigned in 2001 by a Topps salesman. These scans were of different mockups and prototypes used by Topps executives to develop new product and some made it into production, altered sometimes but sometimes not.

These scans will provide fodder for a few upcoming posts but I'll start with an interesting 1975-76 idea for Giant baseball cards:

So not only was Topps thinking small in 1975, they were also thinking big! They didn't issue big baseball cards until 1980, and then they spent the better part of the first half of the MTV decade putting out supersized product. This timeline from development to execution was not unusual for Topps back then.

Stay tuned for more mockups and prototypes in 2010!

QUICK UPDATE-An intrepid reader has noted that the back of the prototype is from 1976. In my haste to post, I missed this important detail.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Ring A Ding Ding!

No, we're not here to talk Sinatra, although your webmaster is a huge fan of Ol' Blue Eyes 50's and 60's sides. Tonight it's rings, baby and not those fancy metal ones; tonight we're talking cardboard!

The Topps ring saga begins in 1966 and the bizarre decision to include a set of punchout ring inserts in the football wax packs that year. Check out this wrapper scan from the fabulous-and-then-some Football Card Gallery:

I guess if you're going to pollute a classic football set with a totally unrelated insert, it makes sense to include a checklist for said insert in the football set itself:

The Funny Ring insert is presented on thick, blank backed cardboard:

And good luck if you want to complete the set! Plus the checklist is a killer if you want to complete the football set. None of those Funny Rings pieces are mine by the way, I'll get a hold of an example someday.

Never a company to let a design go to waste, a set of Insignia rings was included as an insert in Rat Patrol packs the same year, as this cribbed from Ebay scan shows:

The rings get a metallic makeover, which does not scan well and we lose two in the count:

Now this would seem like the end of the tale of the rings but in fact it is not as seven years later, O-Pee-Chee's second series of NHL cards included Team Crest rings (the first series had Team Crest stickers) as this partial box scan from Bobby Burrell's indispensable Vintage Hockey Collector's Guide shows:

Does this ring look familiar?

I'm not sure what possessed OPC (Topps really) to reuse such an old pattern but it doesn't matter. These inserts all ring a bell with me! Ouch, sorry for that pun.....

Monday, December 21, 2009

Something Borrowed?

Something old, something new today kids, one of which may be borrowed and one of which is blue.

Back in February I blogged on the 1974 Baseball Puzzles, lamenting that I had never seen a 25 cent variety of the wrapper (29 cents is the more common one, at least IMHO) but one popped up on Ebay recently and it is indeed identical in all respects to the other except in price:

One other, potentially more disturbing tidbit is that the 1980 Superstar Stickers may not be what the Standard Catalog says they are. Bob Lemke's blog explains it here and we'll see if they take a big mulligan in 2011.

Compare, though the Bench/Wills Sticker fonts:

to those of this product's (click to blow it up):

(Courtesy Al Richter and Bob Fisk)

Very, very close. We'll see if Mr. Lemke can track down the source of the Superstar Stickers. Otherwise, it just may turn out to be a red herring. (UPDATE 12/22/09-I am informed the Puffy Stickers, once thought fake, are likely a legitimate Topps mock up. More on that as it happens.)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Check This Out

One of the earlier quirky items in the Topps pantheon goes back to 1956 and the inclusion of two unnumbered baseball checklists that were likely inserted only in nickel packs (and probably whatever larger cello packs existed) and for the first time gave the card buying public a look at the full lineup of players available to collect.

I once thought it was silly that Topps had never offered a checklist card to show who was in their sets but the truth of the matter is they were probably so unsure of what players Bowman would lock up or sue over that a published list might have made them look inept if it was full of holes. Once the Bowman purchase was finalized in the early winter of 1956 it was off to the races and they never looked back.

Topps used a skip numbered approach to the two checklists, showing Series 1 and 3 on one and 2 and 4 on the other. This was a smart move as it allowed a glimpse into the distant future (beyond the next series) and also marks the beginning of their later method of providing a preview checklist of an upcoming series with the prior series' cards. I call this the Theory of Checklist Relativity and I'll be exploring that theme further in 2010.

The two 1956 checklist cards are very basic in appearance:

Those above and all the other scans in this post are from long lost sources I am sorry to say. I sold my only '56 Checklist many years ago. The backs are similar but present a slight variation in appearance:

While these are not that easy to find in unchecked, decent shape today and nice examples certainly warrant a premium, there are plenty available on Ebay if you want them. These two backs are likely the same color cardboard, the scans make it appear one is lighter than the other but I don't think that's the case. Notice how the team cards (an innovation for '56) are highlighted in red.

I've been contemplating how and when these were inserted into the packs and the strange cut on the 1/3 checklist indicates it may have been part of a sheet sliced into vertical strips and cut at high speed as the strip moved through the cutter, as opposed to being cut as part of a larger stack that was lying flat when the blade or wire fell.

It is possible the checklist cards were printed on the regular, 110 card halfsheets in 1956 as there would have been some wiggle room, as seen on this first series example:

That right hand column is a double print of the one next to it; you could just run a string of checklists down the right side on the final run. However, I doubt this was the case and there were other insert cards starting to appear in '56 so all those contest and promo cards of a similar look may all have been printed outside of the normal set runs. These kicked into high gear with the '56 football set (which also has a checklist card) so Topps was clearly enamored of the process at the time.

To me the logical place to insert the checklists would have been at the end of the first series runs. I am missing a crucial bit of information though, as there is white and gray stock used for the cards in '56 and I believe only the gray stock appears with the checklists but am not 100% certain on that point. If that is the case, it may mean the white stock first series cards formed the first print run in '56.

I also am unaware of any anecdotal evidence of how these came out of the packs and if they only came out of packs with gray backed cards or if they could be found with whites as well. I would also like to figure out if penny packs only came with one color of stock but that is an investigation requiring someone more like Sherlock Holmes to get involved!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Get With the Program

Well, a little more information has dribbled in on the Rookie Banquet Programs and I figured it was a good topic for a catch up thread on a blustery day here at the Archive.

I'm going to work my way back in time, probably because I watched the new Star Trek movie last night and I'm just going with the theme.

I found a scan from Ebay on my hard drive of the '66 program cover and it's a beaut:

No interior scans unfortunately.

Friend o' the Archive Chuck Lumb left a comment here recently about the '64 program and confirmed it was issued along with the card set. He describes it as 3 3/16" wide by 5 5/16" tall, or just slightly larger than the dimensions of the cards. No scan yet but it would have to replicate the box cover for the card set. Chuck also advises that Luis Tiant is page #35 in the program but he is card #34a in the set. Topps numbering bugaboos are old school by now!

And finally, we have a nice cover scan of the '63 program, which I found on a fabulous Pete Rose site called www.4192cards.com

That is one kickin' cover. There is an interior shot at the 4192cards.com site as well, along with a veritable plethora of Pete Rose goodies.

I'll try to scour the web for our missing covers and get back to you all shortly.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

If 23 Was 9

Topps started their thirteen year run of Bazooka baseball package design (mostly) cards in 1959 with a modest issue of nine large, colorful cards. Hard to find today, especially in nice shape these cards measure 2 13/16" x 4 15/16" when trimmed properly. Found on the backs of 25 count Bazooka Bubble Gum boxes and designed to be carefully (or not) cut out, these are the largest cards Bazooka would issue and appear to have been designed to portray one player from each position on the diamond.

Soon after the nine cards apparently sold through another fourteen were printed up, bring the set total to 23 (or 24 if you count both Hank Aaron variations as his name shows up in either white or yellow, the latter being easier). These fourteen cards are considered to be short printed, so my guess is the first series was reintroduced. Aaron is in the first group of nine so the variation seems to have occurred during the second run of his cards.

Here is a scan of Roy McMillan, from the first run:

That's a classic looking card if you ask me!

The backs should look like this:

A proof sheet exists that has all 14 short prints and a box displayed, I believe this was from Topps Vault but cannot swear to it.

Checklists can be found with ease but the extra prints (all first run) are: Aaron, Cepeda, Crandall, Davenport, Mantle, Mays, Mazeroski, McMillan and Turley. There are two Braves, two Yankees (those teams had met in the two previous Fall Classics) and a single rep apiece from the Pirates and Redlegs in the first run and a whopping three Giants, including Davenport, who was a good but not All-Star caliber player at the time. His inclusion leads me to believe the first series may have been planned as part of a West Coast or even Northern California centered promotion. It also could have been a "soft" test on both coasts and mid country to gauge interest.

Mazeroski was starting a solid run of Gold Gloves and All Star selections in '58 and was a legitimate MVP candidate that year, Turley was MVP of the '58 World Series and Roy McMillan was considered to be a top level shortstop in the late 50's, so all of the players, excepting Davenport, were players you would expect to see in a small set of well known players.

The next batch of fourteen cards repeated no teams that appeared in the first nine cards and brought the representation to the full slate of 16 teams. With the exception of the White Sox, Dodgers and Red Sox, who had two players, every remaining team had a lone player in the last series.

A football set was produced later in the year. I'll explore that another time.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


Those little Topps cards that used to come inserted between the inner and outer wraps of Topps gum in the late 40's through mid 50's have always been a subject I enjoy researching, as relatively little is known about them compared to their more grown-up siblings. This lack of scrutiny has left us with some confusion that is carried over this day into the various guide books and tales told between grizzled old hobby veterans. One such area of confusion applies to the 1948/49 Magic Photos and 1955/56 Hocus Focus issues as there are many similarities between the two sets.

The 1948/49 Magic Photos were one of the first Topps issues and they met with huge success and can be found pretty easily even now, some sixty plus years after they first appeared. The idea was to spit on or otherwise moisten the front of the card and then rub it against the wrapper which contained some (hopefully) benign "developing" chemicals. Sunlight probably aided the process as well.

Magic Photos appeared in 1948 and were issued in two 126 card series. There were subsets within each and these used letter suffixes for identification. Here is my Connie Mack, which is actually atypical as there is no visible lettering on the front:

Here is Rogers Hornsby in a scan I nailed from Ebay showing how the lettering generally looks as I think it's washed out in the white background of the Mack card:

The back is informative:

You can see Baseball Hall of Fame is a 19 card subset designated "K" by Topps. The different subsets are:

A Boxing Champions
B All American Basketball
C All American Football
D Wrestling Champions
E Track and Field Champions
F Stars of Stage And Screen
G American Dogs
H General Sports

(Series I not used, likely to avoid confusion).

J Movie Stars
K Baseball Hall Of Fame
L Aviation Pioneers
M Famous Landmarks
N American Inventors
O American Military Leaders
P American Explorers
Q Basketball Thrills
R Football Thrills
S Figures Of The Wild West
T General Sports

As you can see, there is some repitition between the first and second groups, which are conveniently bisected by the missing "I" into the two main 126 card series. Some subsets have as few as two or as many as 25 cards. At least one variation is known and the Wrestlers and a few others may have been issued as part of another promotion, not of Topps doing, with alternate backs and Topps may have just licensed the photos they used in the set. Here is an uncut sheet of 126:

The Album is hard to find:

Despite the scroll listing the subsets on front, it was the same for each of the two series, although the interiors were different. Here is a fuzzly look at the interior cover:

And here is an album page, partially filled:

I cannot say who owns that album and I found those shots on Ebay.

You could buy Magic Photos with Hocus Focus gum (another source of confusion) and it was available in penny or nickel packs. The penny pack has a 1948 copyright and a wax interior wrapper. The card was sandwiched between the outer and inner wrapper:

I believe that is Jeff Shepherd's pack. The nickel wrapper is very, very rare and there was a strip of 6 Magic Photos within. I am not sure if the strips were perforated or merely scored, I suspect the latter but I have never seen an intact one and can't say for certain. The only picture I have ever seen is from Volume 2 of Chris Benjamin's Sport Americana Price Guide to the Non-Sports Cards 1930-1960 (Edgewater Book Company, 1993):

The "In Color" teaser applies to the gum, not the cards! Note the offer for the album on the wrapper.

Take a good look at that back of the Connie Mack as it's the easiest way to tell the Magic Photos apart from their descendants in 1955/56. "See Directions Inside Wrap" indicates it's a Magic Photo but in 1955 Hocus Focus came out and muddied the waters.

Here is a Hocus Focus, front and back:

As you can see, it clearly states "Hocus Focus" on the back and that is the big difference between the sets-Magic Photos will NEVER say this. Hocus Focus also have the black circle with overall number of the card in the set in the lower right corner of the reverse, in addition to any subset numbering.

That is a "small" Hocus Focus, which came in penny packs and are unbelievably rare. The "large" ones came in strip of four that were perforated (and obviously so). The small cards have no perforated edges, the large one have either one or two perforated sides:

I'll get into sizes soon on all of these but here is a comparison of small and large Hocus Focus cards:

The penny pack has a wrapper identiccal to the '48 penny wrapper but with a 1955 copyright:

(Courtesy of Todd Riley)

The inner wrap is foil at this point, not wax. The chemicals were on the interior of the exterior wrapper, unlike the nickel packs which had their own, separate developing paper. Here is the nickel wrapper:

No album exists for the Hocus Focus cards and they probably sold poorly as these were the last of this breed of card issued by Topps.

People usually refer to the smaller cards as 55's and the larger ones as 56's but they came out at the same time as this old Woody Gelman notebook page shows:

Small cards are often identified as being issued in 1955 and the larger ones in 1956 but you can see that they were co-mingled on the page. That page might belong to Bobby Burrell, I can't quite remember but this cache of uncut strips is his for sure:

The Hocus Focus checklists are a mess and intertwined in many publications. The larger cards have 96 subjects while the small ones theoretically have 121 although I think up to 131 is possible due to how the subsets are structured. Not all small cards are even known at this juncture and the larger ones are probably all identified but since the lists are out of whack, I am visually confirming each larger card (abou 20 to go). I've given up on the smaller ones, I only have about five confirmed visually right now.

The larger cards have the following subsets:

Westerners (11 cards)
World Wonders (10)
Sports Thrills (15)
Baseball Stars (18)
Airplanes (10)
Sports Cars (10)
Movie Stars (7)
World Leaders (15)

That is 96 cards folks!

Now, the small cards have a subset of 23 Baseball Stars and 15 Airplanes, so if each subset is five greater than found in the large cards, we would have 136 cards total but most guides say 121, although I have to think 126 is also possible due to the size of the two Magic Photos main series, the fact the Magic Photos and small Hocus Focus cards have the same measurements (see next paragraph) and the array on the Magic Photos uncut sheet.

Sizing is the same for the Magic Photos, no matter which way they were sold and they measure 7/8" x 1 7/16" while the small Hocus Focus cards are also 7/8" x 1 7/16" and the large cards are 1" x 1 5/8".

Send me a note if you have front and back scans of any small Hocus Focus cards. I also need front and back scans of these large Hocus Focus Cards: 2 8 9 11 16 26 32 34 40 41 43 48 56 57 60 67 76 79 95.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Buck Board

Super Topps ephemera collector John Moran passed along a nice scan a while back of a Topps sell sheet for the 1962 Baseball Bucks. It has, shall we say, a certain Leave It To Beaver-esque quality to it:

And that little fat kid in the middle on the bottom of the sheet looks faintly like Elroy Jetson, don't you think?

Not much else to say tonight, so enjoy the links!