Monday, April 30, 2012

Handy Dandy

Well we finally have a scan of the rest of the 1948 Bazooka Catalogue covered here a couple of weeks ago, courtesy of BFF o'the Archive Jeff Shepherd.  First off, here is the entire back of the mailer:

I guess we have to talk about the kid in the crown hat (is that what they're called?).  He was the first Bazooka mascot and may have pulled double duty as a Topps mascot as well.  Apparently unnamed, he was phased out in favor of Bazooka the Atom Bubble Boy (BABB) around 1949-50.  Why they did not use this kid more is beyond me.  Whereas BABB is a bland, generic goody-two shoes, this guy looks like he might be up for anything from a game of marbles to a quick round of mumblety peg.

Here's a closeup of the middle panel (the panel with the mailing label is detailed in my prior post):

That Parent's Magazine Seal was a big deal to Topps early on.  The bottom panel, which I have helpfully up-righted, is a bit more interesting:

The big prize is the hunting knife and I'll bet if they offered that today there would some kind of special committee formed to investigate.  The date though, is quite interesting and I have t think with the lead time involved back in those days, this mailer was first issued in 1947 and probably right when Bazooka debuted for real in September of that year, especially since the first premium group is represented.  There had been a test run of the bubble gum that started around June but I don't think the premiums came until the official roll out on Labor Day Weekend.  There would have been a corresponding insert inside the nickel rolls of Bazooka.

The specific PO Box in Brooklyn mirrors a trend established when Topps moved to Bush Terminal in July, 1946.  Instead of their street address of the time, they switched over to a postal box.  Bush Terminal offered many services to their tenants and among them were mail facilities designed for high volumes. I'm not sure if this PO box was one of their though; I think it belonged to the US Post Office.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Double Plated

If you haven't noticed, we're pretty much living in the late 40's and early 50's lately here at the Topps Archives. I find the pre-standard sized era to be one of the two most interesting of all (the other is the '66-74 time frame) in their history as Topps was just slinging out product in the early days to see what would stick.

One of the thing they did to compete with Bowman and other confectionery companies that issued cards was just ramp up their card size in a hurry, starting in early 1950.  Early on they just adapted a couple of sets and made the cards bigger without really altering the artwork much, although as more real estate was added more text started to show up. Topps also went from one cent gum tabs to an additional rice point by using panelized versions of their cards.

In 1948-49 this necessitated six card panels of their tab sized cards but once they upped the dimensions, they went to a two card panel,.  This configuration was used with three different sizes from 1950-52 and then was supplanted by the Giant Size cards even though a couple of sets lingered in the smaller format (without being issued in panels) until the mid 50's. One of the firsts sets issued both as singles and two card panels was License Plates, which followed Flags of the World - Parade. 

Both packs and wrappers for License Plates (marketed as Auto Magic it seems, in deference to the scratch off feature on the reverse) are scarce.  Here is the one cent pack, from a picture I found in Non Sports Archive Wax Pack Wrappers from the 20th Century by Adam Tucker and Marc Simon:

I've already shown the single card here, so let's go the the panels and five cent pack:

Inside were a number of panels, probably three, that looked like so:

The backs looked quite odd coming from the nickel pack and there was a lot of coating to scratch through to get to the quiz answer::

Topps would move from these 1 3/4" x 2 7/8" cards to a larger sized card measuring 2 1/16" x 2 5/8" after this set was released, a 1/8" wider card than Bowman was using in 1950, the better to feature a rootin, toootin' cowboy called Hopalong Cassidy.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Growing A Checklist

As mentioned last time out, it is now possible to present a mostly complete checklist for the 1970 Topps Teamates cards, aka Grow Power.  According to the REA write-up for their near set, the cards should measure 4 5/8" x 2 1/2" or basically the same size as the "Tallboy" Topps cards (think '64 Hockey, '65 Football and '69 & '70 Basketball).

One card is still unidentified; my presumption is it should be #17 representing the Sales Department as the known numbering follows an alphabetical pattern and there is a potential gap in that spot, not to mention their Admin, Anne Rockfeld is shown on her own card. Cards where the numbering is surmised but not confirmed are shown with an asterisk. If anyone ID's card # 17 we will post it here.

Rob Lifson (who owns REA) is going to try and get back scans for us; they will be posted here as well but his auction is running right now and it may be a little while.

#1 Accounting & Budget:

#2 Administrative Assist. Sales:

#3* Advertising:

#4* Art:

#5 Credit:

#6* Customer Service:

#7* Data Center:

#8* Ediphone Operator:

#9* Financial Administration:

#10* International Administration:

#11* Mailroom & Fileroom:

#12: Marketing Management:

#13* The Odd Couple:

#14 Premium Records:

#15 Product Development:

#16* Purchasing Management:

#17* "Unknown" - possibly Sales:


#18* Secretaries:

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Where Woody? There Woody!

Yonks ago, when I was sussing out the vagaries of the 1970 Topps Teamates (a.k.a. Grow Power), an internal set produced in house to foster camaraderie among employees at Bush Terminal, I thought I had spied Woody Gelman in an art department card but it turned out I was wrong.  However, thanks to the current REA auction, Woody has been found, along with 17/18ths of the full set:

That is Woody, second from the right and before a series of strokes would affect him a few years later.  Len Brown, who was a Topps employee since 1959 and who would succeed Woody, sort of, is also shown, second from left.  We also get a look at  Fay Fleischer, the group's secretary who guarded Woody Gelman's famous bank of file cabinets (a wellspring from which Many rare Topps issues and oddities sprung).

I can also report there is no sign of the Shorin family present in the set; upper management did not need any grow power I guess!

I will present a visual checklist of the set before the month is out as I want to try and sort out the numbering first  Besides, I think the spotlight should sometimes just fall on Woody......

Monday, April 16, 2012

Attack Of The B's

Those Bazooka ads from 1948-49 keep popping up on Ebay.  Primarily published in DC/National Periodical Publications Comics and Boys Life Magazine, Topps was spending quite a bit of money on comic strip ads featuring "Bazooka, the Atom Bubble Boy". While most of them appear to be designed as one page ads in Superman and Detective Comics, I think I have found one from a magazine of the era (probably not Boy's Life though) that was a two page spread:

The lack of cheap, pulpy paper and the use only of red and black tones strikes me as being from a magazine, where full color would have been an expensive proposition.  The subject matter is standard fare of the era, no doubt drawn under the auspices of Solomon and Gelman.

The Ringling Brothers tie-in was consistent with the themes of Topps in 1948-50 where gum brands such as Carnival and Parade were prevalent.  In fact, I wonder if this ad is not from a circus program the more I think about it.

Update 4/17/11: Just after I posted this, Jeff Shepherd advised the ad is from a Ringling Brothers Magazine and Program and I just noticed the artwork is signed Jack Romer, who illustrated for the Ringling Brothers Circus for many years. I am thinking the ad is from the 1948 edition as the page numbers in '49 were assigned to something else and Topps announced their promotional deal with the circus on May 1, 1948.  As you may have surmised, I have not found a 1948 table of contents but that year's program does have another, shorter Bobo and Binky feature in the front of the program.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Is There A Doctor In The Hobby?

Serendipity.  The word means a "happy accident" or pleasant surprise" and that's exactly what happened last month in an almost unnoticed auction on eBay where a couple of stars aligned. Idly browsing the listings one day looking for scans usable in future posts, I came across an auction of an old Bazooka Premium Catalogue.  So old in fact, that it was the first one they ever produced:

In addition to a surfeit of military items (this was only two or three years after the end of World War 2 and unsurprising given the Shorin family's long time business dealings with the U.S. Armed Forces ) the catalogue shows the first eight numbered items in a never ending run of Bazooka premiums, although the current premiums appear to be limited to a couple of t-shirts available on the web if you have $8.99 and 15 comics.

The catalogue came with one of those Topps premium merchandise certificates discussed here previously:

A measly quarter-point redemption value?  Well, I guess the idea was to just show more premiums (on the back) but the idea of having to send in your certificates for redemption via registered or insured mail drives home how seriously Topps valued  the redemption program. The expiration date of January 30, 1949 helps date the catalogue obviously but the postmark also was offered with this lot and really pins it down to mid 1948. I first thought it came with a separate envelope but the catalogue is actually a tri-fold mailer. The addressee is what originally caught my eye in the listing:

Dr. Lawrence Kurzrok is name that I know quite well from reading old Card Collector's Bulletins on Leon Luckey's site:

and was one of the pre-eminent early collectors in a group that included the more well known names of Burdick, Bray, De Nardo and Carter, to name just a few. Dr. Kurzrok amassed a collection of over five million cards--he had in excess of 2,000 Old Judge baseball cards alone--but was perhaps better known as president of the Card Collectors Society in New York City (from the same issue as above):

The same issue featured a want ad from one Mr. Woody Gelman:

Issue #62, issued four months later and starting to show some Topps references, has a testimonial ad saluting Dr. Kurkrok:

Dr. Kurzrok was clearly hosting the monthly meetings of the Society at his home on 96th Street, which means the Park Avenue address on the Bazooka envelope was likely his office (he was a practicing physician in New York for 41 years, commencing around 1930).  He was also an advertiser in the American Card Catalog, as this 1953 ad shows:

I see it's now the American Card Collector's Society. Woody Gelman was an associate editor of the '53 ACC by the way.

Dr. Kurzrok retired to Longboat Key, near Sarasota, Florida in 1971, after selling off some duplicates in his vast collection (these events are unrelated).  He passed away in 1975 and a year later Rob Lifson (now of REA) purchased the bulk of his collection and it worked its way back into the hobby as he sold it off, in a cycle familiar to us all.

I didn't end up with the Bazooka lot--it went to BFF o'the Archive Jeff Shepherd--but I got a real kick out of the early connection between Topps and Dr. Kurzrok.  I would loved to have attended one of the Society's meetings and I'll bet many readers would agree.

Many thanks to Leon Luckey for the CCB scans--he has a ton of old hobby material and has published some of it on his site of late, with the promise of more to come.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

49 50 Or Fight?

On our last adventure, I discussed how Topps transitioned their gum tab size 1949 Flags of all Nations set into the larger, maybe-not-as-nice 1950 Flags of the Word-Parade as they abandoned their ultra small cards for something a little more sizeable.

This transition happened so quickly that the gum brand used for the first issue, Parade Gum, was recycled for use in the larger set. This was not always how Topps did things but they were just slinging out product as 1949 rolled into 1950.  Here, in a scan from Chris Benjamin's Sport Americana Price Guide to the Non Sports Cards 1930-1960, is how the smaller, tab sized cards were sold, 120 to a box:

I've already shown the gum tab here, so won't repeat myself. In 1950 you could get the cards for a penny, or for a nickel.  I don't think Topps had quite introduced the ten cent Trading Card Guild cello packs yet, so those were your two price points.  Here is the penny pack:

Basically, nothing changed in terms of what the cards and gum were called. The 1950 box, which still had a 1949 copyright, was a bit lackluster; the really colorful Topps packaging was still about a year away, as this scan of the nickel box from an old Legendary Auctions catalog shows:

The nickel packs and wrappers are very, very scarce.  Here, in another scan from Benjamin's indispendable guide, is a sample that also has a 1949 date (even though these are definitely from 1950):

As we have seen, there was a tie in with the Play Coins of the World set and Flags of the World-Parade, the former also a 1949-50 transition issue.  A look at the final transition issue packaging for License Plates, will be forthcoming.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Flying The Flag

In early 1950, hot on the heels of one of their very last gum tab issues ('49 Flags of all Nations), Topps issued Flags of the World, other wise known as Parade. Abandoning the tiny tab cards which measured 7/8" x 1 7/16" for a new, albeit temporarily sized cards that came in at a relatively whopping 1 3/4" x 2 7/8" Topps was better able to compete with Bowman Gum, their primary competitor.

Here is a '49:

The front was referred to in trade advertising as "silk" by Topps.  You can see the texture but it's not silk.  The reverse (or was it the front) featured everbody's second favorite General:

The condition is typical-those penny gum tabs were brutal on the cards! Topps reused the artwork for the larger reissue and added a very blah-looking gray background:

The backs are even more blah:

That last scan is cribbed from the Network 54 Vintage Non Sports Forum Gallery, the rest are nabbed from eBay as my scanner is inaccessible tonight.  You can see how the artwork on the reverse was taken from the earlier version as well.  Topps then added a couple of facts and some text and had themselves a new set!

The only other set Topps did this with was their License Plate issues of 1949 and '50, although World Coins also saw reissue (but not resizing). After these two sets, Topps went to yet another card size as their race with Bowman to see whose was bigger continued its frenetic pace.

I'll be back next time with a look at some of the five cent packaging for the 1950 set.