Saturday, April 4, 2015

On Report

Over the past year I've managed to reel in the first four Annual Reports issued by Topps after their 1972 IPO.  I'm not sure how deeply I'll dig into the numbers but the IPO looked extremely limited and was primarily distributed among the existing executives of the company (mostly Shorin family and their relatives), with only a small fraction being offered to the general investing public. This iteration of Topps as a public company would last about twelve years, when the firm would be sold in a leveraged buyout for a little under $100 million, which is a whole lotta bubblegum!

1972 was a year of change at Topps in many ways.  They stopped putting inserts in their annual baseball set and were making the decision to stop issuing sports cards in series. The last of the baby boomers were turning eight in 1972 so the company was probably a little past its peak in terms of consumers but still riding the wave of unprecedented growth in the post war era. So you can imagine the mood was positively giddy in the report.

The cover was understated but adorned with four eventual hall-of-famers:

That unfortunate stain on the image of the cards came from this buck slip being attached:

There are some nice shots of the Duryea plant in the report; reading the fine print indicates Topps signed a 20 year lease in 1966 and got a sweetheart deal.

The gentleman at left in the lower right corner picture is Bill Shea, of Continental League and Shea Stadium fame. And look at all that bubble gum! It's hard to believe the current owners of Topps have let Bazooka languish as a brand.  Did you know one of the ingredients in Bazooka is peppermint? That's not in the report but it's a little known fact. I normally hate peppermint but must say I am a big fan of Bazooka, so it's a minor flavoring agent.

There was a distinct focus on international sales; I had no idea Topps had spread to 55 countries by this time:

Overall, things look pretty robust-and Wacky Packages had only just started coming out-they would be a major cash cow for a few years.

Here is a peek at the inner sanctum:

A conservative showing of haberdashery, given the times. A classic suit never goes out of style, that's for sure.

And here's a peek at the Duryea plant, which closed around 1996.  I'm not too hip on the later fortunes and foibles of the company but I believe they outsource everything these days. I wonder where that Topps signage ended up? 

I'll be taking a look at some more in the annual reports over my next few posts.

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