Saturday, May 28, 2016

A Tale Of Two Banquets

Over the course of this decade, as my collecting interests have moved more and more toward Topps Chewing Gum, the company (as compared to the cards they sold) I've accumulated a few old PR photos of various events, many of which have appeared on this blog over the years.  Two of my favorites are from the Topps All Star Rookie banquets, which were held from 1959-66 (and thereafter renamed the Baseball Achievement Awards, which continue on to this day).

The first picture has a mysterious element to it as I cannot identify two of the dais-sitters nor the year of the event:


Tilting rightward from the lectern, we have a waiter laying out rolls (the butter is already on the table), Sy Berger of course, then a gentleman who looks familiar to me but I can't identify, Shag Shaughnessy, Joe Garagiola (the ever-present MC for these events), and finally another unidentified man.  The banner behind the dais portrays a generic All Star Rookie Trophy and reads:

TOPPS
All Star Rookie
Young America's Favorite

As we can see here, the players name, team, position and year would be engraved as well, thanks to an offering from Lelands awhile back:


I'm not certain there was always such a large wood component in all years and have to confess I never realized the ballplayer icon stands atop well, a top hat!

Friend o'the Archive Keith Olbermann thinks the dating would be no later than 1962 based upon how Joe Garagiola looks. I can state it's not from 1966 as the setting was different for that luncheon, namely the Hotel Americana in NYC:


That dais has no mysterious element at all, except maybe what kind of cheese was being served. Even if it wasn't obvious to me who was who, the back is helpfully captioned:


It's also not the 1960 Banquet.  As Mr. Olbermann helpfully pointed out, the 1961 program has some photos of the 1960 event, which was held at the Hotel Manhattan. Here Joel Shorin is presenting MC Joe Garagiola with an oversized 1960 Topps card they created especially for the occasion:


Below,  Shag Shaugnessy is presenting a trophy to pitcher Al Cicotte, who was the Topps Rookie Player of the Year for 1960. Cicotte went on to have a mediocre major league career and his biggest claim to fame turned out to be his lineage: he was the grand nephew of Black Sox pitched Ed Cicotte. Shag was an integral part of the selection committee and retired as President of the International League in 1960.  Did you know he's a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame?


Here's the 1960 All Star Rookie selections:


I can also state it's not the 1963 Banquet, which had a different banner (Fifth Annual). It's also not from 1959 despite there being no mention of the annual progression on the banner but maybe they did not show it each year. The 1959 luncheon was held at the Hotel Manhattan.

So we have a checklist of sorts for the annual luncheon honoring the All Star Rookies (and now updated thanks to our comments section):

1959 Hotel Manhattan
1960 Hotel Manhattan
1961 Waldorf-Astoria 
1962 Waldorf-Astoria 
1963 Waldorf-Astoria 
1964 Waldorf-Astoria 
1965 ????
1966 Hotel Americana

If anyone has thoughts on the first picture's mystery subjects and can confirm the year of the event, I'm all ears!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Secondary To None

You think you've seen it all when it come to strange Topps offerings, right?  From gubernatorial candidates to baseball commissioners to little kids who won a contest, over the years Topps has put out some strange ones.  While it's nothing now for them to reel off a single subject printing (same day even) or a small set designed for a specific purpose such as the 1964 Rookie Banquet, before the dawn of digital photography and graphics software it used to take a lot of design and production work to do so. Yet they constantly did this right into the modern digital age.

In 1989 Topps made what is known in the financial world as a secondary offering of their stock. What that means is either an existing public company issued more shares of stock to raise additional capital or that current shareholders offered for sale, as a group, some of their existing shares.

The first Topps stock sale was, obviously, when they went public:



It's involved but Topps Chewing Gum redeemed all of its outstanding preferred stock (3,150 Series A shares and 4,157 B shares) on April 27, 1972, which represented the shares that were privately and primarily held by directors of the Company (mostly the Shorin family). The next day they did a 380-for-1 stock split of their common stock, ownership of which was still held within the company. Five million shares of common stock were priced at 10 cents a share a then retroactively applied back to February 28, 1971.

On March 3, 1973 100,000 shares of common stock were reserved for future stock options to be granted by the company. This was done to align with the Topps fiscal year from what I can make out. Eventually 60,000 shares of common stock were offered in an IPO on June 15, 1972. I would call Topps Chewing Gum a closely held public company as of that date.

You can see that Joel Shorin signed (or had his signature reproduced) as President and Louis Walker did the same as Treasurer, Agent and Registrar. Manufacturers Hanover Trust, the Shorin's longtime bank dating back to the founding of the American Leaf Tobacco Company in 1908, was the transfer agent, meaning they handled all stock transactions. Here's Louis now, standing in front of an ancient data storage system that could probably fit on my cell phone with room to spare:


Also of interest is the corporate seal:


Those of you who have been reading this blog or my book know that Topps was founded in 1938, incorporated briefly and then unincorporated around the start of World War 2, likely to avoid public scrutiny of their plans to buy up struggling candy companies due to looming sugar quotas. They then reincorporated following the death of their patriarch Morris Shorin in 1947.

Topps went private again in 1984 in a Leveraged Buy Out and subsequently reincorporated in Delaware. By 1987, wanting to take advantage of the roaring bull market, they went public again, only to watch the stock market come crashing down in October of that year. I lose the thread a bit after that but in 1989, with Upper Deck joining a host of competitors, Topps made a secondary offering of common stock. 2.5 million shares were underwritten by Alex. Brown & Sons and to commemorate this event, Topps created a set of cards featuring the financial gurus who put the deal together. Thanks to the recently concluded REA auction, we can take a look at these cards, featuring the ABS team:



There are some really ill-fitting caps in some shots-yikes! I do like how they kept the 1989 Baseball design intact though. And I doubt you could use full MLB uniforms on such cards today but it was a simpler time back then.

The backs give a little biographical detail for each subject:


Here's one that caught my eye, sorry it's a little blurry:


I have to say "Mouthpiece" is a pretty awesome nickname!  My enthusiasm though, was dampened considerably upon reading that Mr. Greer's hobbies are "Investment Banking and other games of chance."  Dude.......

I actually own a share of Topps stock, although it's long since been rendered worthless as the issue was redeemed some time ago.  I think these were issued with collectors in mind given the par value but can't quite recall. 1994 seems to be the year of issuance:


Arthur Shorin was Chairman at the time. Nice to see the Shorin's kept their historical banking institution in the mix (Chemical Bank merged with Manufacturers Hanover in 1991).

A long overdue tip o' the cap to Dale Beaumont for arranging that I get that share!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Leisure Suits Them

Topps had all sorts of creative ways to save money in the golden olden days, from repackaging unsold product and reselling it to having the Card Collectors Company sell overstock and returns that even the most wonderfully designed repackaging couldn't move. Topps even continued to use up stationery items with old logos and x'ing out information on their letterhead.  But one of their best ideas in this vein involved letting their athletes under contract select merchandise from a catalog instead of getting a check each time the signed or renewed.

After Sy Berger was hired in 1947 he used connections he had from his Army days to start procuring cheap trinkets for the Bazooka premiums Topps would unceasingly offer on their comics. Topps took that practice and just extended it to the athletes that comprised their sports offerings. Originally just offered to baseball players, likely beginning in 1957 (more on that in a New York minute), the process would become quite robust in later years. Thanks to a recent spin through eBay, I can give you a peek at how it all worked.

Here is the 1973/74 Gift Catalog that Topps gave to all their subjects:



The dating of this one (by the way, nice graphics!) and the fact this was the 17th edition allowed me to guesstimate the first year of the catalog. Counting backwards you get 1957/58 as a starting point, a date which makes a lot of sense. In their earliest years of signing ballplayers to contracts (beginning in 1950) cash was king. Things must have changed with the purchase of Bowman. Since Topps purchased their main competitor from Connelly Containers in early 1956 it would have taken them a little time to get the first catalog going. Topps was producing football cards by this time (and would dabble with basketball before relaunching hockey) but the first two or three years of football were procured by a deal with the league and not the individual players. I suspect it was the same with the NBA (and NHL two years prior).

As a bonus we also get a glimpse of the payments athletes could expect in 1973: $250 when they signed and an extra $75 as an "extension bonus", which must have functioned like the soon-to-be obsolete reserve clause in Major League Baseball contracts.

Some of the offered merchandise is a hoot:




I especially like the Deluxe Nusauna and the Diving Lung!  The former strikes as something from a Three Stooges movie and the latter would be used for a type of activity that must have scared various team executives to death. But back to the money saving part-Topps could use retail prices when they probably got things at wholesale (or less)! Pretty sweet deal, no?

Topps had a system to keep track of the payments that also gives us a little more insight.  This Jim Palmer file card I swiped from Jon over at the the Fleer Sticker Project blog tells the tale:


There is a ton of good information on here.  You can see how Jim reached his initial milestone to be paid by Topps (30 days on the roster had to go by first) during the 1965 season and he was dutifully immortalized in 1966.  You can see his card number and how he pooled his earliest "points" to buy a console TV (a big deal back in the day) but was filling out the den with a pool table by 1974. And perhaps most intriguingly, he was actually giving Topps money to complete some transactions! So Topps had a wholesale cost basis that would be "topped out" at retail if a player was short on time and wanted a big ticket item.  Nice!

In The Great American Baseball Card, Flipping, Trading and Bubble Gum Book, there is a great section in the front about operations at Topps right around the time the above gift catalog was issued. Sy Berger is quoted as saying "This year each guy will end up with about $400." There was also a royalty agreement described that sweetened the pot a little which I guess is how he got to $400 a man.

In 1973 or 1974 you were dealing with roughly 600 ballplayers assuming most of them were on an extension, Topps would have to shell out around two hundred and fifty grand at a time when wax packs went for a dime. According to Sy though, most players liked the process. He went on to say in the book "Richie Allen took a new refrigerator this year....Dick Green bought some farm machinery with his. And Al Kaline just bought his kid a new car."

I would love to know what kind of car was offered but I don't have any more interior pages to look through right now. Boy, times were different back then, huh?.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Product 19

It looks like we finally have resolution on the subject count for the 1971 Topps Winners set, covered here often but most recently here. The checklist jumped from 15 to 19 subjects a little over two years ago when I received what looked like spy camera versions of four new subjects. That count looks to be entirely correct as a proof sheet scan has working it's way to me from the same source as last time.

I think you'll agree there are 19 cards in the full set after looking at this:



The contest that led to these cards being produced offered 25 winners their own cards.  Distribution of the contest boxes, which were specially marked by Topps, and the close proximity of some of the the hometowns of the winners makes it clear only a select few areas even got a chance to enter as random chance would not yield the geographic concentrations seen.  I suspect, based upon this odd distribution, Topps was running some kind of test or survey in the areas of distribution to see if a contest would increase sales. I'm guessing the results were not what they wanted since they could not fill out a full slate of winners.  And let us not forget the Bole sisters. A large, random contest would probably not see two sisters each win.  Maybe their Mom or Dad made a good case for them to both be included!

The sheet has the backs so it looks like a final process:


Cards from this set have been going for big bucks after being essentially ignored for years.  I don't see that they have made the PSA Registry but no doubt attempts are being made to have the set included.

This likely ends the saga of this strange set.  I'm happy I was able to suss a lot of its secrets out over the years.