Saturday, August 27, 2016

Good Night John Boy

1973 saw a double test by Topps of a set featuring The Waltons, a burgeoning show on CBS that featured the namesake family dealing with life's trials and tribulations during the Depression and World War 2.  Fifty cards, mostly in horizontal format, were issued and the backs feature puzzles or "collecting and farming tips" similar to those found on the reverses of the Adam-12/Emergency, The Rookies, or Six Million Dollar Man test issues of the same era.

A pink theme was thought to be in order by Topps, presumably as the show's younger viewing demographic skewed female:

The vertically oriented cards look a little weird, to me the logo looks squished:

I mentioned a double test.  The first, or "A" test, featured a pack style frequently seen with test issues of the 60's and 70's:

The alternate test was sans bubble gum:

That's just the sticker portion by the way.  The pack would have looked the same as the gum version did but, in what is a first for me, I spotted a scan of just the sticker which also, crucially, showed the back.  I've never seen an intact test pack sticker before

Neat, huh? Tops must have sourced their test pack labels from a different company than the one that provided some very scarce sticker stock for Wacky Packages, i.e. Ludlow. 

The Waltons cards are scarce but slightly more abundant than examples from the aforementioned Adam-12/Emergency or The Rookies sets and maybe a little tougher than Six Million Dollar Man.

The Waltons Museum has a portion of an uncut sheet that displays the full set plus the five extra prints (right side running top to (almost) bottom:

Here's the reverse, which shows all the puzzles:

I have to confess I was never a fan of the show (I thought it was dumb) but did watch the other test issue shows from 1973-74.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Top Ten List

So we are, amazingly, coming up on eight years of this blog and as I was rolling around in the "posts" section, which I do occasionally and where I can see stats, etc., I noticed a couple of eye-popping page counts for a few posts over the years.  So I thought I would take a look today at the top ten posts in terms of page views, which led to a few surprises.

As of the date I am composing this (July 30, 2016) the blog has 56 subscribers and an average post gets roughly 135 page views; 658 posts have been made as of this date. It takes a couple of weeks after a post for that page view count to be reached. Some posts have very few views, especially those from the early days (Sept.-Dec. '08), although a post I made on the 1961 Dice Game set on January 2, 2009 seems to have brought attention here hence, likely because I mentioned it over at Net54.

Speaking of the Dice Game and before I get rolling here, I just noticed something today as I was editing the scans to insert here.  Take a look:

Look closely at the baserunning results boxes (the three little boxes to the right of each batting result).  They are hand drawn! I guess there were size limits on those great Topps fonts after all and the variety is vast on these:

Speaking of variety, there is quite a bit of it among the top ten topics and a couple have an exponentially higher number of views than those that came before. Counting down, we start with:

#10 (973 views) - Test Pattern-The Mid 60's Black and White TV Cards From Topps (Part 4) which was the conclusion of a popular four part series on black and white test cards of TV shows issued by Topps in the 60's. Land Of The Giants, Captain Nice and Bonanza were highlighted. Part 1 is even more popular, as we'll see below.

#9 (999 views) - Catching Up on Coins and Cards almost made it to four digits, we'll be there soon I bet.  This covered a few areas: 1952 Baseball high numbers, Batman, Krazy Little Comics, 1980 Baseball Coins, presentation boards and prototypes. I don't do as many wide ranging catch up threads as I used to as I tend to just devote a full post to one updated topic these days

#8 (1,007 views) - Easy As A&BC  is one of the surprises to me.  The post covered the 1970 English & Scottish Footballer sets issued by what was essentially a company Topps controlled via indebtedness.  When I posted this one, Blogger didn't allow ampersands; I went back later and converted every "and " to "&". Don't ever say I'm not willing to go the extra kilometer for all of you!

#7 (1,119 views) - Naughty Not Nice, a look at those fake Rak Paks polluting the hobby for decades now. Caveat Emptor!

#6 (1,127 views) - Bigger, Longer, Uncut, which featured 1952-56 Baseball uncut sheets and panels. Uncut Topps sheets have always been one of my favorite subjects, yours too apparently.  Too bad many are being cut up after market in the quest for high grade slabbed cards. I'm a firm believer in vintage collectibles staying in the form in which they have survived down the years and decades.

#5 (1,378 views) - Test Pattern-The Mid 60's Black and White TV Cards From Topps (Part 1) kicked off the series capped by our #10 starter.  This one had a few regular issue color cards (Beverly Hillbillies, Outer Limits) mixed in with Daniel Boone, Bewitched, King Kong, Superman and Flash Gordon.

#4 (1,476 views) - Fleer Factory showcased the other major competitor Topps had in Philadelphia in addition to Bowman. Fleer got involved with issuing cards for real in 1959 and was a major threat to Topps' baseball card supremacy in the early and mid 1960's. They sold their player contracts to Topps in 1966 but a decade later their lawsuit paved the way for the modern era of baseball cards that started in 1981. This is one of my favorite posts.

#3 (1,903 views) - Who Ya Callin' Short?!, another favorite of mine, harkened back to my first piece of hobby research, namely the 1967 high numbers. 1967 is an immensely popular set and the high numbers have been the subject of scrutiny for decades. I first realized Topps often printed two different sheets for each series during their golden era as a result of this research.  For the record, the eleven true short prints in the high numbers are: 552 Savage, 553 Yankees Rookies, 558 Orioles Rookies (Belanger), 563 Adcock, 568 Sullivan, 581 Mets Rookies (Seaver), 586 Jiminez, 591 Cline, 597 Abernathy, 603 A's Rookies, 607 Stanley.  An open question is whether or not the 67 high number short prints are harder than those from the year prior.

#2 (2,423 views) - Field Guide To Dating Topps Wrappers explored various ways to date Topps products based upon the clues on the wrappers.  A lot of my research depends upon the indicia found on retail wrappers or the bottoms of retail boxes. I thought this would be the top viewed post but it wasn't, not by a long shot.

#1 (5,976 views) - New New Developments (Blue Sky Version) took an in depth look at the 1967 Baseball Punchout set.  I was shocked to see how many page views it had. Oddly other posts on this set did nowhere near this number and were mostly in the low hundreds. I almost have to question this view count then but Google says what it says.

So baseball, UK soccer and non-sports seem to be among the most popular subjects around here.  I'll be looking more and more at the non-sports issues from Topps going forward as that's where my main interest lies these days but we'll still have the usual mish-mash of topics here as we get close to and enter our ninth year.

UPDATE 10/4/16: It's funny but since I posted this the average view count seems to be hovering around 250.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other One

Dating anomalies fascinate me.  No, not like Lyle Lovett and Julia Roberts when they were courting, but when dates of issue on a set are seemingly off by a year or so despite evidence to the contrary.

One that caught my eye recently was the 1953 Topps License Plates issue of 1952. You probably just went "Huh?" huh?  Well it's pretty simple.

We've seen the set before but here's a peek at one of the cards, a non-state as it were, at least at the time:

Dig those 1950 census figures!

That Alaska License Plate is a reminder of how Topps stretched 48 states plus DC into a 75 card set. Those 49 plus the one above made 50, which would have been a nice round number but Topps was also interested in selling the set elsewhere, so 9 Canadian Provinces (missing was Newfoundland & Labrador, only established in 1949) 4 Australian States (2 missing for no good reason at all), 3 Swiss Cantons (what?) and 9 additional countries filled things out.

The penny wrapper reiterates the plates 1953 dating:

One cent Topps packs generally did not carry copyright dates but some of their nickel packs did back then.  This Canadian five cent wrapper clearly has a 1952 copyright date and no "1953" reference in the graphics:

A lot of extant Topps non sports five cent packs and wrappers from 1948-53 or so hail from Canada, as do many cards, including baseball and hockey.  I assume a jobber or five held returns and that they were eventually discovered but what's interesting is that these finds have occurred across the country and are not isolated to one geographic area. Others probably languished in the US, never being shipped out to begin with but if you see an "elongated" five cent wrapper or pack from this time, chances are it came from North of the Border.

In the end, the date is actually not that big of a mystery.  Sets that were intended to be issued early in a calendar year would sometimes be copyrighted very late the year prior. Furthermore, new car models would come out well before their designated calendar year. I just liked this one as the 1952/53 juxtaposition is pretty obvious.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

A Wrinkle In Time

Another guest post from Keith Olbermann , wherein two crazy scarce test baseball and basketball sets are re-dated. The baseball dating is due to common sense but it took some sleuthing on the basketball side. Mr. O is referring back to his 1967 test USA hockey post here at the beginning but I've already run a post in the interim, so you'll have to stitch them together yourselves! 

The release dating of 1950-70's Topps issues for Basketball and Hockey, especially the latter, continues.


Yeah, so the years on the “1968-69 Topps Basketball Test” and “1967 Topps Giant Stand-ups Test” sets are also wrong. 
       These postulations doesn’t require nearly as much explanation as why that’s actually the 1967-68 Topps Hockey Test set, not the 1966-67. They both pivot not on a seldom-noticed pattern of player transactions, but the simple fact that cards in each set reference a team that didn’t exist in the supposed year of issuance.
       The Giant Stand-ups set is fantastic and imposing. The cards are the size of the ’64 Giant Baseball set, but about six times as thick. They feel like you could break some skin if you threw one at somebody. The color head shots against the shiny black background is just fantastic. And the set contains number 23, Jim Hunter, of the Oakland Athletics.

       The A’s didn’t move to Oakland until 1968. The cards could not have been made in 1967, unless Topps was guessing that the rumors were true and Charlie Finley really was moving the team at season’s end. By 1967 there had been stories — all circulated by Finley — that he was moving to Oakland. Or Dallas. Or Louisville. Or Seattle. Or staying in Kansas City.
       These cards were made in 1968.
       And by the way I have seen several supposed experts in the field declare that these were “uncirculated.” Nonsense. I can’t testify first or second hand that they were actually sold to store customers (as I can about ’68 Topps 3-D), but I have seen a bunch of these beauties which were evidently used as stand-ups and are missing the part of the card around the player’s head. I don’t think that’s an accident or something a modern collector did. Besides, the perforations required to create the stand-up required specialized production equipment. If Topps made these cards only for internal review they wouldn’t have wasted the money. The claim that they never left the shop probably results from the discovery a decade ago of a bunch of full-thickness proofs which do not have the die-cut impressions.

        Meanwhile, the basketball set, always listed as dating to 1968-69, is certainly not from that year. It’s possible — even probable — that the cards were printed and distributed (and again, too many roughed-up cards exist to suggest these never hit the streets) in the late winter or early spring of 1968, but the cards absolutely pertain to 1967-68, not 1968-69.
        There are only 22 cards in the set, and three of them show players (Zelmo Beaty, Bill Bridges, and the misspelled “Len Wilkins”) from the St. Louis Hawks. On May 3, 1968, the Hawks’ franchise was sold to Georgia interests who announced they were moving it to Atlanta for the 1968-69 season. The NBA approved the shift a week later.


        If that’s not enough evidence for you, two months later Wilt Chamberlain was traded to the Lakers. Yet he appears in this set with the Philadelphia 76ers, and the image that the puzzle backs of this set forms also shows him in a Philly uniform. As illustrated on the back of Hal Greer’s cards, the socks on Chamberlain’s puzzle image have already been re-touched — the uniform could have easily been altered, too.

 If you’re testing to see if basketball would sell to the gum smackers of the late ‘60s, you’re not going to put out an outdated card of the sport’s biggest name, nor three cards from a team that had just changed cities.

        There’s also another bit of evidence that dates the set as 1967-68. Card #12 features the rookie of the year for that season, Earl Monroe of Baltimore. That fact is often used to support the 1968-69 dating. But look at it. The card shows Monroe in the uniform not of the Bullets, but in the generic garb of his college team, Winston-Salem State. 

        The other evidence used to backstop the 1968-69 date is the inclusion of Bill Bradley in a Knicks’ uniform. Hard to conceive this now, but Bradley’s arrival in the NBA was probably as ballyhooed as Wilt Chamberlain’s nearly a decade earlier. But after traveling to England to continue his education at Oxford for two years after the Knicks drafted him, Bradley’s debut was further delayed until December, 1967, because of military service. This would seemingly be conclusive — why would Topps scramble to get a shot of Bradley for a silly test card when any one of a dozen other stars could’ve filled the space in the set? — except that a quick perusal of the old basketball books and guides of the era shows pretty quickly that all 22 of the photos in the Topps set were publicity shots released by the teams. Monroe’s college shot was probably distributed by the Bullets as soon as he officially made the club in October, 1967 (or maybe even the day he was drafted), and I recently discovered that Bradley did a photo shoot for the Knicks in the spring of 1967, before going into the Air Force Reserves.

        When I first heard of this set some time in the ‘70s, it was always referred to as “1968 Topps Test Basketball.” I think that’s where the presumption came from that it was from 1968-69 — you hear “1968” and you don’t think “1967-68.” The decision to include two rookies like Bradley and Monroe suggests the season had already begun by the time the cards were put together, so it’s likely that they really were put out in calendar 1968.
        But, during the 1967-68 NBA season. Not the 1968-69 one.