Saturday, June 24, 2017

Smile For The Camera

Friend o'the Archive Scott Gaynor passed along a scan of an old publicity photo that he will have up for auction the other day that I had never seen before and it is, in a word, stupendous:

Brown (left) and Gelman, are clearly on the set of the Soupy Sales show as Topps was doing their thing to promote the 1965 upcoming card set. This was not the actual shot used, or at least I don't think it was as one clearly taken within seconds of this one has been uploaded over at for some time now and seems to be the money shot, although I only know this since I started researching the above picture:

Kind of a dour look from the Topps boys, no? That Mars Attacks logo pegs the second scan to Topps proper methinks. I also have to think this shot was the one used officially. I tend to be in the 1965 camp for the Soupy set, although most sources cite 1967.  Either is possible but there seems to be more evidence for the earlier date, at least to my mind, as Soupy-mania was in full swing in 1965.

Len Brown was a protege of Woody's and perhaps his most successful one. Brown succeeded Gelman as Creative Director of Topps, having been hired by Woody as a 17 year old.  Brown worked on such things as the 1960 Baseball set, Mars Attacks, Civil War News and obviously Soupy Sales before ascending to Woody's old position upon the latter's retirement (which I think was in 1972).

Saturday, June 17, 2017

And Then A Step To The Right

More REA goodness this week kids!

I love uncut sheets and there was a doozy in the April Robert Edward Auctions offering, namely a 1956 Topps Flags Of The World half sheet:

Uncut sheets often tell a story about production methods and this one is no exception. Topps used 110 card press half sheets in 1955-56, increasing from 100 card arrays in 1952-54 without changing their main card size, which at the time was referred to as Giant Size (2 5/8" x 3 3/4").  You would think then that a 100 or 110 card series or set would make a lot of sense but generally things didn't work that way.

If this was the annual Baseball issue, Topps would have another half sheet for each series, usually with a slightly different array. They most likely did these due to the sheer volume of Baseball sold each year vs other series like Flags and had a need to print things a certain way.  Some of the print arrays were influenced by packaging patterns as well.

Here, if you count columns from left to right, you can see 5, 6 &7 repeat as 9, 10, 11 and this corresponds with the 30 known double prints in the 80 card set.  But why leave a one-column gap (at #8) between the trio of repeats?   Compare with a sheet from an 80 card 1956 Baseball series 3 sheet:

Here it's a repeat of the 2, 3 & 4 columns in 9, 10 & 11 so the extras off to the one side seem to be something of a Topps Giant Size hallmark. Even on the first series of 1956 Baseball, which had 100 subjects, the one repeated column is the rightmost one on the known half sheet:

If we could find the other half sheets for 1956, I'd bet all the repeats are in the rightmost columns. Now, the question is, what did this allow Topps to do? I mean, every kid must have wanted an extra card of Warren Giles, right?!

Saturday, June 10, 2017


The recently concluded Robert Edward Auctions spring spectacular had a huge array of vintage goodies as usual. There were, scattered among the pages of their phone book sized catalog , a number of Saleman's Samples from Topps and Bowman.  I've shown Bowman samples from 1950, 1952, 1954 and 1955 recently and don't like to repeat myself if I can help it, so will focus on the lot of 53's that was offered.

Considered, of course, by many collectors as the best looking set of all time, 1953 Bowman Baseball is indeed gorgeous.  You can see that on the two strips from REA:

Unlike Topps, who put specific copy on the backs of their samples, Bowman usually just sent out strips of cards from their production sheets accompanied by a letter with some hyperbolic copy. The backs are straight from the printing press:

Since I actually can't help it, the auction had great 1954 and 1955 panels as well and since the scans I nicked are so much better than the ones I posted here a while back, I figured what the hey.  1954 came 2x2:

Bowman stuck a sticker on the backs of some.  They also use "Salesmen's" whereas as I have always used "Salesman's". Not sure if the top one lost it's sticker (probably not) or if it was never affixed:

  Blond or chestnut, take your pick (although some hybrids with both on the same panel exist):

For their swan song, Bowman finally went to a legit sample with ad copy on the back.Gorgeous ad copy, I might add:

The 20 years of leadership refers to their first issued set, when the company was known as Gum Inc., although the first cards appeared in 1933 and they were all non-sports.  Gum Inc. competed directly against Goudey and those were the two major issuing companies in the years leading up to World War 2.

I've always liked these samples; they are great little offbeat collectibles.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

We Have A Winner

BFF o'the Archive Jeff Shepherd recently sent along what are the oldest Topps trade ads I have seen. What's below hails from March 1940, a mere 15 months or so after the company was founded.  We get a nice look at one of the bakelite Topps Gum counter displays in this piece of puffery:

That gum display is quite interesting to me as it shows the Ginger flavor and also helps date that particular tab.  Shep and I think it was replaced or overtaken by Pepsin soon after launch and you can find that flavor plus the Spearmint, Peppermint and Cinnamon varieties in tab form somewhat easily, same with their wrappers.

I've never seen the display rack variant on the left before; these are made of bakelite:

As an aside, I own a tab of the Ginger that Shep thinks may be the only one in existence:

The New York City wrapper variant probably dates to 1939 then but I can't be 100% sure as the indicia of the ones in the display obviously can't be seen.  Still, it's a good bet. We also get a peek at a vending box sleeve, where 55 tabs of refreshing Topps Gum resided until slipped into a display.

60 Broadway, which is the Gretsch Building, was the first Topps production floor. They didn't vacate the premises completely until 1965 despite moving their offices twice in Brooklyn before decamping to Duryea, Pennsylvania in 1966. They used it as warehouse space once they took more space just down Broadway a short time later.

The economics of the time are quaint but those little extras, like five extra pieces of gum per vender, were a big part of the Topps sales strategy.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Resident Wilke

While the kinks have previously been ironed out of the 1971 Topps Winners set, additional information keeps seeping in. We know the 19 cards in the set were actually issued in 1972, although I'm keeping it as 1971 here because I don't think:

a) anyone cares and
b) any references out there in printed guides, on the web or what have you all refer to 1971.

As mentioned previously, winners of this contest received 1000 cards of themselves, plus a "spiked" box of 1972 Baseball, where their card was inserted into each wax pack.  Thanks to Friend o'the Archive Jake Ingebrigtson we have a little more information on that part of the process and a better scan of one of the four subjects that popped up recently, finalizing our set count at 19, namely one Steven M. Wilke:

I was hoping the back scan would provide more information on the locale of Steven but I don't think there is enough there to be sure:

It's possible he was from an area in the Baltimore Orioles TV broadcast beam (and at least one other subject in the set was likely from the Baltimore area) but they were the hot AL team of the time so it's not a certainty.  The Reds could indicate an Ohio or West Virginia locale, which has been an area where another winner was located.  The seemingly main distribution area of Pittsburgh and California are two other hotspots for this set as well.  It's pretty clear the entire country did not get a chance to enter the contest given the clustering of subjects, although why remains a mystery. Although......Jake advises he found the Winners card in a collection of 2000 cards he bought from a collector who grew up in Minnesota.  To wit:

"He (the collector) grew up in a town in southern Minnesota named Red Wing. He has had the cards I purchased since he pulled them out of the packs as a kid in the early 70's. When I talk to him I'm going to ask him of any alternative way of getting cards (such as fun packs). He was old enough to remember buying all series at 1 time in 1973 (and being surprised by it) and having a hard time finding high # packs in 1972. Him and his brothers seemed to pay pretty close attention to what went on in terms distribution as their goal was always to complete a set."

Well that is quite a paragraph, no?  If some Winners cards made it out to a retail setting, then they have to be among the scarcest Baseball insert sets Topps ever issued. What could the total print run have been, 20,000?  Winners keeps coming back and surprising us!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Men Among Giants

Friend o'the Archive Scott Gaynor has reached out to me with a query on what is proving to be quite an obscure basketball issue from our friends at Topps.  Now the pre 80's hoops sets put out by Topps have very little air of mystery about them and are about as plain vanilla a line of sports cards as they ever put out. And the 90's and Zips brought a plethora of basketball cards from all sorts of manufacturers, almost all of which is documented up the wazoo and then some. But Scott has found one that slipped through the hardwood cracks.

Described as being about 6" x 8", at least six are known:

Here is a closeup of the Elton Brand card. More on him in a second:

 The backs are pure white, with a small couple of tag lines centered near the bottom:

OK, 2001 but is it 2000-01, or 2001-02.  Well thanks to Mr. Brand, who played his last game with the Bulls in the spring of 2001, we know it's the former.

So what else do we know?  Scott describes that he found the cards behind a trash can at a Washington Wizards game, which makes it seem like they were considered for a promotion but discarded for some reason.  I'm not sure how many he had but no matter, this is a rare one as none of my go to guys for basketball know what they are and I can't find them in any of my guides.

Any thoughts out there kids?! I'm dubbing these 2000-01 Topps Giant Basketball for now.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Whistlin' Dixie

A little bit of fun today folks as we travel in the WABAC machine to the early 70's.

Topps was in the midst of a run of Dixie-lid style sets from 1970-74, where they would issue a small tub of candy or gum with a circular, tabbed lid that had a picture or drawing on the underside.  The most well-known examples of the form are the 1970 and '73 Baseball Candy lids, the latter of which was a full blown retail issue as opposed to a test or small regional issue three years prior. The 1970 flavor had team logos present on the uniforms and caps and these are prized  by advanced collectors and the like, while the 1973 version had airbrushed away all logos as Topps attempted to skirt some licensing fees with MLB.

A non-sports run of these lids, featuring humorous drawings, had no licensing issues of course and first appeared in 1971 as Rocks O'Gum. That 55 lid issue, discussed here, is near to my heart as there is a Woody Gelman card present.  Rocks O'Gum appears to have had a load of returns or sold poorly because you could find the full set for a song not too long ago with some sellers on eBay hawking "9X" sets, where they sold 55 nine pocket sheets full of 'em, nine of each lid per sheet. Undeterred, Topps came out the next year with something called Gum Berries, featuring the same artwork. This seems to have been a grape flavored product and it sold well enough to allow a 1974 raspberry flavored product of the same name.  I've shown some grape varietals here but this is the first chance I've had to examine the raspberry vintage.

If you clicked that last link, you will see the raspberry gum was featured in a 1974 confectionery product catalog.  A winning bid on a recent eBay auction allowed me to bring an example of this fruity concoction home and what follows is a wee bit interesting.

The set itself is on a tabbed lid, of course, with what looks like Wally Wood artwork:

These are clearly raspberries:

Here is the full tub, which is 1 3/4" inches tall (the lids are 1 7/8" in diameter):

 I was quite amused to see that the tub itself came from the American Can Co., makers of Dixie Cups!!

American Can was based in Easton, Pennsylvania, an hour and a half south of the Topps plant in Duryea, as this Wikipedia shot shows:

It's not clear to me if the lids were printed by Dixie or if Topps had them done somewhere else.  I assume the empty tubs were shipped to Duryea sans lids so it's likely the latter. The tub is waxed like a regular Dixie cup but the lid is thicker, unwaxed cardboard.

The Topps commodity code is 5-556-30-01-2, indicating a 1972 issue, or at least creation.

In case you were wondering, the grape version's code is 1-557-37-01-2.  Both were developed in 1972 so they were created around the same time.  What is not clear to me is if grape was ever retailed as the examples I have seen look to be proofs.

Here is the grape lid for comparison:

That was a smart move, just changing the picture so no additional artwork had to be amended.  I'm sure there is more to this story, we'll just have to see what pops up in the future.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Invoice Of Reason

So I picked up a neat little item last week, a Topps invoice from March of 1960:

I really value finds such as this as they help decode some of the inner workings of the boys from Brooklyn.  We have a St. Louis jobber (wholesaler) getting a fairly pedestrian shipment of product, namely a couple of cases of Popeye Tattoos and some Bazooka, which allows me to continue marveling at the small dollar amounts that were the norm before the mid to late 60's.

The Tattoos in question are the yellow labels:

Topps was in the midst of a three series run of Popeye tats when this invoice was printed (off a system using IBM punch cards I'll bet), as the cartoon was being heavily syndicated on television by the late 1950's as the baby boomers began to seriously watch some tube after getting home from school in the afternoon. I'm not positive but believe the tattoo issues of the late 50's into the mid 60's, many of which were timed to the fall and winter TV schedules, were also a financially friendly product for Topps in what would be a somewhat fallow time of the year for them. Remember, after football season they didn't really have a US sports lineup until the spring for many, many years and the end of this type of penny tattoo issue for them coincides with their nascent Basketball and Hockey issues in 1968 and 1969.

I'm pretty sure this, or something very similar, was the proffered Bazooka product:

240 count x 12 boxes x 3 cases weighed 186 pounds-yikes!

However, there is also an oddity on the invoice that the eagle-eyed among you will notice, namely that Baumritter Swivel Chair! I don't have a picture of one in white but I do have this shot, taken from a late 60's or early 70's Bazooka retailer-wholesaler premium catalog of what should be the "luxurious foamold swivel occasional" chair in question:

And that dear readers, completes the order!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Masked Men?

So a short while ago I posted about some Mexican issued Topps cards from the mid 70's.  Part of that post mentioned that some Planet Of The Apes cards were known (but not seen) and that such set likely was hawking the TV show, not the movies.  Well thanks to Friend o'the Archive Scott Gaynor we now have more details on this set and a related, even more interesting set (or two)!

Scott's take on the POTA cards is that they came from an executive the Topps plant in Duryea (where have I heard that before?!) and he only had a couple of sets, since sold off (about 16 years ago now) and no scans or pictures.  So I'm still looking for more details on that particular issue.

What Scott did have scans of though, were these bad boys:

He thinks there were three to the set, which was clearly promotional.  Intriguingly, he also had a back scan:

I ran those bits of Spanish on the back through Google Translate and got:

The exciting TV series, now in stamps for collectors come 3 in each envelope for $1.00
Buy them in your favorite store
They are 66 different and on the back 9 puzzles
Put on this mask and live with your friends the exciting adventures of
The Planet of the Apes in the year 3085

OK, the big question of course is whether or not the stamp set is the same thing as the card set Scott remembers. I have a another question in mind as well, namely did Topps ever produce a US version of these masks? I hope so because I'm thinking a US version would be a lot easier to track down than the Mexican examples. Those masks are really quite nice!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

How To Make A Monster

Topps would often release a set or two of Monster themed products around Hallowe'en every year. They had briefly issued a product called Trick or Treat Bubble Gum around 1950 but it wasn't until the end of that decade that Monsters started showing up on a regular basis with the introduction of You'll Die Laughing.  Those cards and other similar stickers,tattoos and novelties were a staple of many a Hallowe'en well into the early 1980's and card and sticker overstock was often recycled in Fun Packs in years where a fresh set was not issued. I recall getting two "funny monster" card cello packs with gum on Hallowe'en in the early 70's and Topps easily got another ten years out of the theme.

However, there is one Monster set that doesn't seem to be tied to Hallowe'en and it's 1974-75's Monster Tattoo. Harkening back to a  classic 1962 issue (Monster Tatoo), Topps revived the vegetable dye wrapper interior classic with a modern touch.  Consisting of two 30 subject series (Topps helpfully numbered each wrapper) these followed on the heels of a similar Wacky Packages Tattoo series of 1973-74.  The Wacky tats sold for two cents and it's presumed the Monster Tattoos did as well (I have not seen a box).

Monster Tattoo wrappers are quite colorful:


The tattoos are typical Topps fare, drawn by Jack Davis. Here are examples with the "A" and "B" series numbering scheme (30 in each):

I nicked those images above from by the way. 

So how do I know the set wasn't issued around Hallowe'en?  Because of the original artwork:

They look just about ready to go to print at that point, no? That last bit is interesting as it looks like a 2 was changed to a 4 (although I think the 2 is just a check mark) but the real fun is the "Dec" notation. I'm not sure why a Monster set was being prepared for a winter release but the relative scarcity of examples makes it likely sales were poor.  The Wacky Packages Tattoos are not that easy to find either but these seem more difficult. Did Jack Davis do all his artwork on couple of sheets and draw his own registration marks?!

These are popular; monster themed sets certainly draw a crowd!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Willie, Mickey & The Duke (& Cleon)

It's spring, baseball is in the air and your blogmaster is knee deep in outside world problems at the moment, so hang on for what may be a brief run of lighter posts until my schedule sorts out a little bit. I thought today I'd just show some favorite cards of mine and after I picked out the first three realized I was in Terry Cashman territory and decided to just run with it.

My obsession with baseball began in the summer of 1969, when the Mets were making their run to the most improbable of outcomes and I can still remember watching on the black & white Zenith TV in our living room as Cleon Jones secured the final out in Game 5 of the World Series.  The next four seasons were prime ones in terms of sucking up everything I could about the game.  The Mets landed Willie Mays in 1972 and of course this was the biggest thing in the world. The two hugest names in baseball, at least to me at the time, among the non-Mets of the planet were Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.  Having one of them come to my team was just fantastic, although I did not grasp at the time just how close to the end of his career Willie was.

Rounding into form as the nerd I would eventually become, the New York Times Book Review led me to Roger Kahn's The Boys of Summer (still my favorite baseball book) in the winter of 1972-73 and a further obsession with the Brooklyn Dodgers, a team I never saw play as they had left town four years before I was born.  They were my dad's team though and he knew their history as well as anyone. I found the Duke Snider story particularly moving, although in later years realized that perhaps the Duke's failed avocado farm was not quite the earth shattering disaster Roger Kahn made it out to be. A couple of years later a friend gave me a paperback copy of Jim Bouton's Ball Four and I marveled at the antics of one Mickey Charles Mantle within.

So here they are, my favorite cards of four players who define a certain time of my life.  We'll start with Duke Snider in 1952:

I'm not sure if it's the slightly blurry, pastel background (I'm a sucker for those in the 52 set), the follow through pose (not a common one) or maybe the backdrop of the Ebbets Field stands but for some reason this is my favorite card of the Silver Fox and one of the first cards I picked up upon re-entering the hobby in 1981.  

The 1967 Topps card of the Mick is a departure of sorts from the customary shots Topps used of him over the years. I just love this card, it looks like Mantle was remembering the great time he had shooting beaver the night before. Plus it's a dugout shot, which I also partial to as they were pretty offbeat poses back then:

Everybody raved about Willie Mays in his prime in New York but my favorite card of his comes from his last year in San Francisco. The 72 set has one of my favorite designs and Willie is j-u-u-u-u-s-t pre-grin here:

Finally, we have Cleon Jones. Along with Tom Seaver he was my favorite Met and while he had a solid, if unspectacular career and ended his tenure with the team in ignomy, I still count him as such. A favorite pose of mine generally:

C'mon, play ball!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Vacant Lot

So I was perusing the Mile High catalog for the March 10th auction the other day and noted a neat partial uncut sheet within, for the 1968-69 O-Pee-Chee Push Out Stickers. I went to the website to grab a scan but the lot (#600) appears to have been withdrawn.  So I scanned the catalog image instead since it's such an interesting piece, which I will get to momentarily.

The stickers were inserts with the regular OPC cards from the 1968-69 season and had 22 subjects. 21 of these were player images superimposed on a hockey puck and you had to "push out' the puck and then lick the back (like the original 1967 Wacky Packages) to get it to stick to something:

The whole back was ready for expectoration:

The 22nd sticker was a salute to Gordie Howe for scoring his 700th goal. It's quite the sticker actually:

There was no push out option for Mr. Hockey, but his back was gummed so I guess the whole enchilada could have been stuck anywhere! You can see how this special sticker was produced with the rest of the insert set:

That is definitely a partial sheet. There is no bottom gutter and it's clearly hand cut down there. As the stickers are standard sized, my guess is at least a 66 card sheet was made of them, if not the ubiquitous 132/264 array.  A 44 sticker partial also exists.

It's too bad more sheets don't exist.  More used to but many have been cut up for grading over the past couple of decades. I prefer 'em like my Blu-Rays: uncut!