Saturday, October 14, 2017

Gee Whiz Kids

My rule of thumb putting together my collection of Topps type cards has always been that anything I have on my wantlist appeared in a retail pack or store setting at some point. I exclude standalone candy and gum products for the most part unless they are pretty early (nothing really after the mid 50's) and my interest in Bazooka comics peters out by the mid 60's. I collect some proof items (examples of Bewitched, Bonanza for instance) but they are not part of the core mission.  Those two are in the price guides generally--and are thought of by many as being part of the "Topps experience"-- but there is a lot of stuff that doesn't make the grade or just wasn't known about when the formative guides were published in the 80's and early 90's.  This puts some things into WTF territory!

Take a look at this grouping below:

The little piece of cardboard in the upper left measures 1" x 1 3/4", so you can get a feel for the other items in that scan, which I will address individually.

The cardboard piece is the biggest head-scratcher in this group. I got it from Bob Marcy's amazing non-sports notebooks at the 2015 National, although Bob was not in attendance at the time. He had it with the 1949 X-Ray Roundup cards in a binder and given his depth of knowledge on all things non-sports, that's how I have categorized it.  However, it's slightly bigger than the cards proper and the jagged short edge is interesting.  I am thinking it's related somehow to the vending boxes for this set but I'm really not too sure.

This bad boy seems related to X-Ray Roundup as well. It's 1 1/16" tall and as you can maybe see, is folded in a bit.  I am loathe to unfurl it given its fragility and it seems a little too wide for the set but right now that's the attribution.

This one's easier and belongs to the classic 1952 Look 'N' See set.

Last up, 1957 Isolation Booth as near as I can tell although there's a few later candidates:

Unopened packs likely yielded all the red cello viewers but it's pretty amazing these have survived. Topps would issue sets needing viewers into the 60's; I think they are pretty groovy!.

Saturday, October 7, 2017


Every once in a while a Topps item comes up at auction that absolutely floors me.  Presently, this year's winning entry belongs to the good folks and Friends o'the Archive at BST Auctions.

Topps released a scarce set of Baseball cards on the backs of certain Bazooka boxes during the summer of 1959.  Twenty three in number, the set features gorgeous color photography (possibly the best ever done by Topps) and has a number of ridiculously short short prints and two variations of the Hank Aaron card.  471 have been graded as I type this and two boxes are also noted in the PSA pop report.

However, if you really want a scarce Bazooka set from 1959, you need to purse the equally spectacular Football cards. With 18 subjects and two variations of the Chuck Conerly card it's about twice as hard to find an example based upon PSA's grading. No boxes are shown by PSA but BST has one in their upcoming auction of goodies, many of which hail from the formidable collection of yet another Freind o'the Archive: Mike Blaisdell.

Feast your eyes on this:

Wow, right?!  A couple of points:
1) How the cello survived almost 60 years is beyond me.
2) That's the original Bazooka Joe blowing a ginormous bubble around said cello
3) There's no splash on the front saying a football card lurks on the back, which is kinda weird.

The card:

Like the Baseball box, it was the 20 pack that had the goods:

There wouldn't be another Bazooka Football set until 1971, when they issued not one but two sets, one in the US and another, stupendously rare one in Canada with CFL players.  Baseball of course was represented every year through 1971 so it's safe to assume the inaugural issue of Football was a bust, especially since the roylties paid by Topps to the NFL in the late 50's were negligible.

This is the only box like this I have ever seen; I can't find any scans of the two Baseball boxes that PSA has graded so for now this is the only eye candy available.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Perfectly Suited

Grrrrr!  I forgot to set a snipe on a very interesting eBay auction the other day and missed out on a document that not only relates to the legal battles between Bowman Gum and Topps in the early 1950's but is also cool in its own right.  Not a huge deal since I nabbed scans, natch, but still I'd like to have added it to the archive. First, the short backstory.....

As we all know, Bowman asserted they had many baseball players under contract (340 as it turned out, vs 283 for Topps) when Topps issued their 1951 Baseball Candy sets (comprised of five subsets: Red Backs, Blue Backs, Connie Mack All Stars, Major League All Stars and Team Cards). Bowman tried a variety of legal tactics, one of which alleged they had exclusive rights to the term "baseball" when selling confectionery products with picture cards of baseball players and sued Topps in the Eastern District of the State of New York for trademark infringement.

On March 31, 1952 Topps received a favorable ruling in the case, although they would be embroiled in appeals, suits and counter-suits for at least another eighteen months, losing most of them and really only getting the rights they coveted because the final owner of Bowman's parent company was selling most of his concerns  to buy a larger firm unrelated to cards or gum. As you can imagine, the case hinged on testimony of witnesses, affidavits of same and the results of discovery and deposition.  In addition to executives of both firms, player agents--who were third parties used to secure the contracts for Topps and Bowman and not the type of agents we think of today-- also figured.  The agents who obtained signatures on most of the Bowman contracts were Joan Crosby and Jack Tanzer, who were employees of a firm call Art Flynn Associates; Topps used what looks like a wholly owned subsidiary called Player Enterprises for this purpose by the way.

So when this Whitey Lockman Bowman check popped up on eBay, I took notice but alas did not snipe. As you can plainly see, this check was a legal exhibit used in the depositions of Ms. Crosby and Mr. Tanzer:

Interestingly, at least to me, the check in question was issued in 1949, a year before Bowman inserted the word "confections" into their player contracts.  I'm not sure what that means but maybe that was the point of this particular deposition, i.e. to show Bowman did not intend to specifically sell a combination of confections (gum) and baseball cards.  

I also find it interesting that Whitey, a starting outfielder for the New York Giants, cashed his check at a gas station in North Carolina during the winter of 1949!

Whitey was a heckuva player for a time, take a gander

I wonder if more exhibits from the trial will pop up-it's possible a law firm book is being broken up and sold so we'll see but right now we have this fascinating bit of Topps (and Bowman) history.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Foiled Rotten

BFF o'the Archive Jeff Shepherd recently listed some rare Bazooka five cent foil wrappers on eBay, many with comics still attached to their underside.  I've got a few of these myself (there's over a dozen different from the "foil" era), just added a couple of the below, and can attest how difficult these early Bazooka wrappers are.  They are very delicate and very old, not a great confluence of circumstances for survival. Shep seems to have rounded up the rarest ones for this offering though.

The foil wrappers, introduced in 1947 in nickel form were mostly similar to this one on the outside, with some slight variation over the years, although the earliest ones didn't have the Parents Magazine seal:

They only sold nickel packs of Bazooka until mid-1949 when the penny tabs came out but I'm not addressing those in this post.

The oldest of these Shep offerings also Willard Mullin artwork, namely the 1950-ish Know Your Sports, which is also known as Sports Oddities in some circles.  Behold the master:

Yes, that is a reference to the Harlem Rens in the lower right corner, who were founded before the more famous Globetrotters. It seems like the fact the team had been together 28 years when the comic was released would help date the issue but it's complicated. The Rens were founded in 1923 but had moved to Dayton, Ohio after the war, disbanding after the 1948-49 National Basketball League season when the NBL merged with another league to form the NBA (the NBL was integrated, the NBA would not be until their second season), so....I think Mullin jumped the gun and missed the team's dissolution.  So it's 1950-ish for this one.

If you think that's one tough, here's an even tougher one, with two known comics having survived in the series.  Topps obviously had an affinity for the bazooka!

The Bob Burns story can be found here and and the Topps Bazooka story has been covered here before. Click the links at right for a boatload of Bazooka posts if that one doesn't do it for you.

Pixie is from 1953 and hardly ever seen:

Lots to do there!

Last up is a late entry, namely an oddball from 1969 that harkens back to the originals of the 40's and 50's:

Love the discount sticker from Grant's!

Even the comic was a throw back, although Bazooka Joe had reigned supreme since his introduction in 1954 and the phasing out of the third party produced comics:

Based on that fortune, I'll bet someone just got their clock cleaned!  It's a little odd to see a sepia Joe in the late 60's but what the hey.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Pushed Out

Often when I post a blurry scan or two of something here, I get an e-mail sending along better quality pictures.  A fairly recent post showing an uncut 1968-69 O-Pee-Chee Hockey Push Outs partial sheet garnered the attention of longtime Friend o'the Archive Bobby Burrell (who is pretty much the top authority on hockey cards and collectibles-check out his Vintage Hockey Collector guide!).  Bobby has provided a much better shot of this 55 card partial sheet, one that's actually complete!

Bobby had this to say about the sheet:

"The 1968 push out inserts were the very first insert for OPC in their stand along name being OPC away from Topps.
They were inserted into the second of this two series issue.
The insert sheets are always found cut in half, it would appear that the Push Out were more manageable cutting down due
to a large sheet handling would make some of them pop. Almost all have a pin mark, to hold the die cut in the process of
being done, almost every card has this small nick or pin hole, which doesn’t go through."

I think Topps and O-Pee-Chee had issues generally with die cut sets as you see a lot of partials like this from the era.  Those pinholes are also endemic on their earlier paper wrappers-the Topps Gum penny tabs that formed the first products of the company from 1938 had them as well.

The wax wrapper is pretty nice:

Puck or harmonica? You decide!

The box is pretty slammin' as well:

Thanks to 48 double prints, the 2nd series of OPC Hockey for 1968-69 indeed had 84 subjects, a very scarce number not divisible by the usual 11.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

School Daze

My eBay search filters don't always work properly, a problem I am sure affects some of you out there as well.  So I periodically survey what I've missed  and while it makes a little sad and a little angry sometimes, it does yield some interesting results.

About three months ago an auction featuring the largest stash of Flipper's Magic Fish I have ever seen ended.  This 1966 Topps set could be their most obscure retail issue and once you see the pictures you will know why.

The basic checklist is ten heat-activated "fish" in length.  A thin plastic film allowed the fish to move in your hand. Why?  Well Topps was trying to pitch a regular card set of everyone's favorite dolphin in 1966, creating one of the rarest test issues of the era.  I don't know if they tried to salvage the idea with these little fishies or what but the "magic" version must have had a short shelf life. So my eyes popped a little when I saw 34 of these suckers sold on eBay for a healthy price:

The fish are quite colorful and it's easy to see there are variations:

The instructions say "Place Flipper fish on palm of hand and watch it flip" which neatly eliminates any copyright or licensing provision-the only copyright belongs to Topps on the packaging. However, it seems possible to me that Ivan Tors Films and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, who were identified on the Flipper cards, may have thought differently.  These fish are pretty tough to find and the available supply could indicate the set was curtailed or pulled shortly after debuting.

You can see how the package is just a thin cardboard folder:

Things happen when the package is flipped too!

Given the array of colors above, it seems possible each subject had four different, for a total of forty fish varieties. I kinda like the turtle!

These were made in Japan and imported into the US, something Topps did with various non-confectionery related novelties in the mid to late 60's.  These look pretty nice, especially when grouped like they are above.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Love, Love, Love

One of my favorite Topps sets is known by a few names, although the most commonly accepted version is Love Initials:


The date of original issue is undoubtedly 1969 but what it was called initially (get it?) is anyone's guess. This may be the first stab by Topps, with no date shown on the box bottom as it was probably not a final proof:

The story is that Love Letters became Love Initials, in the packs at least, in 1969 and before allegedly being reissued as Mod Initials in 1972. Topps did that sometimes, marketing a set with a slightly differing box and wax wrapper a couple of years after its first appearance.  I assume the "letters" were thought by the brass to be confusing, hence the change to "initials" but who knows?

Here's a Love Initials wrapper:

1969 on that code.

A ten cent box exists with (I am advised) a commodity number of 0-489-87-01-9 so the 10 cent wrapper above matches the box below.

As for Mod Initials, they had a test pack at a minimum:

All the Love/Mod packaging indicates Topps as being in Duryea, so they date to no earlier than the latter part of 1969. What I'm thinking is Mod Initials was the test and Love Initials the retail product and the 1972 dating for the former is incorrect.  But I dunno.....

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Miami Nice

I've written a couple of posts over the years about the 1973/74 Topps Action Emblems, which was an attempt by the company to introduce their own versions of Major League Baseball team logos that likely arose out of a desire to stop paying licensing fees to MLB.  The set is not widely known as it doesn't depict any players as subjects and while examples can be found on eBay they are not all that plentiful.  In addition, three differing formats/mediums were used.  Here is a typical example:

Certainly less well known among collectors are mockups of some football versions of the Action Emblems. This one has been known for a while and features fanciful Atlanta and Miami logos:

Love the palm trees!  Now that was the only example I had ever seen of the football version but another has popped up of late:

More ersatz logos, this time for Chicago and Baltimore. Topps did not have a license to use the NFL team logos for any of their sets issued between 1970 and 1981 (see here for some really good background on this) and I would date these mockups to the mid 1970's. So this has me thinking that instead of avoiding the use of the official logos, Topps also wanted to avoid use of the team names. It never came to anything but I wonder if a dispute was brewing with either or both of MLB and the NFL at the time over using the team names. The baseball stickers only have city names as well so it's plausible. Let's not forget how they avoided using the Astros team name for a good portion of the 60's due to a lawsuit over Astroturf-Topps was clearly sensitive to potential litigation in this area.

I wonder if any more of the football mockups exist? I'd love to see them if they do.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

1970 Rollin' In Sight

1969 rolling into 1970 is the first holiday season I can really recall as my 8 year old self became a bit more aware of what was going on around me.  1969 brought the moon landing of course, which I saw through sleepy eyes in glorious black-and-white on a whopping 19 inch screen in our living room on Long Island.  I saw the final out of that year's World Series on the same screen and a brief glimpse of Rowan & Martin (forbidden fruit to me at the time) two days before New Year's Eve waving goodbye to the 60's on "Laugh-In".  From such things spring this post.

There's been an uptick in offerings related to mid-to-late 60's and early 70's Topps packaging lately and I'm assuming a longtime collector is selling out through multiple channels. Box proofs and actual retail boxes from this period are not all that common but during this recently concluded July a bunch have been auctioned off. In addition these show a nice progression from proofing the colors and artwork until the final press run was struck.

I'll start in 1968, although a groovy year it was not:

The above box and 33 sticker set would be issued in 1968 and they display the typical Topps humor of the time, i.e. totally awesome!  That's not a final proof but rather one used to make corrections to the artwork.  There's no commodity number yet either, I don't think those were checked for anything but accuracy prior to being added, usually below the rest of the bottom indicia.

1969 was decidedly a more far out time:

As before, this was a proof used to check before the press run began. If you blow up the image you can see that they wanted to show more of Peggy Lipton's can!  Dig that five cent price point, due to fade out with the 60's for the most part. But guess what-they never used that box!  The retail box actually looked like this:

Next up, a less confusing issue:

A final proof for this 1970 box I say. That little Martian looks quite happy!

And now, a rare box for a rare set (two actually):

Until now, I had never quite confirmed the Kiss Bobby set came with the Plaks but it sure did. I have a little more here on these, both are quite difficult sets or even types for that matter.

Here's the bottom:

That's a 1970 commodity number by the way, although I do think the set came out in '71 as that's the year his show "Getting Together" premiered on ABC. Commodity numbers (aka Production Codes) refer to the origin year of a set, i.e. when it was green-lighted for production so sometimes a set was issued a year after the code's last digit might indicate.

So that's some groovy, groovy stuff for you all, 50 years after the Summer of Love!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Better And Better

Well campers, there was some big time stuff on display at this year's National but by my estimation one item sat atop the heap. Many of you have undoubtedly seen the article on Sports Collectors Daily about a large stash of vintage unopened packs from Topps and Bowman unearthed by Mile High Card Co. Among this array of goodies was an unopened 1968 Basketball pack, a heretofore unseen objet d'hobby!

(Courtesy Sports Collectors Daily)

The pack, which is being auctioned in September and will undoubtedly go for major bucks, was the one thing I truly made a point to check out in Chicago as I was curious about the never-before-seen insert described on the wrapper (opened packs, which are really envelopes, have been seen previously) and to see if it fit my theory of it being a 1963 Hood Dairy booklet. After gawking like a little kid at the candy counter, I asked one of the guys at Mile High about the pack contents, to which he replied "we also have one that was opened, would you like to see it?". Yes, please!

I then was led to this sight:

And just like that, two mysteries were solved.  If you haven't clicked through above to some of the Hood Dairy booklet scans I will end the suspense and confirm that above "How To Shoot" instructional is one of them and it was indeed folded to fit within.  The interior is set up like a small comic book by the way, very typical of the early 1960's. As for the rest of the pack, three cards (all HOF'ers in this case) were what you got.

Those B&W cards are similar to other produced by Topps in the mid 60's but the envelope style pack is a rarity, with only a couple of other sets having been associated with them over the years.  The card style was an easy one for Topps to produce but I suspect they were created for multiple purposes. The envelope is a little trickier but I think it ties in and will describe how momentarily.

First, here's Friend o'the Archive Keith Olbermann on some specifics about this pack (and find), after inquiring further with Mile High:

"These packs came from a family that operated a confectionary company that distributed non-sports trading cards. Apparently, the companies exchanged information with one another and the packs were likely acquired directly from a Topps executive in order to get feedback, since they were not a competitor in the sports card market. On much of the unopened material that they acquired, they made notations showing the date of acquisition. The unopened pack has the notation “3/6/68,” which would support you claim that they were produced and distributed to select people during the 1967-68 season."

My previous thoughts on the envelopes and B&W cards is that they were used in a lab test setting, i.e.a controlled environment.  Topps routinely had at least a three phase process when testing cards in the 60's:

1) Lab Test (observing kids in a research facility play with the cards).
2) Field Test (executives handed out cards at local schools near the Topps plant in Sunset Park, Brooklyn)
3) Retail Test (a select few stores in select few regions or areas--again mostly in Brooklyn--would get a box or two) 

We now have a fourth option, namely an industry oriented informal review.  Mile High thought the cards were made up to show NBA executives how such a product would work, which is also a possible avenue of limited distribution.  So really, except for the retail test, which more closely resembled the standard retail counter display model, the envelopes and B&W cards could have been used for any or all of the other four options.

The Mile High comments also reiterate Olbermann's position that the set was issued during the 1967-68 season.  All-in-all this little bit of the larger find has filled in and confirmed some key points.

Next question: what will the unopened pack go for?!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

180 Degrees of Separation

Further to my two previous posts, the always resourceful Jon Helfenstein (of the Fleer Sticker Project Helfensteins) sent along a number of scans that nicely complement my comments about the 1961 and 1962 Topps Baseball Stamps.  I have to admit I've not seen the sell sheets before and they are just super nice.

Here is the 1961 sheet:

I have to wonder if a brown version of this sheet exists to complement the two color schemes of the stamps proper.  Probably not but wouldn't that be cool?! Nice to see my guesstimate of 12 albums per box was spot on but it appears Topps was 28 stamps over the 180 stamp capacity of the albums.

The 1962 sell sheet is much nicer and appreciably more colorful as well

I'm not sure why Topps didn't mention the albums on the regular sell sheet-seems like a missed opportunity.  But wait, there's more, namely the name checked 3 Pak:

Nice job with the cello sleeve raks (never knew Topps called them 3 Paks but they also called them Rak Paks!) but again, no mention of the album. Speaking of albums, here's the '62:

That is one frightening looking kid!

Thanks Jon, for sending over all these goodies!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

62 Glue

1962 saw a much improved Topps Baseball Stamp insert.  Better colors and a better looking album snazzed up an insert set that was far more hip than the regular issue cards in year no. 2 of major league expansion.

Bright yellow (NL) or red (AL) backgrounds for the players made the stamps almost glow in 1962. Some panels had both colors at once even (players in different combination could appear on 2 or 3 different panels):

The album reiterated those colors:

I can't find a scan of a retail box of the albums unfortunately.  If one turns up I'll amend this post.

The album interior team pages have a capsule summary of what might come and some stats.  I actually like the team pages better in '61 but these aren't bad:

Team logos were added, as you can see and the stamp images in each slot make these a different kind of collectible for team or player enthusiasts:

Those stats came right from the backs of the cards, like so:

Stamps were cut down into vertical panels from a larger sheet. A couple of colors were added to the palette by Topps, to great effect, on the logos:

 Yellow process proof anyone?

As with the 61's, I need to do a deep dive into the printing of the stamps.  There are multitudes of extra and short printed panels in '62 but that's for another time.

The wax wrapper hawked the stamps of course:

While. thanks to a site called the Lifetime Topps Project, we can see how the wax pack retail box scans hawked the albums:

There were more teams but less subjects in 1962: 200 vs 208 the year prior.  No matter, the '62 stamps were a great little insert in a decade filled with such things.