Saturday, January 7, 2017

Bandwagonesque

Before television finally reached a saturation point in US households in the mid-1950's the movies were king when it came to filmed entertainment. As the 50's progressed it only took a couple of years for TV sales to reach 6 or 7 million units annually in the US while broadcast radio began it's long, slow decline to the miasma it is today.

During this period, wheree Bowman was plying the uncharted waters of NBC's TV and Radio Stars in 1952-53 before beginning their drop off the face of the planet, Topps snagged a miserly five stars from two other major TV networks (ignoring Dumont) plus an array of talent from quite a few major Hollywood movie studios to create an 80 card set called Who-Z-At-Star?. The TV selections seem like an afterthought, Red Buttons from CBS and the four Nelsons from ABC.

If you like flexichrome tinted black and white studio portraits, this set is for you! The full bleed silver borders on the front and blue ones on the back make it a nightmare to collect in high grade and it's famous for miscuts.  Here is an example of the massive flexichrome operation that was needed to bring this set to the public:


Hubba hubba, right?!  It's worth pointing out that the flexichroming of Cyd may have been undertaken by MGM in this instance. Those full bleed silver borders are a nightmare for mint freaks; only thirteen 9's have been graded by PSA out of 2,907 examples to date, with no 10's. The only surprise is that so many 9's exist and I suspect a small vending find may have occurred. To compare with Bowman's 1953 Television and Radio Stars of the National Broadcasting Company , which has standard front borders and no graphics to speak of on the reverse, has an overall pop of 3,067 cards with two hundred and sixteen 9's The distribution curve of PSA pops peaks at 6 for the Topps set and at 8 for the Bowman set..

The backs are also a nightmare of full bleed borders:


That 12 year old, if it's not completely obvious, was Elizabeth Taylor. "The Band Wagon" was a big time musical production featuring Fred Astaire; Charisse, who was a Texas girl, danced with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo when she was young before working her way to Hollywood:


Overwhelmingly showcasing stars from MGM and Republic pictures, the wrappers also mentioned Radio stars, which was true in the past tense for the Nelsons and probably a jab at Bowman given the utter lack of current talent from that medium in the set otherwise.

The boxes are pretty neat and the six studios and networks described comprise the entirety of the set:


It's a little odd no pictures of any stars appear on the box.  The box bottom shows the dating of the set, a practice I wish Topps had been consistent with.


Sell that Bazooka boys!


The wrapper is interesting as it has a prehensile date code at the bottom right, along with full copyright dating:


I think the set was issued as a reaction to Bowman's 1952 NBC effort. It was a cheap one to produce given that the studios provided the publicity shots needed, although I suspect Topps flexichrome experts worked overtime on this one.

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