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!