Saturday, January 28, 2017

Office Party

Before Topps settled in at Bush Terminal in Brooklyn, they had a succession of office and plant spaces that they leased in Brooklyn.  I've briefly covered some of them here in the past but it turns out I posted an incorrect picture of their second address so I figured since all the buildings are still there, why not look anew. Today we'll examine their pre-Bush Terminal buildings and next time out the mothership at BT.

Topps started out in the residence of Philip Shorin at 582 Montgomery Street in Brooklyn as they were setting up the company in 1938:


The ended up leasing a production floor in the Gretsch Building at 60 Broadway in Williamsburg by the end of 1938, filling it with ancient machinery that would still be in use almost thirty years later:


Morris Shorin bought a house at 1460 President Street in Crown Heights from the Gretsch family in 1920 to boot, I assume they were family friends. 

By late 1944 they also had some space at 134 Broadway, a stone's throw away from no. 60:


Some premiums may have been stored and shipped from this address.

Also in 1944 came the purchase of the Shapiro Candy Company and assumption of its attendant lease at 383 3rd Avenue in Gowanus, although Shapiro had a mail drop at 60 Broadway during the transition:


Topps primarily made candy here.  Help wanted ads during the war offered free gum!

What's amazing is that all three buildings were still in use by Topps until they moved production and warehousing to Duryea, Pennsylvania in 1966!

Next time out, the mysteries of Bush Terminal.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Fortune Favors The Old...

...Old Topps novelties that is!

I am trying to solve a mystery here today, namely one involving an issue of indeterminate dating called Magic Funny Fortunes.  MFF is one of those issues where you place a piece of red cellophane over an image to see a hidden picture underneath that is usually the answer to a pun. It looks like the classic penny tattoo tabs issued by Topps in the 50's and 60's but there is no transfer feature.  I'll show the interior first, which features Jack Davis artwork.


You will note the little production rip you would see along the top is missing.  As I've seen this same image a few times and actually have another as well, I assume it's a salesman's sample (as are many similar products sans rip).  The answer is "As Window Washer" in case you were wondering.

Now here is the exterior of the wrapper:


Here is the all important indicia


That looks Canadian to me, which is reinforced by the Made In USA info that appears above the ingredient list:


No copyright year, which is little surprise. I have two sources for the date, one says 1961 and the other 1968. However, if we look to another set from what may be roughly the same time frame if the earlier date is correct, 1960's Football Tattoo, we may get a clue:


It's the same indicia, which may help with dating, but the Football Tattoos feature only NFL teams and US Colleges so presumably it was issued in the US as well as, and quite mysteriously, Canada. See here for a more detailed discussion of that particular point. 

The earlier Baseball Tattoo issue of 1960 made a clear distinction between US (Brooklyn is detailed on the indicia) and Canadian issues (the latter clearly says "Made in Canada" on an OPC issue) but perhaps the laws in Canada changed mid year.

Looking at Topps Hockey and CFL Wrappers of the era, which are all Canadian only (in theory), the 1960 issues have "Made & Printed in USA" on the wrapper indicia followed by "In Canada Made & distributed by O-Pee-Chee Ltd" while the 1961 issues just say "Made & Distributed in Canada". So it looks like Topps had a kind of Jekyll/Hyde thing going on 

Anyhoo...Chris Benjamin described this issue without attributing a date or country of distribution in his 4th Sport Americana Non-Sports Guide and Tucker & Simon's NSA Wrapper Guide also shows the same wrapper that I have above.  Todd Riley's www.non-sport.com site has a listing for both US and Canadian issues but the wrapper shown for each listing is the same as the one above as well. Finally, Chris Watson's Non-Sports Bible also shows the same wrapper as everyone else but has Canadian and US listings for the set (attributed to 1960).

I am going to assume, unless some other evidence turns up, that the Magic Funny Fortunes are a 1961 issue that was distributed in both the US and Canada using the same packaging. If there's more information out there, please let me know.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Game On

It's a lazy Boxing Day around the Main Topps Archives Research Complex kids (I write in advance usually) and I decided to do some maintenance on the blog. This mainly consists of fixing incorrect tags and little typos as I find them.  In the midst of this very low-level work I realized I had never devoted a full post to one of my favorite Topps insert sets of all time - the 1968 Baseball Game cards, which should really be referred to as Batter Up cards. I've touched on this set in a couple of "overview" posts, namely one on rewraps and another on the link between Topps and Ed-U-Cards but never on its own.

The set is widely known and collected of course, with Mantle and Clemente being the key cards in a set of 33 that features well composed color portraits of each player. One card was inserted into mid-series wax and cello packs:


Is it just me or does that look like Yogi Berra?  The game is pretty self explanatory but just in case...


You were on your own with the rules if you got your cards in the cello packs:



I'm sure many cello packs have the card inserted face out but that seems to be the prevalent side from what I can tell.

Great look to these:


I chose Davis as my example for a reason, which we will get to momentarily. You can see how the game worked just by looking at the card. You can also see the typical Topps funky cut at what is almost the apex of the card.  Centering issues plagued Topps for decades and their insert sets were even worse in this regard than the regular issues.  You can see the Davis is well off center, the reverse tells the tale too, although it's quite interesting in any event:


I love the little Topps baseballs.  The design resembles but does not mimic the 1951 Blue Backs. 

I linked above to the Batter Up game that Topps sold as a standalone set but will show the box proof here again as it's a beaut:


Yes, two different price points on the same sheet! Either is difficult, I think the 10 cent variety is the tougher of the two but it's quite hard to find either. I don't have the box myself but Friend o'the Archive Bob Fisk sent me a scan of one yonks ago, 15 cent variety:


The box back indicates it was printed no later than 1969, given the Brooklyn address and we can narrow it even further as you will see below:


My guess is the game just collected unused inserts and was test marketed in late in the 1968 season, which ties in to one of two reasons why I chose Tommy Davis as a representative example.  He was traded by the Mets to the White Sox on December 15, 1967 for Tommie Agee and Al Weis in a move that would ultimately cement the 1969 Mets championship, so technically speaking, Davis was a member of the White Sox when the set was issued, although he's clearly in Mets duds on the card. If you look at the team checklist below, you will see the Mets are the only team without a player in the set. (Correction 1/14/17: The ever vigilant Keith Olbermann advises Davis is in Dodger duds)You could make an argument for Rusty Staub as an Expo and even Davis as a Pilot if the set was boxed for resale in 1969 since both were capless, but there were really no players shown who could have been Royals or Padres so I say the Batter Up set is definitely from 1968.

It's a great little set, easy to collect as it's remarkably plentiful and the rounded corners a thick gloss help protect these babies.

Here are alphabetical and team checklists for your viewing pleasure:

1 ALOU MATTY PITTSBURGH PIRATES
2 MANTLE MICKEY NEW YORK YANKEES
3 YASTRZEMSKI CARL BOSTON RED SOX
4 AARON HANK ATLANTA BRAVES
5 KILLEBREW HARMON MINNESOTA TWINS
6 CLEMENTE ROBERTO PITTSBURGH PIRATES
7 ROBINSON FRANK BALTIMORE ORIOLES
8 MAYS WILLIE SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
9 ROBINSON BROOKS BALTIMORE ORIOLES
10 DAVIS TOMMY CHICAGO WHITE SOX
11 FREEHAN BILL DETROIT TIGERS
12 OSTEEN CLAUDE LOS ANGELES DODGERS
13 PETERS GARY CHICAGO WHITE SOX
14 LONBORG JIM BOSTON RED SOX
15 HARGAN STEVE CLEVELAND INDIANS
16 CHANCE DEAN MINNESOTA TWINS
17 McCORMICK MIKE SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
18 McCARVER TIM ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
19 SANTO RON CHICAGO CUBS
20 GONZALEZ TONY PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
21 HOWARD FRANK WASHINGTON SENATORS
22 SCOTT GEORGE BOSTON RED SOX
23 ALLEN RICHIE PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
24 WYNN JIM HOUSTON ASTROS
25 ALLEY GENE PITTSBURGH PIRATES
26 MONDAY RICK OAKLAND ATHLETICS
27 KALINE AL DETROIT TIGERS
28 STAUB RUSTY HOUSTON ASTROS
29 CAREW ROD MINNESOTA TWINS
30 ROSE PETE CINCINNATI REDS
31 TORRE JOE ATLANTA BRAVES
32 CEPEDA ORLANDO ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
33 FREGOSI JIM CALIFORNIA ANGELS

Alphabetical:

4 AARON HANK ATLANTA BRAVES
31 TORRE JOE ATLANTA BRAVES
9 ROBINSON BROOKS BALTIMORE ORIOLES
7 ROBINSON FRANK BALTIMORE ORIOLES
3 YASTRZEMSKI CARL BOSTON RED SOX
22 SCOTT GEORGE BOSTON RED SOX
14 LONBORG JIM BOSTON RED SOX
33 FREGOSI JIM CALIFORNIA ANGELS
19 SANTO RON CHICAGO CUBS
13 PETERS GARY CHICAGO WHITE SOX
10 DAVIS TOMMY CHICAGO WHITE SOX
30 ROSE PETE CINCINNATI REDS
15 HARGAN STEVE CLEVELAND INDIANS
27 KALINE AL DETROIT TIGERS
11 FREEHAN BILL DETROIT TIGERS
24 WYNN JIM HOUSTON ASTROS
28 STAUB RUSTY HOUSTON ASTROS
12 OSTEEN CLAUDE LOS ANGELES DODGERS
16 CHANCE DEAN MINNESOTA TWINS
5 KILLEBREW HARMON MINNESOTA TWINS
29 CAREW ROD MINNESOTA TWINS
2 MANTLE MICKEY NEW YORK YANKEES
26 MONDAY RICK OAKLAND ATHLETICS
23 ALLEN RICHIE PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
20 GONZALEZ TONY PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
25 ALLEY GENE PITTSBURGH PIRATES
1 ALOU MATTY PITTSBURGH PIRATES
6 CLEMENTE ROBERTO PITTSBURGH PIRATES
17 McCORMICK MIKE SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
8 MAYS WILLIE SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
32 CEPEDA ORLANDO ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
18 McCARVER TIM ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
21 HOWARD FRANK WASHINGTON SENATORS

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.