Saturday, October 13, 2018

Stain Stick

I'll be posting a large number of real juicy scans of 1968 Giant Stand Ups soon thanks to a phalanx of JPEG's received from Friend o'the Archive Keith Olbermann but wanted to highlight something specific about the set today.

Despite extant (empty) retail boxes and (full) packs, the retail issuance of this set has been questioned by some as it's just so hard to find.  So what then does it mean when PSA has graded only 22 examples from this issue,wrongly ID'd as from 1967 to boot, inclusive of proofs? I think it means:

a) test issues are tough and;

b) any type of set that could be played with, punched out, peeled, scratched off or stood up is a lot harder to find in an otherwise apples-to-apples comparison than one that isn't and;

c) the set tested poorly.

There's some SGC slabs out there too but I can't make heads or tails of their pop report other than to note they have four Frank Howard examples graded (one is mine). But really, no matter how you slice it, not many of these things exists in the wild.

So anyhoo, take a gander at this Frank Robinson from the Olbermann collection:


Frank always seemed to be smiling! He's doing so here even though his reverse is gum stained:


So how did that stain get there if the set wasn't issued at some retail level?  And for that matter, how did poor Jim Fregosi get gum stained on the front:


Issued set, 1968.  Now, where did all those furshlgginer proofs come from?!

Saturday, October 6, 2018

What Year Is It?

Dating of certain Topps issues can be tricky, especially from about 1965 through the start of reliable real-time hobby press monitoring around 1980-81. Once they started gushing forth an unrelenting river of test issues and products around the time they moved from Brooklyn to Duryea (Winter of 1965-66), which seemingly coincided with Woody Gelman attaining huge artistic street cred with his brief hiring of Robert Crumb (also 1965), the confusion really started.

Prior to mid 1966, when they started the commodity code (and later "T" numbered test) system most of their testing was done with what became issued product, although sometimes tested in wrapper variants.  Friend o'the Archive Lonnie Cummins is doing some fantastic work deciphering all the codes and I am not going to step on his work but every once in a while a piece pops up that makes one reconsider an issue date.  I don't know why some of us obsess over the fact whether a card set came out in one year vs. the next year but we do. In reality, some issues would span two years or more while three "seasons" (Valentines Day, Hallowee'n, Christmas) would be defined by staccato bursts of issues, themed ones for the first and second and then a combination of rebagged, rewrapped and bulk product for the second and third. The one constant in this all, without full access to a run of Topps product catalogs, is that all evidence must be examined to come up with a proper date.

Take Comic Book Heroes. Now there's no artistic vision here at all and in fact it may be the most poorly illustrated set Topps ever issued outside of some tattoo issues. Featuring DC Comics superheroes mixed in with usual goofy array of subjects found in such sets, these cards also feature perhaps the worst rendition ever of Babe Ruth:


See?  Heinous. But note the 1966 copyright.  here's the other side which is actually the front:


This set is identified as being issued in 1966 in most guides.  But look the box bottom shows it's a 1967 release:


Here's a closeup of the commodity code:


The wrapper shows the 1966 copyright for the DC characters but no code.  It's a hybrid (or a mutant if you will):


Same 1966 copyright (hard to see but it's there) and no other dating information.  I suspect the wrapper design predated the introduction of the commodity codes and further that the set was probably intended to come out in 1966.  For some reason a delay occurred and it came out the following year.  That commodity code font on the box bottom is a little funky as well, so Topps was still tweaking things in 1966-67.

And not to leave you all hanging, here's some more box art, which is slightly nicer than what was on the cards: