Saturday, September 14, 2019

Wrappers Delight

I'll spare you all the historic details of the Star Wars movie franchise and lengthy history of the Topps sets issued in the wake of the world's most popular Space Opera saga (40 plus years strong and counting) but do want to focus on an esoteric issue from 1978 today.  Commonly referred to as Star Wars Movie Photo Pin-Ups, Topps printed 56 different images on the backs of sugar free gum wrappers in 1978 as the frenzy around the first Star Wars movie (now known as "A New Hope") continued unabated.

These interior wrapper images are nothing special and were clearly just pumped out with very little editorial effort:



These measure about 2 7/8" x 3 5/16" once opened and flattened but the real money shots are the four exterior wrapper varieties:


Also of particular interest to me, is the little production rip along the blank edge of these wrappers (which images come from, I believe the Twitter feed of one "Mr. Non-Sports"), although where R2-D2 has gotten to, I'll never know.  I've covered this rip in depth previously here and keep progressing the end date for same as I examine newer sets.  The rip is not from opening the packs but rather a result of the packaging process at the factory.  I'll leave it to you all to determine if this should hugely impact the grading of such affected items but it's interesting that the original equipment used to produce the first Topps confections in 1938 was still in use forty years later.  It was described as "ancient" by Topps in 1938 so its exact age is far older.

The box is pretty nice too:


I grabbed that from www.chrismonin.com and you should head over there is you want more details on this set as he has an exhaustive page on it with the full set illustrated along with plenty of ancillary material.

As noted by Mr. Monin, the set didn't sell well and it's not all that easy to find these days.  The real standout though, is a bit of a Topps anomaly, namely a full box wrapper:


The trumpeting of the lack of saccharin was a direct result of of the Saccharine Study and Labeling Act of 1977, which required warning labels for products using this artificial sweetener. I'm not sure if this extra wrap was to maintain the freshness of the gum, draw attention to the lack of saccharin or some kind of attention grabber for the retailer but it's pretty neat no matter what its purpose.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Nice Pull

So I managed to glom another 1968 3D card in the latest REA extravaganza and it's got two characteristics that intrigue me, although since I collect 60's and 70's Mets cards, it's really three characteristics.  I'll leave it at the first two for this post though for you non-Mets fans.

Here is one of the heroes of Game 4 of the 1969 World Series, pre-Miracle:


We will come back to the front momentarily. The back is reason No. 1 I wanted this specific card.


We've seen those stamps here previously and they also come in black.  The auction in question featured one back with a black stamp (Fairly "No Dugout" variation) and a whopping eleven with the red version, including the "Dugout" version of Fairly.  The Clemente was lacking the stamp, otherwise there would have been a complete set of reds, which is the most I have ever seen in one place.

By the way, a master set, per Keith Olbermann, includes five variations (Fairly, Maloney, Flood, Powell and Staub), all of which can come with either a red or black stamp to boot, although only blank backs would have been included in the Topps test packs.

Take a look at that lower left corner of the card front.  You can clearly see two "pull" marks:


Those are similar to those found on my Maloney "No Dugout" card:


The two marks on Maloney are spaced farther apart so I don't think they represent damage from a "grabber" used after the cards were cut apart.


They likely do however, represent a problem related to the cutting process, where portions of the ribbed lenticular coating used to create the 3D effect would pull away from the surface during production.  I suspect problems like this (and expense) contributed to the demise of this set, rather than just a poor test response.  Just look at the long run of Kellogg's 3D cards from 1970-83 and aftermarket interest in this set to gauge what the interest level could have been.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Bunning Stunts

Holey moley kids,a longstanding question has been answered by the recently concluded Robert Edward Auctions summer extravaganza!  A "second series" press sheet finally reveals who replaced No. 145 Ed Bouchee in the set.  Bouchee, you will recall, was arrested and convicted for exposing himself after the 1957 season ended.  He ended up in a psychiatric hospital for a spell, was sentenced to probation and rejoined the Phillies mid-season.  Topps pulled his card, eradicated him from the checklist and double printed another in his place.

Thanks to this amazing press sheet we now know who replaced Bouchee! Scope it out for yourself:


I believe this is the series 2 "A" sheet as the left side looks pretty good, whereas the right side looks like a three year old cut it.  The pattern is A/B/A, with each letter representing an iteration of four 11 card rows.  These are usually identical in their composition as the "B" sheet would use a B/A/B pattern to make up a full 88 card press run.  Thanks to this pattern we can see that #115 Jim Bunning was double printed to replace Bouchee in the "B" block.  Here is a closeup:


One of those Bunning cards replaced Bouchee's!

This sheet also confirms the Theory of Checklist Relativity, where Topps would run off 110 different cards on the first series sheets but only show #1-88 on the first series checklist (and all the succeeding Checklists, saving a full press run in the process over the course of the season.  1958 resolves in Series 5 because I believe the original intent was to issue 440 cards but Topps signed Stan Musial that summer and rushed a series of All Stars, nobodies and has-beens, so it was the semi-high series thereafter. Here is how it worked in 1958:



SERIES
       PRESS
         RUN 
LIST SAYS 
DIFF.

1 1 - 110 1-88 22
2 111 - 198 89-176 22
3 199 - 286 177-264 22
4 287 - 374 265-352 22
5 375 - 440 352-440 0
6 441 - 495 441-495 0

They used this lagging gimmick into 1966, nice little sales stimulator there Topps!

UPDATE 9/2/19-Reader Eric Loy pointed out in the comments there is  projection difference in the two Bunnings.  The one in row 2 has more of the "t" in "Detroit" showing while the one in row 4 has less and is shifted slightly leftward. 

Here they are, first Row 2's version:





Then Row 4's:


Thanks Eric!

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Litoven's First

I am back from a very enjoyable three days at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago (my 8th overall and 4th in the City of Big Shoulders).  I ate quite well, drank a little bit of cheer and hung out with many of my friends in what has become a biennial ritual.  I wish I could say the selection of esoteric vintage Topps cards and ephemera was arrayed in spades but alas, I cannot.  Most of the good stuff is routed to auctions these days and the trend is definitely toward more modern cards at the moment, which was amply evident at the Natty.  I found a few oddball items but nothing of note.  My friend Ryan Christoff, on the other hand, made a purchase that still boggles my mind. I am talking of none other than a 1968 Venezuelan Baseball album!

Check this bad boy out:


The Rookie Award trophy indicates to me this was likely a legit album, much like the one issued in 1966, although that one replicated the full Topps packaging design.  There are also Venezeulan albums from 1964 and '67. I'm not sure of the legitimacy of either but they do exist (even though I don't have a scan of the '64 edition).

The '68 Venezuelan's (370 across four series) were manufactured in Caracas by C.A. Litoven, as shown on the back of this card:


Here's the easier to read indicia


The back of the album is interesting as it appears to advertise a competitor's product I make it as Gonzalez y Cia), namely an orange gum:



I only managed a couple of interior shots:


It took some effort to create the album; these were not just blank pages.


This was it for Topps in Venezuela; bootlegs would be created in the 70's that were passed off as or assumed to be officially licensed Topps product but it's all BS after 1968.

Josh Alpert, who along with John Rumierz is the king of Venezuelans, also posted some shots and commentary over at Net54.  We took these pictures around the same time at the National (Hi Josh!) but his came out better than mine!


Saturday, August 17, 2019

Tons Of TV Fun

There are some Topps sets that live multiple lives.  Topps was an international company very early on in their history, well before they started putting cards into packs and by the mid 70's were established in a couple of dozen countries at least, usually through local licensing deals. Licensees used Topps artwork from US sets for the most part, although sometimes it was the opposite (like the Beatles B&W sets they rushed out in the US that originated in the UK). You could easily fill a book with how they did business in the UK alone during this time.  Canada though, was always their go to secondary market, through a long time association with O-Pee-Chee, of London, Ontario.

I've been trying to piece together a rather devilishly related grouping of cards that start with the 1968 Topps Crazy TV test set and also two semi-related issues with a decidedly Canadian bent.

What I can tell you about Crazy TV is that it was tested in the US as a 22 card set (skip-numbered to 55) and then reissued twice, with at least one reissue probably just relegated to the purgatory of Topps Fun Packs; both reissues were 22 cards in length. There is some packaging material out there and I will address this aspect at the end of this post.

The original test of Crazy TV  (referred to as Type 1)  had a wood grained front and a finished back that presented a humorous cartoon gag under the guise of TV Knock-Knocks, which appeared in an "orange"colored scheme that I don't think is really "salmon" (as per most guides).  There is also a version (Type 2) with identical fronts (wood grain) to the finished cards but with a blank back that is white, possibly indicating a proof, possibly not.  The third type of Crazy TV has a coral colored obverse, with a plain brown back that shows signs of having been in a wax pack. The coral color is darker than the traditional salmon Topps used in the late 60's that allegedly appears on the back of the Type 1 cards and also some other sets that Topps definitely put into Fun Packs.

Here are the various variants:

Type 1, the "regular" test issue and it's more "orange" reverse:



Type 2, possibly a proof with this white back:



Type 3, in "Coral" with a tan/brown back that looks to have been issued in a wax pack:



In terms of lightest to darkest colors, I see Salmon, then Orange in the middle and then the darker Coral. Its hard to tell from my scans but "Gut Smart" is darker than (the pretty racist) "Eye Spy" and it's quite obvious when you compare the two in person.  We'll get to Salmon momentarily but need to go north of the border first, then nip south again before heading north one last time.

As far back as when I first cracked my earliest non-sports reference books--the Sport Americana guides of the late 80's early 90's--I have struggled to understand why Crazy TV, a series called Knock-Knocks (note the lack of a "TV" prefix) and another called Ton O' Laffs have all been lumped together under the Crazy TV rubric but thanks to Friend o'the Archive Terry Gomes, who is deep into Canadian card research and wrote a comprehensive article on the various Ton O' Gum issues that appeared in The Wrapper #299, I now have a clearer understanding.

Terry sent a scan of the US Ton' O Gum wrapper that was an illustration for his Wrapper article.


That commodity code indicates the product was greenlit in 1968 by Topps and in fact, the original iteration of Ton O' Gum may have been a US test of the larger Bazooka slabs that followed in the 70's. I make it to be from 1968-69.

Check out this link to Worthpoint, showing a US pack contents, namely two wood grain Crazy TV cards (there are two different "Gut Smart" cards in the set), two Ton O' Laffs and a single Knock-Knocks. All the non-Crazy TV cards are red bordered so I guess when Topps dropped the "TV" from the name they changed the color from orange too. In fact, Terry purchased this exact pack and opened it but that is not his scan! He has advised all cards in the pack were blank backed, so the Crazy TV examples are type 2.


Now, in Canada, OPC issued Ton O' Gum multiple times, running from roughly 1968-69 to 1977-78. They also introduced Grape and Cherry flavors, mirroring the Bazooka marketing in the lower 48 and Terry has tracked 17 wrapper variants for OPC!  They mucked around with the orientation as well.  First, various wrappers; later ones use grams to measure the gum weight and tend toward the horizontal, those with no weight seem to be "middle period". I found most of these on the web, Terry supplied the final one below:





I spy a Ton O' Laffs card, more on that in a bit.

Got any grape?






You can see a card through the back of this pack too.

Cherry seems to have come last and does not seem to have been issued in a vertical pack format:



Yes another card. Hang tight, almost there, gotta get to the day-glo eye-popper from Terry first!


Far out man!

OK, so you got one card (sometimes 2, sometimes none per Terry) with your slab of gum.  These were red bordered Ton O'Laffs backed by Rigolons (a French translation of Ton O' Laffs) and the set is complete at 55 subjects. Terry sent me these to show:



John Bell's Canadian Non-Sports Catalogue indicates the packs sometimes came with two cards, one being an OPC Hockey card and Terry's article confirms it was of the 1974-75 variety. It's certainly an interesting way to burn off excess stock.


So here's the thing-there are versions of Ton O' Laffs (coral front, back is blank but from a wax pack) and Knock-Knocks (salmon front, tannish, unissued looking back) out there:



Seems to match the Coral Crazy TV, no?



Where did these come from then?  They are US issued, but when and where?  Both have 22 subjects, seemingly indicating test status. The coral colored cards must have been issued together, perhaps in Fun Packs. But these salmon Knock-Knocks are mystifying me and are definitely not from the coral Ton O' Laffs school. Is there yet another issue of these out there?!

Right now I count 8 different styles:
  • three Crazy TV (Types 1,2,3)
  • two Knock-Knocks (Red US, Salmon)
  • three Ton O'Laffs (Red US, Red Canadian with Rigolons reverse, Coral)
So which Crazy TV version came in this wrapper and this box? It seems like wood grain but the coloring is darker than on the cards:




That packs using that test wrapper likely were not issued in that box, which would have been designed for a full release to stores. In fact, that box may never have seen the light of day; these marked up proof flats often indicate an item was changed for the final version. Did a full retail release get canned at the last second?  Perhaps fallout from the 1967 Wacky Packages led to a fear of lawsuits if Crazy TV was given a full retail release? Did the pack have a Type 1 where the box was planned to hold a Type 3?  And why did each of the three Crazy TV printings result in 22 card, truncated and skip numbered sets all with the same subjects?

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Bazooka Box Bash!

One of my current projects is determining Bazooka packaging from 1947-56 as I slow roll the second edition of my book to the early years of Topps. Actually, I'm looking past that period as well as there are a number of box back sets issued in the 60's and early 70's that are not sufficiently documented in the hobby so I guess this is all part of one bigger quest.

Early (pre-1957) display packaging from Topps is very hard to find for the most part., with a couple of exceptions.  It's easier to find vending and cello packaging and display items as they were often generic in appearance and also seem to have been supplied to early hobby dealers such as Card Collectors Company.  Not a whole lot exists beyond wrappers and the occasional gum canister or counter display box and both can give us clues on dating.  A 1955 Bazooka 80 count box recently was up on eBay and it's worth a look I think, as it somewhat defies the norm.

It's a very basic box:


The cello window is interesting as it implies a need to keep the gum protected yet viewable. This seems like it was meant for either supermarkets or variety stores given the pricing circle implies you should be buying the whole shebang at once.  The Quality & Purity logo is something I am tracking, as it seems to have commenced being shown around 1949.  It even appears on an early paper Bazooka test wrapper,  possibly from '49 as well since prior to the summer of that year Bazooka was strictly sold in nickel form but the indicia is illegible on this scan, alas!

It's also possible it's from a later year but they style certainly suggests late 40's:


"The Atom" was used through mid-1958 so I would like to cipher when the Quality & Purity logo was discontinued to further narrow down the time frame for this and certain other issues.

As an aside, on the middle of the time spectrum were issues such as this, from a set I am pretty sure is not fully checklisted:


That missile was produced from 1956-61 so if the box front could be found, it would be nice to see what little logo might appear on it.  That scan and the one above comes from BFF o'the Archive Jeff Shepherd by the way.

More from our 1955 box, to show how things looked:


More slogans above and, crucially, a date on the bottom:


If anyone has Bazooka box scans from 1947 into the mid 70's, I am happy to accept them.  Likewise the old Topps sales catalogs, which are another elusive thing that is unbeatable for dating and identifying products.  I think they issued three or four different catalogs each year and I only have scans of a scant few.  The more the merrier!