Saturday, January 11, 2020

Cello There

Some really nice vintage Topps cello packs popped up recently at REA's fall auction. They are killer items of course and sometimes they give a glimpse as to when certain inserts were popped into the packs. Plus they look great! This got me thinking about a look at some of these packs that didn't push gum and were "only" brimming with cardboard.

Topps issued Baseball cards in (mostly) 12 card cello wrapped packs from 1953 onward, although 1952 cellos are alluded to by both Darren Prince and Mark Murphy in their unopened pack guides, while it's unclear if any have been seen or photographed. PSA doesn't list any in their pop reports but a non-sports issue from that year, the massively overproduced Wings set, is there.

From 1953-57 Topps issued cellos in retail boxes using Trading Card Guild packaging. This 1953 box shows one way this was done, using clear cello wraps, which is how they were issued most years:


They continued apace in 1954-56 then in 1957 Topps put some graphics on the cellos, although I am not sure why but probably an early attempt at branding their various lines:


I'm not sure how 1958 and 1959 were handled by Topps.  They were dealing with a true geographic western expansion of the game past the Mississippi River and their distribution was getting pretty far afield. They issued cellos in these years but I'm not sure if they had ten cent retail boxes that used the Trading Card Guild (TCG) boxes, stuck them in "long sleeve" 29 cent rak paks or both. At a guess I'd say both.

1959 seems to be more abundant no matter how they were issued though and that year was a seeming high point in terms of the sheer number of cards issued in the 1950's measured against the US population. By 1960 those long sleeve raks were how a lot of cellos got distributed, still in generic red, yellow and blue TCG-style livery through at least 1962 and which I will get to in a jif.

Here's a 1961 cello, I can't seem to find any with the stamp inserts and Topps may have only included them in the wax packs:

 

1962 was a different story though:


 
(Courtesy Memory Lane)

Many cellos can be found "reversed," with the folds on the front of the pack.These are the Trading Card Guild colors I mentioned earlier along with the"long sleeve" rak paks (sports raks of the era named the sport instead of saying "Hobby Cards"):


Talk about burying the lead with the currency insert!

Retail cello boxes held 36 packs at this time. It looks like the rak headers went to a kind of hybrid look in '63 then in 1964 and '65 sometimes went to set specific graphics that mentioned the Trading Card Guild again; this bastardized rak packing lasted through 1967-ish. Check out this Topps sell sheet for 1963, courtesy of Friend o'the Archive John Moran:


I haven't had any luck finding a '63 cello with a Peel Off on the back and the insert marketing schemes by set and series seemed to vary each year in the 60's. I'll keep looking as I want to document more of these. 

Topps changed the cello livery in 1964 for Baseball.  It was a special year for Topps with the 1964 All-Star Game being held locally at Shea Stadium and they did a lot of extras that year - some big (1964 Giants) and some small, like mixing up the packaging:


I'm not sure if the cello material is a little stronger due to the coin duo inserted within but red is the theme here!  The back mentions Topps and not the Trading Card Guild:


Meanwhile, back in Liverpool, the cello boxes were still using leftover stock I guess:


(Courtesy Lelands)

But the Beatles Color Photo raks had a nice header and then some while still identifying the Trading Card Guild:


The '65 Baseball raks seem to be relatively hard to find (one is shown here, but here's a fugly reverse wrapped cello from the first series: 




1966 raks are much easier but we're here for the cello's:


It has nothing to do with this post really, but my dad was a teacher who brought home all the stuff he took away from his junior high students every three or four years when he cleared out his desk. When I was 10 or so, one of the items he hauled back home was a 1964 Jerry Lumpe card.  I thought his name was the funniest thing I had ever seen at the time.  

The back includes a Ruboff of Moose Skowron. Poor guy's upside down!


There were 120 Ruboffs that year, issued in their own series structure in a way, 20 or 24 at a clip just doing the math.

Anyhoo....sometimes it's what's not there that tells the tale. Check out this first series pack from 1967:

On the back?  Bupkis:



Just having the cards come out in the spring was enough incentive I guess.   Actually, Topps sometimes included inserts in the first series cellos and sometimes they did not. However, in 1967  the high numbers had an added extra.  Check out this amazing pack:


Doubly amazing actually as that Seaver rookie looks centered!  Underneath it all, was a Player Poster:


That browning seems to be caused by the acidic pulp paper used by Topps for the posters reacting with the adhesive holding the pack together. Other cellos from other years with different inserts don't exhibit this problem. 

From 1967-69 Topps issued 48 count cello boxes and went to the three pocket "loose" 3-cell rak pak style that didn't overwrap cellos anymore. 1970 brought the bigger 33 card cello packs that came in their own little box through 1972 and I'll pick up with the 1968-69 cellos next time out.

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