Monday, March 30, 2009

Foiled Again

Well, pursuant to my last post, I have not had any luck tracking down a 1949 Topps Golden Coin yet but I did manage to obtain the reissued It Happened To A President Wrapper from Topps Canadian partner O-Pee-Chee. For some bizarre reason, the 1956 US presidential election was thought to be a good topic for a Canadian bubble gum set. Why? I have no idea.

As you will see below the Golden Coin wrapper issued by OPC was similar to the Topps issue seven years earlier. There are some differences though.

The OPC wrapper itself is taller (in the front orientation) and measures almost 5 inches. In addition the 1789 and 1949 dates have been obliterated and replaced by the price in the upper left and right lozenges. The "33"(representing the number of presidents through Truman) on the bottom lozenges have been replaced by an eagle motif.

Here is the 1949 Topps:

And the '56 OPC:

Notice too the "signature" of Topps Chewing Gum remains intact.

The comics in 1956 had a red coloring added to them:

It didn't make the set any less goofy but the coloring gives it a little fresher look than plain old sepia would have.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Once again we take the WABAC machine to 1949, a favorite place of mine, to explore the three wrapper interior sets Topps issued sixty years ago.

I have already extolled the virtues of the Willard Mullin Spalding Sports Show wrappers previously but fear not, intrepid reader, there are more wonders to be seen. To refresh your memory, the set designated R414-1 by Jefferson Burdick looked like this:

The Atom Gum wrapper would be seen again, namely backstopping a hard to find set called Famous Events (R711-4).

This set potentially features at least 365 wrapper interiors but it's anyone's guess how many were actually issued. Friend O' The Archives Jeff Shepherd has told me that there is at least one date with two events, so it's a mystery altho' Jeff is trying to track them all down. The horoscope-like sayings are a bit odd methinks.

The exterior wrapper looks identical to the one used for Mullin's cartoons and I'm only showing it because it's clearer than the other scan:

If you had a nickel to spend, Topps had a big bar of bubble gum for you, plus a bizarrely narrated set entitled It Happened To A President (seriously, check out the stuff these guys are saying !) and sporting an ACC number of R711-5.

Presumably the set goes all the way up to President Truman. Here is the outer wrapper, quite gorgeous isn't it?

The Golden Coin wrapper is over 6 1/4" x 4 1/2" in size, so that must have been one whopping piece of bubble gum in there! The coins are described in various references as being made of a bronze colored plastic and there is a relationship to a premium set of metal coins (also called Golden Coin) given away by gas stations and who knows what other establishments in the 40's and 50's. The coins (both types) and presumably the wrapper interiors were updated for the 1956 election when O-Pee-Chee reissued It Happened To A President, with a distinct red tint, in Canada of all places.

I'm working on getting scans up of the coins and the OPC wrapper (hopefully) soon, watch this space!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Winners Re-Revisited

Mere days after I last posted about the 1971 Topps Winners set, some new information has come to light. In a post on the Network 54 Vintage Non Sports board, four additional names have been added to the checklist. I wish I had scans but for now text will have to do. Our new additions are:

Lisa C. Bole
Jeff Hooper
Darren K. Lazzari
Christine Ulicny

You will note if you follow the Net 54 link that 14 cards may comprise the full set. I'll try to get scans up if any get sent to me.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Zest for Cleanliness

In the 1970's Topps was trying to expand their offerings into the Spanish speaking community, both here in the lower 48 and Mexico. Having issued (licensed) versions of their regular baseball sets sporadically in Venezuela over a dozen years or so starting in 1959, Topps worked on marketing in Mexico in the mid 70's, resulting in three hybrid sets being distributed. I discussed these three sets here a little while back. The time frame on the three Mexican sets seems to be centered on 1977. After that eventful year, Topps took a different approach in 1978 and concentrated efforts on a Procter & Gamble promotion for Zest Soap.

Featuring five well known Hispanic players, this small set was issued in cello packs via a mail-in promotion (they were not available with the product, as I once thought). (UPDATE (/5/23: As per this post over at, it seems they were indeed available in retail packs of soap). Four of the five players had poses identical to their regular 1978 Topps card. One other, Willie Montanez, had been moved in a four team trade prior to the 1978 season and ended up with the Mets. Originally he was with the Braves so far as Topps was concerned:

The back of his regular issue card is useful for comparison purposes, as we shall see below since all five players in the Zest set had bilingual card backs and lost the trivia quiz on back in order to show the MLB logos.

You can see the different front used for Montanez:

The centering and miscutting issues plague the regular issue baseball cards as well in 1978.

The was a very interesting thread on the Collectors Universe boards last year concerning these cards and Perry Andrews (that's his watermark below on the scans, btw) actually had scans of the mail in card for the set:

The last post in the CU thread gives some nice background on the marketing of the set.

Centering issues aside, it's a compact, affordable set even though it is not really known in the mainstream. Ten bucks will likely get you a full set still wrapped in cello if you look hard enough.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Winners Revisited

I posted a couple of times last year about the 1971 Topps Winners set and the alternate 1971 baseball box that hosted the contest allowing some youngsters to have their very own baseball cards. You can click here and here for more on the back story.

After my recent southern sojourn, I returned to the Topps Archives Research Complex to find a box of auction winnings. Within were ten of these elusive cards, possibly comprising a full set. Based upon some astute comments left against my original post, it appears the contest was conducted in the Pittsburgh area but it is still not 100% certain this was the only area.

The lack of baseball poses on some cards is confusing as my impression was this was a baseball themed contest:

These two cards have an early 70's vibe but for different reasons:

Two classic poses here:

Jerry is new to this blog but for Ricky, third time is the charm:

And lastly, the last two, exhibiting similar production flaws such as fish eyes and miscuts as found in the regular baseball cards:

The backs are similar in most cases and likely depended upon a form filled out by the winner, resulting in less information for some than others:

I find the change in fonts slightly odd and am unsure of the significance. The only major change in backs otherwise is on our catcher from above, perhaps his handwriting was not legible enough for Topps to decipher everything:

I wonder if this is the entire set?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Luck Has Nothing To Do With It

Just a quick post today as I prepare to head south for a week. In these turbulent times, I figured we could all use a little help so take heart folks, there is luck in the air!

In 1957 Topps inserted a card in their baseball packs (and football and non-sports as well) that offered a Lucky Penny premium for the youth of America to own so they would always have some funds on hand.


I suspect the part about holding keys would soon prove false but hey, luck is what you make of it. Here is the premium, less-than-attractively packaged from some long lost auction but which shows the obverse:

Blony was Bowman brand of bubble gum cross-marketed with Bazooka after the Bowman purchase in early 1956 and was sold into the early 60's. Either way, it looks like the luck of the Irish would be with you no matter which chew you favored.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Jumping Through Hoops

After a couple of tries with tall boy cards in 1965 in their Hockey (the '64-65 cards were most likely issued in January of 1965) and Football lines, Topps finally found a sport worthy of the format in 1969. After an 11 year hiatus, interrupted only by a rare test issue in 1968, Topps issued a 99 card set of basketball cards in 1969.

Before we get to that, here is a peek at the 1968 test cards, of which only 22 players were printed. It is believed less than a dozen sets of these exist.

The backs of the test cards yielded a pretty nice action shot of Wilt Chamberlain, which you can see was taken from the front of his card. Topps was still digging the B&W in '68!

(Images from

I have seen reference to an insert for this set as well, which allegedly consists of a booklet with playing tips. I will have more on the '68 set at some point down the road but the design clearly was amped up for the 69's.

Buoyed by the Milwaukee Bucks signing of New York City high school phenom and UCLA superstar Lew Alcindor, whose services were also sought after by the ABA's New Jersey Nets and the Harlem Globetrotters, Topps issued a 99 card set of NBA players forty years ago that measured a healthy 2 1/2" x 4 3/4". Lew had not yet played a pro game but appeared in the '69 set:

Lew is but one of many rookie cards issued in 1969 and the set is considered to be a classic.

For some reason, the Norm Saunders website has some box graphics for this set, perhaps he worked on the design.

The wrapper was not as action packed but nice enough, despite the palming violation:

(Images from

This uncut sheet scan was on my hard drive but I have no idea where it came from, nor why I cannot make the font any bigger:

You can see the checklist card in the lower right corner. It is a very tough card to find centered and its position on the sheet is the most likely reason for this. I suspect a complementary sheet was arrayed to the left of this one on the master 198 card uncut sheet (check out the left border).

The tall boy concept also carried over to the year's inserts, a set of posters that resembled rulers and were almost 10" high. There were going to be 24 posters but Bill Russell retired and his ruler (#5) was pulled.

(From Jim at Net54)

To spice things up, there may have been a wood grained series of proof cards produced in '69, almost certainly never released in packs. I have never seen visual evidence though.

Topps would continue the tall boy basketball cards the following year and expand their offering to include a second series.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Stock It To Me

Like a bowl of soup, a bubblegum card needs some good stock in order to be considered palatable. Topps generally would use three types of stock for their regular issue sets: gray, cream or white. Sometimes I would imagine which particular stock was used to print a certain set had more to do with what was lying around the warehouse or available cheaply from their print supplier than with aesthetics. Rightly so, since the profit margins involved in the confectionery/card trade could be somewhat woeful from year to year. Usually though, only one card stock would be used per set. In 1960, the Topps baseball cards used three, sometimes all in the same series.

This handy chart details which series had which color of stock on the reverse:

More on this phenomenon below but the fifth series is the one where all the action is. If you look at how the cream and gray backs hop around, you unlock the secret of the uncut sheets. 110 cards were printed first, then runs of 88 in the next three series. Starting with series 5, only 66 cards per series would have been printed as the season concluded.

But first, while everybody surely knows what they look like, here is a representative example of a 1960 Topps card:

Topps used a variety of obverse designs, many of them grouped together. You had your Rookie cards:

Your Rookie All Stars:

Your Regular All Stars:

Your World Series cards:

Your Manager cards:

Your Coaches cards:

And your Team cards, front:

And back, with Checklist (the last year Topps would use the team cards for this purpose):

You will notice that the 5th series on the checklist runs from 353-429 but the fact of the matter is that they were printed as shown in the chart above. Topps would often create arbitrary series runs so that you were getting a preview of the next series and this would result in a mix of fourth and fifth series cards in a fourth series pack, to cite one possible example. They would refine (and complicate) this practice in the coming years and when I finally have my head wrapped around that, it will be featured in what will likely be my longest blog post of all time. But that is for another day, far, far away.

In addition, there were some multi-player cards, one of which is quite useful to show the three types of card stock used by Topps.

Card #399 is ordinary enough-three young pitchers captured in all their glory:

But the back tells a different story. All three stock variations can be seen clearly here and in order they are gray, cream and white:

The cream is a little hard to pick up in a scan but it is a distinct shade when compared to the other two. This is not the first time Topps did this and I plan to explore this in conjuntion with some earlier sets very soon but for now I'll keep my secrets.

Cards from 287-374 also have another difference, black printing of the player's name on back where it is white in all of the other series. I don't know why this happened as it was not continued but you can see it makes things more legible:

It is entirely possible all of these differences can be explained as something that occurred due to three different printers being used in 1960. In light of what has come out about print subcontracting work in the 1962 set it would not surprise me.

Here is a look at a partial uncut sheet before I sign off. Nice, huh? No idea where I got the scan from (sorry).

As I was researching this post, I noticed Cardboard Junkie just posted about this set, albeit from a different perspective. Great minds think alike!