Monday, February 8, 2010

Team Building Exercise

Here is a rare one...

While I lost the scans in a hard drive meltdown a few years back, I managed to save a printout of an odd Ebay auction from about 2007. I should have bid higher than I did but that's spilt milk at this point.....Anyway I thought this card depicted a group of workers from an insurance company:

But for reasons that will be revealed below they actually worked for Topps and must have kept all those great mail in premiums flowing back in the day. Topps Teamates seems to be the name of the set based on the above but a look at the back reveals otherwise:

I'll decipher the back for you. On the left below the PREMIUM RECORDS banner we have some identification of the subjects and some amusing text. Below that we find out this is "# 14 in a series of 18." On the right we have the Grow Power logo which clearly has the old school Topps logo embedded within , plus the year.

I had never seen another auction of these until a recent search found an old Legendary Auction with some examples, described as:

"The rarest card set that Topps ever produced does not appear in any catalog listing. It is the incredibly rare "Topps Teamates (sic)" set from 1970, produced only for the employees of the Topps home office and never distributed outside the company's doors. It is labeled "Topps Grow Power '70" on the cards' reverse sides and was probably used to boost the spirit of the troops, promoting the team player aspect. The horizontal cards (approximately 4-5/8 by 2-1/2 inches) came as a set of 18, with each picturing the staff of one of Topps' main departments. The set is missing card #18, and has a duplicate of #4. It is quite possible that the employees traded cards with one another to get duplicate photos of their own department's staff. That scenario is more believable than the idea that Topps couldn't put an 18-card set together without error. Whatever the case, this set's duplicate is of the Art Department, that crazy bunch that was responsible for drawing, pasting, proofing, and polishing all those great sets from the 60's and beyond! It is particularly amusing that the only card in the set with a photographic flaw is that of the Art Department, the very department that was supposed to catch this type of error. The flaw appears to be a flame floating above the seated lady's head. Maybe it was on purpose? Maybe it was the fault of someone in the Production Department? Maybe it was the fault of the same guy that didn't know how to spell "teammates!?!" The absolute best feature of this set (other than the visions it conjures of all those freelance "underground comix" guys working in a button-down environment like this) is that the set features the rookie card of Product Development director Woody Gelman! That's right, he's pictured here with all of his staff, the card guru himself. You've heard all the stories about all of the wonderful products he designed for us. Now you can finally see what he looks like! This set is Topps' version of a High School Yearbook, and it offers a unique look into the offices of 1970. As we are with our own High School Yearbooks, it's probably a sure bet that no one at Topps would ever want these photos to again see the light of day! Near set of 18 (17 different) in NM condition."

The size is basically the same as the "tall boy" Topps cards issued in 1965 for Football and 1969 and 1970 for Basketball. Here is the Art Department in all their glory:

Woody Gelman is depicted on this baby! I have an idea which one is Woody but want to compare some old pictures first. If you have a clue, chime in!

By the way, SCP Auctions had a similar set (maybe complete) around the same time that sold for about double the price of the one above. I doubt more than 100 of these sets were printed, maybe less and find it intriguing two came up for auction in the same time frame.


Anonymous said...

Oh wow. I love off the wall sets but this is off the HOOK! Very cool! Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Dave, another great item that I've never seen. Love the art dept picture.

Jeff Shepherd said...

tough to tell, but that could be him sitting down in the background.