Saturday, October 29, 2011


Still on a bit of a Hallowe'en theme, confectionery style, as I found this while trying to organize my hard drive.  I can't really add much to it as it speaks for itself except that I cannot recall my kids getting Bazooka in their candy sacks ever! We used to get the old five chew rolls or a regular tab on occasion but that practice seems to have passed.  Too bad.

Still, if you ever wondered how Bazooka was made, here is one version-enjoy:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

You Drive Me Ape, You Big Gorilla

While I never really have my scans and notes together at the right time to do too many topical posts, today I am breaking with that scattershot approach to take another look at the fairly amazing 1967 Topps Blockheads.

As noted previously, these were a series of a dozen Hallowe'en masks that were more like hats, with a couple of slits to allow the wearer to see the outside world.  The story is that the slits were too small to be safe and the issue was pulled.  I have never been able to verify that but it does make some sense.  There could also have been a public outcry against some of the designs, which in the typical Topps fashion of the time, celebrated certain vices a bit too boisterously for some folks.

Five of the masks popped up on Ebay recently and are worth a second look. There were at least three of one of them, #11 The Ape, all of which were missing one eye-slit punchout and were described as prone to such Cyclopean behavior.  The Ape is actually too big ( 14 7/16" x 8 3/4") to fit my scanner but I have nailed the Ebay scan to show what it looks like:

These are scarce but it turns out I overpaid as a group of four popped up afterwards from a different seller and went for a song (note to self, do not cancel eBay search after winning bid):

Clockwise from top left, those are:

#2 The Pirate
#3 Mad Scientist
#7 The Hippie
#12 The Skull

Between the knife clenched in the Pirate's teeth and the cigarette dangling from the Hippie's lips, there was enough to make a lot of parents peeved. Did this kill the set?

The backs are really great and show the level of detail that Woody Gelman was driving for:

The bandaids are a nice touch! I suspect those four examples were all from a single box, which would have held eight loose Blockheads, unwrapped and without gum for 15 cents apiece.  Chris Benjamin's Price Guide to the Non-Sports Cards No. 4, has a picture of the retail box:

The set, as I have written before, was repurposed into an issue called 3D Monster Posters. Benjamin also shows that retail box in his guide:

As very little is known about that set, I have to think they were just the same ol' Blockheads, renamed, based upon the box cover artwork and lower price point.  1968 would be the logical date of issue for the "posters". The fact all 12 poses were reiussed and no variations are known, would seem to support more of a poor sales scenario than a parents protest being responsible for the scarcity of these today.

Topps issued Hallowe'en and Monster themed sets from 1959 through about 1971 on an annual basis, although some sets were reissued from year to year, probably to sell off overstock. A similar run of Valentine's Day products coincided with these dates as well.  A lot of things changed at Topps after 1971 and they may not have issued similarly-themed Hallowe'en sets again until the reintroduction of Monster Initials in 1974.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sheer Strength

I finally got around to securing a solid scan from the Huggins & Scott site of the 1968 Topps 3D Prototype card of Brooks Robinson, thanks to an intervention from friend o'the archive Neal Kane.  The card sold for $27,500 without factoring in the buyer's premium and frankly I think it went a bit low, a sentiment echoed by a lot of other folks.  Still, almost $30K for a baseball card is pretty impressive!  Here is a real clear view of Brooksie:

The scans help clear up a little mystery I was poking around last time I posted on this card. It appeared the back was so sheer that it was either skinned or very transparent.  However, after seeing the catalog pictures and examining the back scan, it appears the harsh lighting at the National really allowed the card to seem like less than it was:

There is some foxing, especially along the bottom but the back looks pretty white.  I also took a closer look at the example shown in the Standard Catalog, as detailed here, and I think it is uncracked, meaning there are at least three examples out there.

In case you missed it, Jon over at the always excellent Fleer Sticker blog found the original source photo, which is as common as the prototype is rare.  Click on through to see.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Ripping Yarn

I ran across a scan of a pretty rare insert today, the 1959 Topps Elect Your Favorite Rookie, which was made of paper and inserted in packs touting the rookie team contest Topps used to hold annually.  The inserts are quite hard to find so scans are not easy to come by but the thing that caught my eye was the little rip at the top (or side, depending upon orientation):

You can see it just left of the fold.  It is exactly the same as the little rip on the 50's and 60's tatoo packs that I have long suspected were produced on the original Topps gum wrapping machine, first used by then in 1938 to wrap Topps Gum but likely decades older by the time it was put to use by the Shorin's.  You can see it a little better on the other side of the insert:

Bob Lemke has another scan of different one (an actual ballot) at his wonderful blog, take a look here.

Topps must have cut these on the same machine that they used for packaging the various tattoo and gum tab issues.  The rip is a byproduct of this process, most likely from the cutting stage, where I suspect a small pin held down the insert (or tattoo or gum wrapper) which would have been unspooling from a large roll while a cut was made and then the just-cut paper was dragged across the pin, leaving the rip as it moved on to the next phase of production.

While the insert contest and premium cards of the era probably were printed on and cut from the same size sheets used for the regular issues they were packaged with, this implies another process and possibly another location as I have a reasonable level of confidence this ancient machine resided on the first Topps production floor at 60 Broadway, Brooklyn and never left until it was decommissioned in the late 1960's.  When developers converted 60 Broadway to condos a few years ago, I wonder if they had to clear this old behemoth out? Old office furniture was found in the basement of another old Topps space at 134 Broadway during a similar conversion, so anything is possible!

Monday, October 17, 2011

What A Rush

I glommed this picture from a Legendary Auctions catalog a while back and have been trying to piece together what is an odd little puzzle, with a definite Valentine's Day flair.

The carton held all three of these boxes, all of which are 1970 in vintage .  The markings indicate it was a subscription series for a Novelty Assortment, which is not helpful, although the 2nd Series designation may mean a Christmas themed 1st Series was issued; certainly something came before. Would a 3rd Series have been for Hallowe'en?  I am thinking Topps was recycling some unsold Valentines cards from 1970; perhaps this was the norm for the holiday-themed sets?  The Valentines and Hallowe'en Topps issues of the 60's and 70's are not well documented, so anything is possible.

I am curious if other series were issued like this-any Archivists out there with some info?

Monday, October 10, 2011


Hot on the heels of my last post on the Topps Sports Club News 8" x 10" premium photos, the irrepressible Howard Schenker has sent along a scan of the Bobby Clarke photo:

You can see that the inscription is similar to the one on the Griese photo.  Now that is what I expected but when I went back to look at the Garvey photo at 1978, The Year It All Began,  it was lacking the inscription: and is "signed" in white ink, not black.  Gadzooks!

There is also a tagline I cannot make out in the lower right corner.  [Update 11/4/11: Howard Schenker comes through again-the tagline says Full-Color Print,Inc. (212 947-1060)]. The photos would come as part of a "kit" for each sport, something that will be looked at in a bit more detail once some more scans and recollections come in (and following a short break while me and Mrs. Archives visit the home of the National Archives this week).

I do want to try and find scans of the Joe Morgan and Dave DeBusschere photos; I am inferring their existence from other sites (that's why I stated "I think" in relation to the checklist) and would like to see the visual evidence of their existence. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

All The News

Topps launched a very high profile collectors club in 1975, although it is not too well known today.  Dubbed the Topps Sports Club, a coordinated effort across all four sports brands was launched, with wrapper side panels ads enticing kids to join. The ads were similar on each sports' wrapper:

The hockey panel is from the well-illustrated Vintage Hockey Collector Price Guide. The panel looks like it was identical on all four wrappers and it also came on the Mini Baseball pack as well.  $2.50 would get you in:

For the record, the mailing address was a loud shout from my childhood home. There was also at least one print ad, probably in Boy's Life magazine:

That is from the Project Baseball 1976 site by the way.  The newsletter that came with membership started off at 6 pages and then was winnowed down to four (UPDATE 4/18/24: The first issue was four pages, the second one had six).  I only have the second issue, which features 1975 Football:

As a bonus you got an 8" x 10" color photo of a popular superstar tucked away inside:

Griese is printed on very glossy, thin paper stock.  Other photos in the set seem to include Joe Morgan and Steve Garvey, Bobby Clarke and (possibly) Dave DeBusschere.  There could be more.  The Garvey and a little more backstory can be found here.

The project seems to have died out pretty quickly; I suspect the price was a little too steep for the times.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Long And Short Of It

I took a hard look at some data on the 1953-54 World On Wheels set recently to see what kind of patterns might emerge in my quest to determine how the two very short series of high numbers were distributed.  The most obvious pattern is that the first 80 cards are locked into a repeating series of eight cards based upon the color of the information box on the obverse.  This would follow a precedent set by the 1953 Topps cards, which were grouped by their obverse color blocks on the press sheets.  As there are no uncut WOW sheets that I am aware of, the 53's will have to serve to illustrate the principle:

It would appear that it was preferable, at the time, to group large blocks of color together, even if it meant the backs would have to be coordinated with the fronts and half would have to be printed upside down:

The next year, Topps would print the 54's in a way that I think illustrates how the WOW sheets would have been composed:

Notice how the predominant pattern is grouping of the background colors into clusters of eight; World On Wheels first 80 cards follow this type of grouping as well.  To refresh your memory, here are the first 8 cards in the set:

In addition the first eighty cards of WOW consists of subgroups of 4 that have two full bleed tops and one left side block and one right side block, except for the final group (red) that has no full bleeds.  All three main types of vehicles (Sports/Speed, Antique and Modern) are well represented in this first group of 80.  Sporty or Speedy cards have full bleeds, although Topps screwed up one or two.  Antiques and Modern cards have partial color blocks.  In case you are wondering, there are 56 sporty/speedy cards, 67 antique and 57 modern in the full set.

The next group of 12 cards then follows a pattern of 2 reds, 2 greens, 2 pinks, 2 yellows, then 4 consecutive blues, all but one of which (a sole antique model) shows a modern car and mostly the 1953 models at that.  This color pattern then almost repeats over the next 12 cards. But 12 is unwieldy and if you are counting along at home that brings us to 104 cards. That certainly seems at odds with the logic of the design of the sheet since after #100 the mix of the three car groups returns. However, if you divide the blues into two groups of 2, the pattern reverses and runs blue, yellow, pink, green, red, resting at #100 with not a post 1953 model in sight. All well and good but the earlier of the two wrappers clearly advertises the set as covering the period of 1896-1954:


Since Topps press sheets were actually two 100 card half sheets printed together on a 200 card master sheet at the time, my guess is that the first 80 WOW cards were printed on both of the 100 card half sheets with 20 slots left available on each.  One sheet would have a run from #81-100 then, while the other could have had a single printed run of #161-170 on it, with another 10 cards from the #1-180 run overprinted,  or perhaps just a double printed run of these ten.  The first 100 cards of the set are quite easy but the scarcity of the high numbers makes it hard to believe a large run was issued of the ten high number cards.

So now I wonder if a second printing of the first 100 cards took place, without the 1954's included, or vice-versa.  When I was a kid, all the boys in the neighborhood would go nuts over the new car models introduced each fall. Had I been buying WOW cards in late 1953, I would have wanted a look at the 1954 models very badly. Topps may have made the cards showing these into an early version of a chase card, seeding very few of them in the packs.  Extrapolating further, having issued cards showing the 1954's, Topps then pulled them for another run solely of the first 100 cards and sold only this true first series in cellos, which would not have had the 1954 descriptor on the wrapper, just the generic Trading Card Guild logo or even nothing at all.

Starting at #101 the color patterns become more random but the left/right/two full bleed color blocking returns for a bit.  And then, at #125 we get a run of cards where the left and right bleeds become elongated, one each in a matched left and right combination, and ten in overall number, ending with a red grouping that concludes at #144.  This indicates a ten card grouping that could have been designed on the fly for some reason; maybe my first theory is wrong and the second series had the #161-170 cards mixed in where this grouping of ten elongated bleeds fell on the sheet but I suspect not.

Take a look at these two cards to see what I mean.  I'll show the normal "short"  bleed first, then an elongated one:

35% of the card top is white.  Most of these left/right bleeds in the set are this way.  But in our little ten card mini-run, they look like this:

Only about 20% is white.  To match up with the upside down red counterpart, another elongated left bleed card was needed.  I am not sure why this elongation occurred; perhaps it was designed after all the other cards had been finished.  Another oddity is that the rest of the low numbers that appear after #144 are all of the antique variety, all the way out to #160, somewhat mirroring the #81-100 run of modern cars.

Now at this point in the set we get to where #161-170 should be inserted but given that they are priced half again as much as the "super high's" that have blue backs, I don't think that they were printed after the first 160 cards.  What did come later were the 1955 model cards that comprise the super highs.  And thanks to Friend o' the Archive Lonnie Cummins, we have a wrapper that shows a date spread culminating in that year:

There would have been a nickel pack issued as well; the '55 dated wrappers are tough and not even John Neuner, the "Wrapper King" knew of them and they do not appear in the Non-Sport Archive wrapper book.  Remember that the last ten cards from #171-180 come in blue backs and much, much scarcer red backs.  Remember too that the color bleeds touching the left or right card edges on the first 170 card fronts do not fully extend to the edges on the last ten, nor does the big block with the card title on the back.  The last ten cards were clearly designed and printed in a different manner than the 170 that preceded them.  Let's look at the three varieties again, full bleeds first:

Then note the difference below with the color bar:

See how the bleed of the title color bar stops before it hits either the left or right edge?  The same thing occurs on the blue backed cards. 

All of the first 170 cards have full bleed color bars on the back. Now the switch to blue is a huge mystery, even to this day but this is just about as weird.  It's almost like they were printed with another set and shuffled into the WOW packs.  One issue that had a similar blue motif on the reverse was the 1955 All American set.  AA would have been printed right around the time the new 1956 models were introduced though, not the 55's. 

Pricing for the two high number series goes like this:

#171-180 Blue: Par but about 10-12x compared to #1-100.  #101-160 go for about 2x of the first series cards.
#161-170; 2x par
#171-180 Red: 3x par

Well, there is plenty still to ponder.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tying One On

OK, I am really punking out today and this will be a short post.  I am in the middle of putting together some more data on the 1953-54 World On Wheels set but it's gotten convoluted and won't be ready for few more days.  Instead I want to take a peek at the back of a pack, name 1968 Wise Ties, already covered here previously.

I purchased an unopened pack and was going to slice it open at a flap but thought better of it as the passage of 43 years has not weakened the glue one bit on this sucker:

Not only do you get a full checklist of ties on back, you get to see these were made in Hong Kong, famous for its fine haberdashers.    If you are wondering the pack measures 9 1/4 " x 3 13/16".  There is no production code, possibly due to Topps trying to import the product as a novelty or perhaps actual clothing. Actually, it's likely due to their no gum or candy being in the pack.

There have been some finds of these but I suspect mot remain sealed.  I still can't find a color scan of a tie out there in the wilds of the web.  Back atcha soon with some more WOW...