Saturday, January 28, 2012

Alternate Reality

Well kids, thirty years later a partial solution to the second 1967 baseball high number sheet has been revealed. A Current Friend o'the Archive sent along a partial sheet scan of the top three rows on the alternate sheet.

To refresh your memories, the 12 rows on the known full sheet were printed in this order (SP = Single Print, DP = Double Print):


Given the disconnect between that array and what has been shown in the major price guides as purported double prints, the second sheet has always been the key to determining which numbers were printed more often than the other high numbers.  This new information is not what I expected,as the upper left corner shows:

The top row matches the other sheet (DP1) but the next row is SP1 on the other sheet and it appeared as the seventh row previously.  The real kicker is the DP1 row repeating again so soon.  We get:


That's now four "Pinson rows" over two sheets. Now the question is what do the other nine rows look like on this alternate sheet?  My theory on overall print totals per row over both sheets remains intact but I suspect there is at least one more surprise on that second sheet.  The above sheet is a finished proof by the way, meaning the backs were printed as well.  Finding/figuring the next nine rows could take another thirty years!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

All Business

On the rare occasions that I decide to plumb the depths of my hard drive looking for stray scans that have been misfiled, possibly due to various degrees of being overserved or underfed, something pretty cool usually turns up.  Tonight is no exception as this little guy magically appeared as I was looking for some long lost documents somewhere to the right of what used to be the C:/ prompt:

Don't bother calling, the number has been long disconnected from the Topps switchboard.

A couple of clues can help us date this card.  First off, Topps started using the "Topps" name on their Bazooka penny packs in mid-1958; before that it said "The Atom", as in "The Atom Bubble Gum". With nuclear annihilation a lot more probable once Sputnik let out its sonorous, orbital beep, Topps probably felt it was a good time to split from the atom.  Our second clue is the "Brooklyn 32" postal code.  Two digit city codes we replaced in 1963 by the now ubiquitous ZIP code. So this business card dates from sometime in the 1959-62 time frame.  The old "SOuth" telephone exchange could have been in used after 1963 but makes me feel quite ancient as the use of such phrasing slowly faded away as I was growing up.

While Sy was well known enough to the point of not needing to share such mundane things as his job title, the simplicty of his card pales when compared to that of Ted Rehm, a Louisville agent or sales rep for Topps:

The Berger card places him in Bush Terminal, the corporate home of Topps at the time. Mr. Rehm's places him in a residential area, so he was quite possibly operating out of his house. Ted's card is from the same era as Sy's.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Vend For Yourself

One of the early sales and marketing strategies employed by Topps centered on vending machines, or "automatic merchandising" as referred to in the trade.  Some of us would know of such machines from the glorious times of our misspent youth at the arcade (and I don't mean the video game arcade) or buying gumballs at the grocery store when Mom got her change at the checkout.

The use of coin operated vending machines to sell low cost merchandise dates back to Victorian times (the first one sold postcards) and in a more familiar way, the first gumball machine was introduced in 1907.  The use of such devices really took off following the invention of the cigarette vending machine in 1926 as this had the effect of allowing the large, established network of tobacco jobbers (wholesalers) in the US to branch out and distribute anything that could be sold where cigarettes were vended unattended.  For a company such as Topps, which had longstanding ties to the tobacco jobbers from the American Leaf Tobacco Company days, this was a boon to business as their gum could be sold alongside cigarettes in taverns and lunch counters by wholesalers they were familiar and comfortable with.

Topps sold their gum in non-automated displays as well but were players in the vending field as well before the war intervened.  After the war though, they fully embraced the use of such machines and in 1947 appointed Charles Zubrin, a key figure in their history, as supervisor of their vending program.  By 1949 they had created an entire Automatic Merchandising Division and named Zubrin as its Director of Sales and a year later he was the Merchandising Director of the division.  Soon thereafter Topps announced they had greatly expanded their distribution chain, adding many additional automatic merchandising jobbers to their already bulging roster.

The vending machines would initially sell Topps Gum tabs and Bozo gumballs but once Topps started making cards they also sold these on their own.  Amazingly, an old vending box from 1949 surfaced recently, as uncovered by Mickey's Sportscards.  This plain, unmarked box, held 500 tiny X Ray Roundup cards:

The above box, or more properly, sleeve held 500 cards and there were six in a larger carton, described as the same size as a cigarette carton.  That actually makes a lot of sense if Topps was trying to use a packaging form familiar to the tobacco jobbers.  The collation on these was quite poor; only about 30 different cards per sleeve and, oddly, over the entire "six pack" as well.  Yes, 3000 cards yielded about 100 of each example! I would estimate the above box would be the earliest form of vending packaging used by Topps as only a couple of sets predate X Ray Roundup.

There was an earlier vending find of these a few years ago, albeit without any boxes being mentioned and a sampling is shown below:

The more familiar form of packaging for these cards was a Pixie gum pack:

It looks to me that the red "X Ray developing paper" used to decode the back of the card is packaged on top of the card proper.  The inner wax wrapper holding the gum was dark green on the examples I have seen; the outer wrapper is plain paper:

X Ray Roundup sold well but a final print run may have led to overproduction after the marketplace was saturated and probably led to a number of vending sleeve returns. Comic book ads from 1949 touted the fact you could purchase small groups of these cards from Topps for fifteen cents, which came with a small plastic viewer to decipher the back. The original developer, as you may have surmised, was flimsy cellophane, as evidenced by this ad:

There is a related set of stamps, which will be commented upon separately, as therein hangs a tale.....

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wonder Wheel

Well pardners, a couple of Google searches with slightly altered search terms has resulted in a really neat shot coming your way in living color.  We first visited Topps 1950 Hoppy Pops about six months ago, where the wrappers for the lollipops were the main attraction.  But first they were the subject of a short article in a trade magazine in their year of issue:

The black and white photo does not do the box cover justice.  Have a gander at this:

Someone replaced the Hoppy Pops with Dum Dums for the auction (it was sold in 2010 for $720) but this is indeed the box in question.  The back has a nice photo of Hoppy that would have made a handsome display on a feller's dresser:

Now, can we find color scans of Rudolph Pops or Santa Pops? You can click that link for Rudolph but I haven't written about Santa Pops yet..  Since Christmas is still eleven months away, an out-of-season peek will have to do:

Monday, January 16, 2012

Great '08

Further to my previous post on the murky origins of the American Leaf Tobacco Company, one of the predecessor companies to Topps owned by the Shorin Family, I obtained from Carol Jablow last year a clipping from a February 1968 tobacco trade journal that speaks for itself, although I will offer some detail after you all take a gander:

This seals the deal for me date-wise as far as the Shorin family (actually, the Chigorinsky family at the time) and the founding of the ALTC. Whatever involvement Morris Shorin had with the earlier ALTC (circa 1890-91) , as owned by the Salomon family and, perhaps, in an even different configuration from circa 1897-1904, by a separate group, it seems the version started by him dates from 1908.  The 1890 "official date" always given out by Topps predates Morris's arrival in the US and as described in the caption, does not seem to correlate with the facts as understood by Manny-Hanny's loan department.

So why did Topps insist that the ALTC was founded by Morris Shorin in 1890?  It does not seem to make a lot of sense as that part of the narrative started in the late 50's or early 60's, well after the ALTC had been dissolved and a good dozen or more years after the death of its founder.  Like so many questions involving the history of the company and the family, the answers are slow in revealing themselves.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Window Treatment

The advertising materials used by Topps in the early days of card and novelty production were quite varied.  Television was not yet entrenched in homes when the first Topps sets started coming out in 1948, so radio and print ads were really the two biggest methods available. Topps would provide their jobbers with advertising materials to be passed on to the retailers to help sell product and the earliest example I can find comes from 1949-a window display for Flip-O-Vision:

There are some big stars used to entice the kiddies to spend their nickels: The Marx Brothers, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby are still well-known today and Burns & Allen, Johnny Weismuller and Margaret O'Brien would not be far behind.  Kay Kyser though, the bespectacled middle aged gentleman above Harpo and Chico, would not be a name known to many.  Kyser was a bandleader in the swing era who had a TV show that was enjoying some popularity in 1949 but just a year after this set came out, he walked away, never to return.  He eventually ended up becoming President of the Worldwide Church of Christian Science.

Four years later Topps had taken the muted tones of 1949 and turned them into the bright colors of 1953:

Color movies had started to appear more frequently by 1950 so bold colors were showing up more and more in Topps packaging and ads.  This took another 22 years to reach its logical conclusion, when the crazy quilt 1975 Baseball window display was unleashed on an unsuspecting public:

The Topps Sports Club has been covered here previously but the use of the window display to push yet another Topps product is a little brash, no?

Monday, January 9, 2012


Topps was in the midst of a fabulous run of sensationalized subject matter on their cards in 1950-51: after Hopalong Cassidy had been introduced, the company issued a lurid set of 100 cards entitled Bring 'Em Back Alive, which depicted fantastic jungle scenes allegedly encountered by the explorer Frank Buck and then the multi-series Freedom's War, with all sorts of explosions and mayhem depicted.  Bowman was also issuing similar cards (Red Menace) in this time frame.  Then came a lengthy protest from a group called New York Veterans for Peace, a letter writing campaign from large numbers of concerned mothers, some negative publicity in the press and before you knew it Freedom's War and Red Menace were yanked from the shelves by their respective manufacturers, each at least a series shy of completion and much to the chagrin of each firm as enormous profits were wiped out almost overnight.

While intolerance and censorship are nothing new, they do make companies  react.  Bowman had made their mark after World War 2 with a number of sets depicting the carnage and violence created by man and Topps was never a company to shy away from salacious material; there are bare chested women depicted, National Geographic style, in Bring 'Em Back Alive after all but there were lots of parents who controlled lots of allowances and they would not be given fresh ammunition by Topps, at least not immediately.

In the wake of the Freedom's War debacle, Topps president Joseph Shorin announced they would cancel any more orders and come out instead with a second series of Frank Buck cards.  Today we know that a series called Animals of the World ended up assuming the numbering of Bring 'Em Back Alive, depicting one hundred very tranquil looking beasts, all taken from artwork by an artist named Mary Baker.  Take a look at a Bring 'Em Back Alive example first:


That is a typical example from the set and not even the most shocking one.  Now compare to a typical Animals of the World card:

That is actually one of the more action packed examples from this set.  Quite a difference, no?

Let's look at the backs, BEBA first then AOTW:

Note the wording about "This Series" near the bottom of the AOTW card. Since there was no first series, we have to rely upon what Joseph Shorin said about a follow up to Frank Buck.  Now, this is not the point of today's post, despite the long winded wind up.  What piqued my curiosity today was an item description in the 1989 Topps/Guerney's auction catalog concerning original Animals of the World artwork, which states:


These 11 full color paintings are the originals produced in 1949."  The picture accompanying the lot looks like this:

Those look pretty close but not identical to Bring 'Em Back Alive but in no way, shape or form depict subject matter from Animals of the World!  Take a look at these Net54 Vintage Non Sports Club gallery pages (BEBA here and AOTW here) and see for yourself.  That ostrich in the lower left corner is scary looking!

So what happened?  I'm not really sure but suspect that Topps could not obtain licensing for a second series of cards from Buck's estate, then for some reason halted production of the artwork for the second series and instead went with Mary Baker's paintings, which were well-known as part of a children's book, instead.  This could have been done to save money but I think it probably was instead foisted on the public to show all the alarmed Moms of the world what good, wholesome eggs they were down at Topps.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Good News Bad News

As luck would have it, I was perusing some old NYC/Brooklyn books yesterday and spotted, in plain view, a picture of the building that housed Morris Shorin's American Leaf Tobacco Company in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  That's the good news. The bad?  It's a low-res shot and it was taken a little before ALTC would have moved in.

Morris Shorin (Chigorinsky at the time), I am 99% convinced at this point, was making and selling cigars and other tobacco products in partnership with a man named Metz (or Melz) from at least 1905-07 before obtaining a loan and starting the American Leaf Tobacco Company in 1908, possibly reviving the name of a firm that had probably shut down a couple of years earlier.  I would really like to get the story of the whole ALTC history firmed up but need access to some information that itself needs to be tracked down.

Chigorinsky and Metz operated out of a building at 140 Throop Avenue on the bustling Williamsburg, Bedford-Stuyvesant border (and which was possibly the prior location of ALTC in the 1890's). This would have been an ideal spot for a tobacconist's shop and was located quite close to where the family lived at the time. What is known is that sometime between 1908 and the summer of 1917 (probably much closer to the former rather than latter date) the ALTC moved to 7 Debevoise St in Williamsburg, just a couple of blocks away from 140 Throop Avenue.  This too would have been prime retail territory but the building would also have facilitated a second story business; possible retail and wholesale operations were undertaken at the same time.  Two stories of apartments comprised the 3rd and 4th floors.

Located down the street from a huge vaudeville theater and next to a cafe, 7 Debevoise St was captured in a Brooklyn Daily Eagle Post Card around 1906.  I found the shot in a great book by Richard L. Dutton called Brooklyn:  The Brooklyn Daily Eagle Postcards 1905-07 and have cropped out the building to show here (twice, as I have tried to enhance the picture). I am not sure if that second story sign (which I cannot yet decipher but might say Can Can) was for #7 or #9 (building to the right of this one).  While not quite an ALTC shot, I'm getting closer!

Here is the wide angle shot reproduced in the book-it has more detail when not blown up:

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

State Of Confusion

Perhaps the Summer of Love vibes were strong enough to reach Duryea, PA in 1967 but the Comic Pennant insets that came in that year's football packs were enough to make one think some banana peels must have gotten mixed into the Mac Baren at Topps HQ  How else can one explain the downright groovy sayings that adorn this 31 subject insert set?

Here is a prime example of one of the team oriented cards-note how the snarky saying is wedged in there:

The back is pure period tan sticker back:

We'll come back to the back in a minute. Topps only had AFL rights in 1967 so the nine teams in the league such as Oakland -- "(Fat People in) Oakland (are Usually Icebox) Raiders" -- were rounded out in the Comic Pennants with a couple of college-themed stickers suck as "Notre Dame (Hunchback Of)" and a whole lot of amusing and borderline offensive sayings such as "Down With Teachers" or "Nutstu U."  There was also a "Confused State" and my personal favorite:

It's hard to tell but that is actually a card and not a peelable sticker.  Look at the Jets sticker and you will see the score line where the sticker was meant to be peeled.  The card version is also lacking the "Peel Off Pennant Carefully" line.  The back of the card sure look sticker-stock-like but it's cardboard and not the usual tan backing paper:

To make matters even more confused, Beckett states that there is a style in "adhesive form with the pennant merely printed on card stock".  Well, if true that makes three types but I am thinking they thought the cardboard version had a sticker back, hence the, ah, confusion, but maybe there is a third version.

The stickers were allegedly withdrawn due to their outrageous sayings, which theoretically accounts for their scarcity but it is possible the short, 132 card AFL set also did not remain on the shelves all that long.  Yanking the stickers would seemingly make another type of insert necessary and there is no other option in '67. The stickers do seem offensive in many respects and I am thinking two could have been pulled prior to distribution (33 would be an expected set count for standard-sized stickers) so it is possible I guess but definitely not a given. The cardboard version is also stated to have been sold on its own; no pack exists to my knowledge but it could have been a fun pack item in such a scenario.