Thursday, June 28, 2012

Food Stamps

Many collectors are familiar with the 1949 X-Ray Roundup issue from Topps.  These small, tab-sized cards featured 200 subjects divided unequally between Indians, Savage Tribesmen, Wild West Figures, Pirates and Screen Stars who had appeared in Westerns.  Not too many though, are familar with a premium from a bread company called Aunt Hannah's, which featured stamp versions of X-Ray Roundup, replete with an album page that held 25 stamps.  I am working on better scans but right now here is a shot of one of these hybrids:

You can't really make it out but there are holes on the left side so the page could be inserted into an album, hence the title/instructions at the top.  The bottom tag line is interesting "Save ;Em, Trade Em" was a Topps promotional  phrase printed on wrappers in 1950 and early 1951; perhaps they were toying with it first as this page has a "Save 'Em Swap 'Em" line at lower right.

I believe all 200 subjects were issued in stamp format but the larger sheets these quadrants came from were not organized enough to support eight pages of specific subjects.

Aunt Hannah's was a Pittsburgh baker and was a subsidiary of Baur's Bread when the stamps were issued. They had a long history of premium offers and were a well known company at the mid point of the 20th century. They had a spiffy looking delivery truck back the day to boot:

Here's a World War 2 era premium they offered; it gives you a good look at at the character of Aunt Hannah:

I'll dig out the other stamp scans and get them posted just as soon as I can.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Cashen Carry

Topps has made all sorts of little specialty sets over the years for various players and executives.  These are often handed out at banquets or some such event where the honoree get handed a stack of their own Topps baseball cards.  One such card many people are aware of is the 1990 George H.W.Bush card that shows the former president in his Yale uniform.  That one mysteriously found its way into some regular 1990 packs and is worth a small fortune. Maybe 100 exist and I will take a good look at it someday.

Another card that was a solo effort honors Frank Cashen, architect of championship teams for the Orioles and Mets over the years. I don't know much about it other than it was handed out at when he was honored  by the New York Sports Commission as its Sportsman of the Year and that it looks like this:

Happy hunting all you type collectors!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Bouts & Pieces

I last wrote here about the 1951 Topps Ringside set last year, detailing a very impressive ad panel among other aspects of this landmark boxing and wrestling (five cards) issue.  I have now obtained a cut set of the eight cards that comprise this panel from Friend o'the Archive Adam Warshaw and they fit together like a, er, glove:

Reading across, you get card numbers: 21, 22, 23 and 47 in the top row and 4, 5, 6 and 30 in the bottom.  All those fit squarely within the first series of 48 cards, although Adam advises both series have been seen with these backs:

There are similar panels for Fighting Marines, another 96 card set issued in two series of 48, although those seem a bit harder to find and I am unable to post examples today.  There were three other sets issued in this size (2 1/16" x 2 15/16"): Magic Football (1951), Look 'N' See (1952) and Scoop (1954). Fighting Marines was to have been a 1951 set but it was delayed into 1952; my guess is it came out just after Ringside. The ad backs replicate the box top art in Ringside and Fighting Marines; Magic Football did not have such colorful graphics and I can't recall ever seeing an ad backed version of cards from that set. Look 'N' See and Scoop did have colorful graphics on their retail boxes but again, I have not seen any ad backs from those two sets.

Too bad Topps did not make more ad panels for their earlier sets like these.  There are numerous types of ad and salesmen's panels they did produce from this era, of course, but they are not done in the same format nor are they nearly as nice as these.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Whipple, Whipple Good

I have always been interested in old photographs of New York City and Brooklyn in particular. Any explanation as to why would be futile at this point but point me to the shelves at a bookstore and the NYC section will be thoroughly examined for old shots that predate the 60's. One of the biggest publishers of old photo and postcard books is Arcadia Publishing and  they have a line second to none.

Arcadia Publishing has, for two decades now, published a line of books that feature old photographs of city scenes. This past January I found a chance shot of Debevoise Street (home to the Topps antecedent American Leaf Tobacco Company at #7) in one of their books.  The shot was from about 1906 and predated the ALTC's occupancy but captured the building that housed this Morris Shorin concern to a degree.

Now I have stumbled across Images of America: Williamsburg, by Victor Lederer and the Brooklyn Historical Society, another gem from Arcadia. Sure enough, another chance shot has delivered a glancing look at 140 Throop Avenue, where Morris Shorin was in business with a man called Louis Metz (or Melz) selling tobacco around 1905-06.  This address may have been home to an earlier American Leaf Tobacco Company in the late 1890's, which was owned by another family but may have planted the name in Morris' head for future use when he incorporated his ALTC in 1908.

Here is the full shot, dated around 1925, which is after the ALTC would have moved to 7 Debevoise St., looking east along Flushing Avenue to the right and Whipple St. off to the left.  Completing the triangle's third side, 400 feet or so in the distance, would be Throop Avenue. #140 is at the end of the block on Flushing:

140 Throop Avenue is, I believe, showing a portion of its very low white roof just above the first automobile parked along the curb on Flushing; a rectangular lback sign hangs to the left off a trolley pole just above it as well. The property essentially completes the point of the triangle at Throop and Flushing, much like the Tigers Shadow signed building (which is the White House theater) does as the intersection in the foreground, with frontage on both streets.  Here is a slightly closer (and grainier) look:

On the left you have the three story building with four windows across, another building that is slightly taller with three windows across and then the sliver of little white roof showing a couple of feet above the auto that I believe is #140.  I can't enhance it any more unfortunately. All the poles at the intersection are for trolleys; three lines converged here, making it an ideal retail location to sell cigars and, in a back room I imagine, run the ALTC proper.  Most of the buildings in the middle of the block along Flushing Avenue, including the two mentioned above (and which have between them but invisible here, a low, narrow building among the smallest I have ever seen) are still there.  I've marked it in blue here to make it ever so slightly easier to ID but have to admit it's pretty muddy:

Here's a detail from a 1929 Belcher Hyde Fire Insurance Atlas that shows the block, with Flushing Avenue at the bottom and Throop Avenue angling up from the bottom right of the map:

Some or all of the location in white marked "Gas Sta." is #140; but I do not believe it was ever a location of American Gas Stations, owned by the Shorin's in the 1920's and 30's.  You can see there are three lots on the intersection and city real estate maps show #140 Throop as occupying some or all of them at various points in time. I suspect common ownership of the lots, which could have had four or more buildings shared across them in a semicircular arrangement with the pointiest section perhaps being a yard.  If the building is still original then it had a number of bays within; indicative of a possible former use as a stable and also future use as a garage.  Perhaps ALTC was processing and packing cigars and tobacco here as the bays would allow shipping and receiving but I have always assumed they just operated the administrative end of the business out of here.

This location is still an auto repair shop today, although the pumps look long gone.  I am trying to determine if is the same building, at least along the Flushing Avenue side, that housed ALTC but have not yet tracked down when it was built. It's a strange property that has been greatly altered over the years but a prime retail location, or at least it was 100 years ago.

I still hope to find an image of an ALTC storefront but for now this will have to do.  

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Panel Parade

Once they left the postage stamp sized gum tab inserts behind at mid-century, Topps started selling nickel packs with two-card panels (usually three of them) and a big chunk of gum. The first two sets to receive this treatment were both reissues of 1949 releases that came out again in 1950.

Flags of the World-Parade took the same artwork from 1949's cards and just blew it up:

Those panels are why so many cards from this era have little nubs on either side; the ones from penny packs did not. License Plates also came this way in their 1950 version:

The degree of precision one would expect in scoring these at the printer's is not reflected in the finished product in many cases; here is a good example of the misalignment that frequently occurred, handily made visible in the scratch of material from the panels's reverse:

The elongated nickel packs these cards came in are not out there in great supply today and even the wrappers are scarce. These packs predate the Trading Card Guild red cello's that would start appearing in 1951.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

What The Hellcat?

In 1950 Topps released the first series of a set called Freedom's War and it was a big hit. An additional series followed and if it wasn't for some high profile protests in the spring of 1951, at least one more series after that would have been issued.  The saga of this set is a story for another day as it has so many anomalies and variations a detailed post or two is necessary to decode it all.

Today we are looking at tanks, specifically the M-18 Gun Motor Carriage, affectionately referred to as the"Hellcat" and which was manufactured by Buick during World War 2. Why?  Well, I'll tell you...

The first series of Freedom's War consisted of 96 cards.  These were followed by 7 special cards featuring tanks which were diecut, unlike the rest of the set. after that an additional 100 cards appeared and the set ended up with 203 cards.  That odd number has always bothered me as it does not make a whole lot of sense.

One of the tanks, #101 (our friend the "Hellcat", comes with two different colored backgrounds, one mostly orange and the other predominantly yellow.  However, if you look at these cards you will see the picture is quite different when comparing one color to the other.  Here, take a peek at the orange:

Now for yellow:

The tank is spaced differently and there is far less detail on the non-tank portions of the yellow card. There are other, more subtle differences as well if you look closely.  The back of each is identical:

Yellow seems to be a little harder to find and there is a suggestion in the hobby literature that non diecut versions of the card, unlike the other 7 tanks, do not exist.  I have no way of confirming that at present so who knows if it's true.

So what happened?  I suspect either one of three things.  The tanks were sandwiched in between both series and appear to have missed in of the print runs as well, indicating production problems affected them.  Either someone misidentified one of the M-18's in the production process and two different looks were created for the same tank or two different teams worked on the tanks and one inadvertently was assigned the same vehicle.  Instead of fixing the error, Tops went ahead and issued two different #101's as the cards were selling hot and heavy. Alternatively, a different tank could have been intended for one of the backgrounds and for unknown reasons it had to be pulled and the just subbed in what they had with the M-18 and gussied it up a little bit. By the time they would have done a correction, they were on to the next series and probably decided to scuttle the tank series so it was never fixed.

While a master set of Freedom's War would total well over 500 cards, a complete set should total, to my mind at least, 204 cards and not 203 and both versions of #101 should be included.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Flying High Again

This post could also be called "One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other One"!

The 1954 Topps Scoop set, a semi-classic of the mid 50's, contains 156 cards depicting famous, infamous and just plain newsworthy events spanning 3,137 years of civilization and relying upon two gimmicks. I'll not discuss the front scratch off gimmick here, odd as it is, nor the faux headline and news article gimmick concocted by Topps on the backs.  No, I want to take a look at two closely related cards from this set instead.

Card no. 66 shows an impressive feat:

As you can see a Navy jet broke the speed record (a whopping 753.4 mph) on October 29, 1953.  This was an amazing feat no doubt but less than a month later it was shattered. On November 20, 1953 a Douglass D-588-II "Skyrocket" achieved an astounding 1,327 mph, almost doubling the previous mark.

This in itself was news but what caught my attention was that Topps also commemorated the new record on card no. 139:

Why does this intrigue me?  Well, besides having two cards with the same news subject in a single set, the first record was captured in the first series of 78 cards and the more current one was memorialized in the second series  That pretty much puts production of the first series between October 29 and November 20, or maybe a little bit after.  The set is always described as being from 1954 and I would tend to agree but there is the distinct possibility series 1 came out in 1953 and series 2 in '54.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Boxcar Bubbles

Topps had a penchant for sneaking little ads and inside jokes onto their illustrated cards in the 1950's.  The better known examples include a handful of ads in the backgrounds of some 1953 baseball cards and they are usually unobtrusive but there if you look hard enough.

In 1955 though, perhaps giddy with the prospect of Bowman's imminent demise, Topps included a card in a landmark Non-Sports set, Rails & Sails that did not require much searching:

From the colorful Bazooka logo to the use of the corporate shield (and Trading Card Guild logo) to the catchphrase "Young America's Favorite" Topps really did a nice job of promotion in the midst of one of their biggest selling sets of all time.

The back of the card does not really play along and follows the factual presentation of information the set is known for:

100,000 pounds of Bazooka sure is a lot of bubbles! The display of such a rail car was not farfetched either as Topps main warehouse, manufacturing plant and offices at Bush Terminal in Brooklyn were chosen in part due to access to rail links.

I am trying to figure out if the superstructure shown in the background to the immediate right of the box car behind the car was meant to show the Gowanus Expressway, which dominated the eastern view from Topps HQ and under which many a Topps executive parked his car back in the day. Whaddya think: