Saturday, October 27, 2012

Binders Keepers

While I don't often deal with post 1980 issues from Topps, there are the occasional releases from the boys in Manhattan (nee Brooklyn, nee Duryea) that are quite nice.  One of these is the 2012 Heritage reprint set of Mars Attacks.

Originally tested in New York City (perhaps solely in Brooklyn) as Attack From Space (although the cards were not any different than those form the retail release), the set was rebranded and sold locally in New York City and environs before an uproar over its salacious and gory content reared its ugly green head.  Yanked from the shelves before it could be fully distributed nationally, Mars Attacks is one of the most popular non-sports sets ever released.

The PSA population report shows about 12,000 cards graded, which sounds fairly high considering the prices for these cards (about $30-$35 apiece raw, in EX right now) but its immensely popular and the old supply and demand dynamics ring true.  Add in some inferred short prints, a devilishly difficult checklist card and stellar, pulp-noirish artwork and you get a set that sells for north of two grand that is comprised of a mere 55 cards.

I toyed with collecting the originals but when Topps did the Heritage reissue this year, I snapped up a set and some extras.  I'm not really going to post on the set as its readily available but I did want to alert everybody that faithfully reads this blog that Topps released two official binders to house the Heritage set.The first is branded as Mars Attacks:

While the second uses the test issue title of Attack From Space (there are variant retail boxes and packs as well):

I picked up my Mars Attacks binder at the National in Baltimore this year.  They are not cheap ($20) but they sure are nice.  Topps is selling them still on eBay although they have an $8 shipping charge tacked on for the privilege.  It looks like Topps has issued similar binders for some other retro sets and given the response to these, I expect we can see more of them in the future.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ready For Launch

Just received my copy of the new Mars Attacks book in the surface mail, space cadets!

I am a definite aficionado of 50's and 60's sci-fi stuff but only recently picked up a Mars Attacks set-the kicker is that it's the current Heritage reprint version (which is quite well done).  The book recounts the set, shows all the cards and has some pre and post production goodies plus a few words from Len Brown.  There are also a few little anecdotes, one of which caught my eye.

In discussing the test version of the set, which was advertised on the packs as Attack From Space, there is a short note indicating that for test issues of the day, Topps shipped "four or five cases and get it into a dozen or so local stores and monitor the sales."  If you work out the math, that means each store would receive approximately half a case to test.  That would be from 6-10 boxes in  most circumstances or about 150 to 200 nickel packs in each location.  Factor in what got tossed, returned and just plain destroyed somehow, you can see why many Topps test issues of the era are so scarce.

Very interesting.....

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

File Under "Gelman, Woody"

BFF o'the Archive Jeff Shepherd recently alerted me to an eBay auction, since halted by the seller, of a reconstructed 1958 Baseball One Cent box that came from Woody Gelman's files.  Shep thinks it would have been a flat, so the seller folded it into a box (grrrrrr!!).  The provenance is quite obvious:

You can see the baseball contest ad on the back panel.  It's the front flap though, that is quite intriguing:

We've seen the insert card version of the contest before. The contest to my mind served two purposes:

1) Sell more Bazooka and Blony;

2) Find out where entrants live in an early data mining exercise.

I'm not sure if $5 a week for six months was a better deal than a 17 inch portable TV back in 1958!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Pick My Decals Off, Baby

Picking up the 1960 Topps competitor's thread from a short while back, it is interesting that while Topps had loads of fabulous inserts, especially baseball, in their nickel and cello packs throughout the Sixties, the first major confectioner to insert a second set with their sports cards was Fleer.

As noted on the (hopefully not defunct) Fleer Sticker Blog, from 1960-62 Fleer include decal insert of a team logo with their baseball cards.  There are differences between the years but the 1960 version measured about 2 1/4" x 3"  looked like this:

The back of this one, which I swiped from eBay scans, was pasted into an old photo album but you can see the blue, no Dubble Bubble ad lettering that ID's it as a 1960 version:

Notice the trademark line below the text and above what I presume is a five digit product number?  Well, some teams look like they licensed their logo while others did not.  The reverse of the Dodgers decal (scan from Dave's Vintage Baseball Cards) has no such line:

The decals (OK, Emblems) were advertised on the wrapper for the 1960 Baseball Greats set on yet another nab from eBay):

I should probably show a Baseball greats card, eh?  Well, from eBay (slight return):

Topps would not let this Fleer extra deter them and would respond by football card season. We'll take a peek at the football inserts from both Topps and Fleer next time out kids!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Huge Hoops

Yet another Topps mockup and presentation "set" has popped up in the past few weeks.  For its annual release of hoopsters in 1976, Topps went to a chunky 3 1/8 x 5 1/4" super-size card that was not brought back the next year.  However, prior to this set being thought up and marketed, it appears an internal presentation was made to the Topps brass (a situation we have seen here before) using 1973 basketball cards as the basis for the pitch.  Thanks to noted basketball collector and Friend o'the Archive Don Huse for pointing out these intriguing cards:

The back has clear indications of being taped to something else and my guess is that object was a presentation board:

The description on these (they are on eBay) makes it seem like they were created by an artist and are not true photographs.  This Marvin Barnes card's damage would bear this out:

In addition to White and Barnes, two other examples are known.  One is of Jim Chones:

And the other depicts Slick Watts:

There do not seem to be any other examples, which are being sold by BMW Sportscards.  All four have tape residue on their reverses. A little detective work. some by another Friend o'the Archive, Adam Warshaw, reveals that Barnes began his career in the 1974-75 season and that Chones too entered the league that year. Based on all that, it seems the likely date of creation was around 1975.

Of note also is that the 1973 card of Jo Jo White looked totally different than the mock up using the '73 design:

There was no 1973 Slick Watts card while the other two players, as noted above, entered their respective leagues after 1973. Here is a 1976 Topps card of Jo Jo White, to complete his trifecta and I think we can all agree the action shots on the mockups are far superior to this:

I am quite curious if more ersatz 73's are out there.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

NFL Games: Philly vs NY

In 1960, as if Topps didn't have enough to contend with when Leaf introduced a 144 card set of baseball cards, an ornery new player in the trading card field introduced a set of football cards.  Fleer took on Topps, who issued a set of 132 NFL players, with 132 AFL subjects, picking up the new league in its first season.  After issuing the first modern inserts with their 1960 Baseball Greats set, both companies had them in their 1960 football packs.  Topps issued a series of Metallic Stickers while Fleer countered with College Football Decals.

Putting all that aside, I just want to look at the five cent wrappers today from each set. The Topps design was a classic, as this scan from the Football Card Gallery shows:


Actually, I'll show the penny pack, also from the same site (run by Friend o'the Archive Mike Thomas):

That Special feature is a bit of a cheat.  While the nickel pack indeed held an insert, the Magic Football Funnies were just a scratch off feature on the back of then card.

Here is what Fleer came up with:

As for the cards from each company, I think Topps had the winner.  Here is the Topps offering, a great shot of Ollie Matson:

And here is a typical Fleer card:

The graphics resemble what Topps had done about four years ago. We'll look at the inserts next time out but it's the same story there.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Splendidly Selling Splinter

I'm not positive but 1959 may have been Topps' all time best year for sales of baseball cards, when adjusted for cards sold per million population.  There are no real sales figures available but there were massive amounts of cardboard and gum being sold by them at this point. Their competitors in the confectionery field were also experiencing rapid growth as the US population swelled in the midst of the baby boom. Our continuing look at these competitors brings us to Fleer Gum.

After vanquishing Bowman, Topps had the national baseball card market all to themselves from 1956-58 but in 1959, Fleer, another Philadelphia confectioner that had been in business since 1885, entered the trading card fray for real (they had previously issued a set in 1923!) with an 80 card set depicting the life of Ted Williams.  Card #68 from the set, as most of us know, was pulled at some point as it also showed Bucky Harris (and Joe Cronin, as I originally typed-thanks Anonymous!), who apparently had not signed a  contract with Fleer:

The cards were sold in this fabulous looking wrapper:

What intrigues me about this set, which was massively over-produced (including the "rare" #68), is an alternate pack that was sold with two extra cards and no gum:

I don't know if the gumless version was a test but whereas the wrapper with gum is quite common, the 8 card version is exceedingly rare.  I want to keep digging into this and will report back any findings.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Hey Bub!

Huggins & Scott has come up with a few Bowman products that are germane to their competition with Topps and one of these is a box of Bub bubble gum.   Bub was a brother brand to Blony from what little I have researched of it and I will try to get more backstory when I can but it may have been Bowman's five cent chew and Blony the one-cent chew. I believe the brand predates not only Bazooka but also World War 2.

What drew me to it though, was the Parent's Magazine Guarantee (PMG). Topps obtained their PMG for Bazooka soon after it was launched in 1947 and that matches the copyright date found here on Bub (there was also a 1950 copyright for Bub and possibly later ones as well):

The reverse is interesting as well:

Topps was touting sanitary, foil wrapped goodness with Bazooka and the King and Queen Bub illustrations share a crown element with the Bazooka unmanned advertising mascot from the early days:

Deliberate attempt by one form to crib another's ad copy and design elements?  Highly probable in my view. Who stole what and when, though, is a thornier question to answer...

Well friends, I am entering a three week period of professional and personal events that are going to keep me away from the keyboard for a lengthy spell or two.  I still like to try posting twice a week no matter what so am going to go with some short and sweet posts until things return to some semblance of normalcy.  Things will back in the swing here before Hallowe'en so hang tight!