Saturday, December 29, 2012

I Am Curious Yellow

All sorts of oddities pop up when it comes to Topps proofs.  There are rare proofs that are valuable, such as the 1977 Reggie Jackson-Orioles variation or 1967 Roger Maris-Yankees team version but many of them do not curry favor with collectors.  Another type of proof is the color progression proof, where Topps would print a subject in each discrete color in the proof stage and then sometimes combine two or more colors as they neared final printing.  One good example of this is this 1962 Baseball Stamp grouping:

I'm not sure where that came from-I've had this scan for ten years and cannot recall. That looks like a green/yellow progression.  There should be six colors in all I believe, for products of this era.  One piece I do have provenance for (because it's mine), is this 1967 San Francisco Giants Baseball Disc of Herman Franks:

It too is missing some color but has the black process, unlike the stamp proofs.  The Giants Discs were a distinct issue from the other 1967 Baseball Discs, which depicted Major League All Stars. Both Disc sets were only issued in proof form and the thinking is they were going to be turned into pins. I think a post on them is overdue and will have something in short order.

Happy New Year folks! 2013 will be a banner year around here, so stay tuned,

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Available Formats

Still cleaning up the hard drive kids and still finding treasure.  One of the enduring words in the printing business is "artwork", which these days 99.9% of the time means "Photoshop". However, back in the days before digital, artwork meant exactly what it implied.  If you wanted to print a baseball card, you needed to have the "mechanical artwork" ready and in most cases this involved the work of a few different folks, namely the artist who created the work to be reproduced and the paste-up artist who got it ready to print.

We have seen the 1953 artwork used by Topps to create that set of baseball cards here previously but the landmark 1952 set also used artwork extensively, especially so in the first three or four series.  Here is a 95% complete pasteup of card #130 in 1952, depicting Sheldon "Available" Jones:

You can clearly see the buildup of the various layers (and evidence of rubber cement) from the bottom up, even the black neatline is there.  You have the photo (heavily Flexichromed) which then has the name box with stars added on top, although I can't quite tell if the layer of stars was added first and had a large, black interior section.  In turn, the nameplate (which ahs slipped) and team logo have been built up on top of that.  The border of stars looks like it was added in small strips of six or seven stars as well.  I never noticed it before but the top and bottom borders of stars are aligned :"straight up" while the left and right border's twinklers are off set and even more impressively, oriented left and right depending upon which side they were placed.

The facsimile autograph is missing and looks like it may have fallen off sometime in the last 60 years. I'm certain this artwork would have been pasted up by the art agency of Solomon & Gelman.

The back is a lot like the 53's:

At first I though the penciled number 50 was added after the fact but Jones is #130 in the 1952 set and is the 50th card in the second series (#81-130).  Here is the finished product:

The nameplate obscures much of the detail in the background at the bottom.  The original photo, which looks to have been widely circulated, has some great stuff going on behind Jones and was also the basis for his 1948 Bowman card.  Here is the photo, from Wikipedia:


Actually, I'm not so sure that isn't his 1948 Bowman card shown there.

Here is the '48 Bowman just in case:

I think Topps either added some detail to the background or the knife slipped when the mask for the black process was created -check out the way the top of the grandstand looks in the Topps card vs. the view above:

It's clearly the same shot (look at the sunlight reflecting in the bottom right as well as the way his uniform is draped) but there's a little spire at the top right of the taller stand (Braves Field?) on the Topps version.

By the way, Jones got his nickname since he was always available to pitch, either starting or in relief. He was traded to the Boston Braves on April 8, 1952 so Topps must have finished the artwork for his card before that date, probably in very late March.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Happy Festivus!

Yes, it's already time for the "holiday for the rest of us"!

I'll be shutting down until after the holiday in order to get the Main Topps Archives Research Center in proper trim  and to rest up for the feats of strength later today.  In the meantime, Merry Christmas and a belated Happy Hanukah from The Topps Archives, along with a fervent wish that you all survive the Airing of Grievances tonight!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Follow The Flying Ball

One of the promotions Topps came up with in the early 1950's to get rid of some excess card inventory involved sticking a leftover 1952 Wings card -- and what I have to hope was a fresh stick of gum -- into a sneaker giveaway pack in 1955.  Red Ball Jets were a popular brand of sneaker sold from 1951 until 1971 and Topps took advantage with this promotion.  They also stuck a premium offer on the wrapper offering 15 additional cards for a dime:

Interestingly, the mail away address seems to match that of Red Ball's parent company's HQ so I suspect Topps managed to offload a truckload of cards on the unsuspecting sneaker manufacturer!

While Topps Chewing Gum is not identified per se the indicia does trumpet the pink stuff was manufactured by the "Makers of World Famous 'Bazooka" Bubble Gum". These packs are often though to contain the smaller, black & white 1956 Photo Album Jets (to use their full title) cards, but they do not and you can clearly see the Red Ball packs came out a year before Jets.

Wings indeed featured cards from all countries of the world.  Here's a French plane to cite just one example:

Saturday, December 15, 2012

We're On The Blog Of Misfit Toys

I was digging through my hard drive today (which I am organizing finally, thank you very much), looking for some Holiday Themed scans when I decided to do a quick Google search for "Topps" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer".  What usually happens at such times is I get 72,000 hits for my own blog but today I got some eBay links and found out Topps put out an American Pie card of everybody's favorite reindeer in 2011:

This neatly ties back to one of the first Topps Candy Division issues, Rudolph Pops, which have been discussed here previously and were issued around 1950 or '51. The times being what they are, the American Pie Rudolph had all sorts of parallel issues, etc.  It also ties back to me, since Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer is my all time favorite holiday show!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ben Meaning To Fix This

With all the attention I give to Woody Gelman here, I sometimes feel like his old art agency partner Ben Solomon gets short shrift.  One of the reasons is that there is far less out there, info-wise, on Ben than Woody.  I am working on correcting that but I still don't have a lot of details on Mr. Solomon; in fact I'm not even sure when he joined Topps.  It may have been as late as 1964 or as early as the mid 50's.  I do believe he came over after Woody (who in turn, I think, was still a Solomon & Gelman partner when he went to work for and at Topps in 1952-53).

Ben Solomon was the Art Director for Topps in it's go-go days and had final approval over all artwork from many of their sets and products.  I will turn up more on him but for now here is a small picture, courtesy of his daughter, Lois Grabash, of the man who launched a thousand sets (OK, maybe I'm exaggerating a little!):

I am welcoming any and all information any of you out there may have on Ben while I dig into his past.  I do know he encountered Woody when they were both animators in the 1930's and that he directed about a dozen cartoons for Fleischer Brothers and Famous Studios.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Double Mint

Once again BFF o'the Archive Jeff Shepherd has come through with some unique pictures that I should have used last time out.  You will recall, I am sure, our last episode, wherein I showed a Clor-Aid gum matchbook.  Well, ol' Shep has pictures from the actual exhibits used in the lawsuit filed by American Chicle against Topps and you can clearly see how closely the packaging was between the two (since Topps purportedly copied it on purpose):

The resemblance is pretty close, although not all that exact.  Here is a close up of the Clor-Aid box:

"For a breath of spring"?!"  Well, advertising has come a long way since then baby!  And those green gum nuggets sure look appealing 60 years later, eh?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Striking Last

Topps tried a few strategies in the 40's and 50's to get into the "gum nugget" market, which was really the domain of American Chicle, which produced Chiclets and Clorets. We've seen one such attempt memorialized on a matchbook we discussed a few years ago when the initial "ammoniated" foray was just called Topps Gum.  It's not yet certain that version of Topps Gum evolved from their original gum tabs of the same name but it probably did.

American Chicle launched Clorets in 1951 and it looks like Topps countered by changing their nuggets of Topps Gum to a brand called Clor-aid soon thereafter.  Topps also changed their packaging to something too close to that of Clorets and was thrashed in court by American Chicle and forced to withdraw Clor-aid from the market.  That is a lengthy saga, which I am still disentangling but in the meantime I found a Clor-aid matchbook, which now resides at the Main Topps Archives research Complex:

Some multi-packs of Clor-aid can be seen in this photo (which I have shown here before and appears in many places on the web) from a supermarket shelf in mid-1953. They are to the left of the Wings boxes:

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Bang For Buck

I probably should have shown this in my post on the 1959 Fleer Ted Williams set but to tell the truth, I forgot it was on my hard drive!  I am organizing all my scans these days during the final preparation of what I am calling The Modern Guide to Topps Chewing Gum: 1938-1956, which is nearing completion, so there will bursts of these hidden gems posted here. While final distribution details of this tome are still a couple months off, it will be available, for free, via download.

In the meantime, take a gander at this letter Fleer sent to hobby legend Buck Barker, detailing why #68 in their Ted Williams set was not to be found in the packs:

It's a little hazy but you can see that Buck was to receive multiple #68's!  That's why they're called the Fabulous Fifties folks! Here is a transcript of the letter, which was dated August 27, 1959.

"Dear Mr. Barker:

Due to the possibility of legal overtones, card #68 of the Ted Williams series was not put on the market for sale.  However, it was made and we have been able to send several to people such as you who have inquired.

As we are new in the card business we certainly do not want to have any ill feelings among card collectors.  Therefore I am forwarding you a number of our card #68.

As stated in your letter we request that no charge is made for any of these cards.

Fleer definitely intends to stay in the gum card business and will produce more baseball cards when the opportunity arises.

Art Wolfe
Assistant Promotion Manager"

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Free Movies!

Well gang, I am still reeling from my close losses in the latest Legendary Auction.  I missed out on two lots, one a non-Topps lot I won't bore you with and the other a treasure trove of 1950 Topps Hopalong Cassidy cards and related ephemera.  There were two neat pieces in this lot I thought I would take a look at today.

One is a straight up promo sheet, probably part of a point of display ensemble:

The "Save 'Em Trade 'Em" motto was created along with the Hoppy set and would last into 1951, used on packaging for over half a dozen sets.  That's a great looking piece, pardner!

Also in the lot was a comic book ad advertising both the penny and nickel packs of Hoppy:

It's hard to make out but the five cent pack held six card, comprised of three 2 card panels. You can clearly see that the bubble gum was intended as the selling point, not the cards.  Topps would realize in short order they had their priorities reversed but 1950 the pink stuff was king!