Saturday, August 30, 2014

Holsum Goodness

Many collectors are familiar with the late 70's - early 80's baseball cards that Topps produced for Burger King.  Featuring specific teams, these sets were usually about 22 cards in length, with a checklist added to each packs given away at participating "restaurants". Packs were usually clear cello and had three cards within. While the appearance of these cards made them look just like, or very close to, their regular issue counterparts, they had their own numbering scheme and Burger King manufacturing information on the backs. A Topps logo appeared on most checklist cards though.

Less well known in the world of third party produced cards are two football sets that Topps made for Holsum Bread in 1977 and 1978.  Rather than use regular issue cards from each year's national football set, Topps created new looks for these sets, which were regionally issued in bags of Holsum Bread and initially featured Packers and Vikings players (11 from each team in the 22 card 1977 set) and players from across the NFL in the 33 card 1978 set.  Here are examples from each, 1977 first:

However, look closely at the indicia on the back of each. There is no mention of Holsum bread anywhere on these cards: 

Strange but true. If you are interested in checklists for these sets, you should go to my buddy Mike's site, the Vintage Football Card Gallery.

Topps also produced two "update" cards for Holsum in 1976, in a reissue of their U.S. Presidents set that featured a notation on Richard Nixon's card (#36) about his resignation and added a card of Gerald Ford as #37. These are marked as Topps items but distributed with the bread along with 35 other cards that were unchanged from their 1972 Topps release:

There's even a less-than-snazzy album to house the cards, as this scan from Friend o'the Archive Ken Bush shows:

These were not the first Holsum Bread card sets, not by a long shot.  In 1920 or so they issued a scarce set of baseball players with an ACC number of D327. The present player count is 82 but it's a checklist in flux. The cards are often referred to as Weil Baking and are essentially E121's with different reverses.

The two Topps efforts were also not the last set issued by Holsum either. From 1989 to 1991, 20 card sets of discs were issued each year featuring top major league baseball players and a set of Phoenix Cardinals came out in 1989 and may have been issued in other years based upon the "Annual" notation on the cards. All of these later cards were produced by Michael Schecter Associates.




1989 Football:

Holsum Bread has a good, long history and is well over 100 years old.  It's progeny continues on to this day; in fact I bought a loaf of one of their brands this morning.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Packing It In

Friend o'the Archive Mark Hoyle sent along, quite a ways back, some scans from the early 70's that are of interest. Mark's mother worked at a pharmacy in the hazy, crazy 70's and occasionally brought home a few goodies for her son, namely:

Those little partial uncut sheets (showing the extreme right and left edges methinks) came packed in retail boxes that arrived at the pharmacy...but the boxes were from 1974!  I guess that means Topps saved up old waste sheets and used them up when needed, likely to fill out some air in a box prior to packing and shipping. The examples above are from the high numbers by the way. Perhaps Topps kept an old pallet or two of sheets around in case a few more cards could be sold?  It's a little odd but the very act of their holding onto something a year or two past its retailing occurred quite a bit back then.  Witness all the Fun Packs they used to issue.

It wasn't limited to baseball either.  These 1972 Football partials came in 1975 Football boxes:

Double Prints abound, as you can plainly see. Unfortunately, these are not from the uber-scarce 3rd, high series but rather from the rather pedestrian 2nd.  Still, pretty neat!

I'm not sure if Topps did this every year (probably not) and suspect it was only when they retrofitted box blanks from one issue to another before adding the graphics and needed some cushioning. Topps was great at making do with what was at hand if a run fizzled out so using a box for another purpose would be right in their wheelhouse.  As for the sheets, they would be shipped to the Topps factory from the printer on large pallets and, if they used the methods in vogue when I was but a 'twee warehouse shipper, would use metal banding to holds the stacks in place. Between the straps and the pallet bottoms and rough handling during shipment, you would have extra sheets from every pallet that came through the door in damaged condition. So why not put them to use?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Mug Shot

eBay ain't what it used to be but sometimes things pop up and I've just landed a strange item that looks like some kind of internal Topps piece (but actually isn't).  Check out this this bad boy:

I originally thought the the "bad" theme related to some type of internal initiative at Topps but as we'll see below, it's not so.  The mug itself is 3 1/4" in diameter and 3 1/16" high.  It's white as shown in the pictures above but it has a translucent, almost glowing quality to it. I think that it is made with what is called opalescent glass.

The bottom won't really scan but there is an Anchor Hocking mark with a model number: 5120 and it's noted to be oven-proof and made in the USA.

A little internet sleuthing turns up that it's actually a milk mug. Here's another from a bank in Iowa, circa 1982:

This finding didn't eliminate the possibility the mug was from a dedicated internal Topps campaign but my next search killed the idea completely.  At least a half dozen similar mugs can be found on eBay with ease, such as this:

I found others for outfits such as Roper, Travelers, Marathon Cheese and S.P.U to name a mere few and then sussed out BAD stands for "Buck A Day".  BAD was a coordinated (and apparently national) cost cutting efficiency effort to "save a buck a day". Here is more on the subject from Inc. Magazine. It would appear the Topps mug is a circa 1983 product but the BAD campaign may still be an active one.

The seller I purchased it from said it was his grandmother's and she worked at Topps Duryea plant in quality control form the 1960's to the 1990's. Even though it's not a true internal Topps item, it's still pretty cool.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

What A Hoot!

Boy I go away for a week and return only to find out a 60 year old hobby mystery has been solved and that said solving was accomplished over 40 years ago...sheesh!

Mired in legal salvos with Bowman, the 1953 Topps Baseball set is infamous for having six missing high numbers.  In addition, it appears five numbers were withheld from the first series of 80 cards either by reason of court order, cease-and-desist demand or intentional skip-numbering (which could have been planned either to account for anticipated legal problems with player contracts or to keep the kiddies looking for cards that did not yet exist).

Keith Olbermann, in late July, devoted a short segment to the six missing high number cards.  In it he featured a letter from Topps mailed in 1973 to an inquiring mind wanting to know which numbers had been dropped from the fourth (and last) series. The answer was close to what I had guesstimated a while back but I got two names wrong and it turns out one of them was the subject of a painting that has not yet surfaced.

The six missing players were:

Joe Tipton
Ken Wood
Hoot Evers
Harry Brecheen
Billy Cox
Pete Castiglione

Of these, the Evers painting remains MIA.  Topps did include him in the "extended" series of their 1953 reissue but it's clear they did not have the painting in their possession:

Here is KO's amazing piece:

As you can hear, he was given the skinny by Bob Lemke, although the information is over four decades old now.  One mystery still remains, namely that of the five possible pulled subjects from series 1, resulting in skip numbering that was essentially carried through the first three series runs. Paintings of Max Lanier, Richie Ashburn and Andy Pafko are known and while Jim Suchecki is also known, non-established players were generally not first series subjects as a player needed 31 consecutive days on the roster from the start of the season to receive full pay (Lanier just made it, he was released on May 15th, Wood lasted another week in the bigs).

Looks like there is still a little legwork to be done on this set.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Best Of Luckman

You have to give Topps an A for Effort in their postwar business plan.  After perfecting Bazooka in 1947, a flurry of promotions, premiums and advertising followed in the wake of its retail debut that summer. Very early on Topps hit upon the premium as a way to boost sales and visibility of the brand. Premium offers didn't really appear on the comics until the early 1950's and Topps used small brochures to advertise their earliest premiums.

The first Bazooka packs were five cent rolls; the one cent tabs did not appear until 1949 and while I have seen separate inserts advertising premiums from the penny packs, I can't recall any from the nickel versions. They did have some small ads for the catalogs alongside some of their their first comic strip efforts, like so:

Topps also had many ads in comic books and magazines such as Boys' Life for a variety of cards and premiums and when they mailed them out a brochure tagged along. This trade ad shows the strategy:

he first brochure was a thing of simplistic beauty but you had to use your imagination to picture the premiums:

A strong military connection was a hallmark of Topps cards and premiums until the great Freedom's War debacle of 1951 when Topps temporarily derailed their association with the military after groups of mothers and veterans protested that they were glorifying combat.  There were always one or two items for the girls as well.

Their first multi-premium catalog was a huge success and they had to send out mailers to people when the first run ran out:

The window display is unrelated to the postcard, it just came along for the ride on the scan.  As noted on this file copy kept by Woody Gelman, 15,000 postcards had to be printed up to meet demand. The original Bazooka Joe was 180 degrees removed from the later, familiar character but this early iteration is from October of '47 or earlier. Some premium numbering would be changed in the years to come but the sequence locked in pretty early in the 50's.

By 1949 Topps was hoping a connection with college football would be the ticket to glory as they marketed Varsity gum. As a tie in, they started pushing letters and numbers to let the kids make up their own football jerseys (see #111 in the middle; the other inserts date a little bit later):

The biggest promotion though, possibly their biggest ever, was for college pennants (or banners, in their parlance).  Check out the bottom of this ad:

If I'm not mistaken that ad states 1800 colleges were available on a 5" x 15" pennant.  However, I think that may have been an exaggeration as this wonderful late 1940's brochure shows:

The mere 708 possibilities on the helpfully numbered brochure could be closer to reality but who knows? The pennants must have just featured generic lettering to pull this promotion off. And did you note the offers for baseball emblems and pennants?  The promise of a new catalog makes me think they also came along with other premiums delivered to the suburbs and cities of America.

The Luckman fronted brochure also came in black:

I have no idea which color came first but do see that no numbering appears on the black version.

Identifying these pennants could be tough today; I don't think they were branded like the 1950's versions but there must be quite a few out there.