Saturday, November 29, 2014

Hitting The Big Time

A few months ago I took a look at a set of inserts Topps issued in their 2014 Archives release honoring the 25th Anniversary of the move Major League. Well they have now issued a jumbo 5" x 7" version of the cards in a wax pack set with a new card added to boot:

As for the bonus card of Jobu, it's a fright:

The actual Jobu, by the way, still carries on

The other five cards in the set repliicate the standard sized cards issued earlier this year. To recapitulate:

Roger Dorn (Corbin Bernson)

Eddie Harris (Chelcie Ross)

Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger)

Ricky Vaughn (Charlie Sheen)

Rachel Phelps (Margaret Whitten)

I still kinda wish they had included a card of Harry Doyle (Bob Uecker):

That ersatz Doyle is courtesy of Chris Olds over at Beckett. That's well worth a click as there are more fantasy cards from the movie/set over there.

While the marketing and timing of the larger set in a big boy wax pack was set up to stimulate sale over the summer, I'll bet some folks will spring for these as stocking stuffers.

I'd love to do a roundup of all the weird little promotional sets and one offs like this Topps has produced over the years.  There are a number of them, some of which I have covered here previously. Many are not well publicized, especially the single cards designed for actual use in a film or given out at awards functions.  I believe these types of sets have seen increased production in recent years.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Wisdom of Gelman

Well cowpokes, I am still digging through the stash from my latest purchase form what might have been, at one time, part of the actual Topps archives and have gotten around to reading a letter from Solomon & Gelman to the Lord Baltimore Press with detailed instructions on printing the 1953 Tarzan & The She Devil set from Woody Gelman himself.  I've shown this here before but it was murky and I think the process described is interesting enough to warrant another look:

Each card in the set, which was drawn by Joe Kubert, had four layers to it when created:

You can see how this created depth. Gelman's instructions indicate each card was to be shot in layers and then because there was to be a 3-D effect, the acetates (apparently prepared by Solomon & Gelman) would be shifted slightly. You can see how this worked on the finished product which is card no. 54 in the set:

This letter also clues us in that Lord Baltimore Press, which printed most of the Topps cards sets through at least the late 1950's -- before International Paper changed the operation a couple of years after acquiring LBP in 1958 into a folding carton manufacturer -- could shoot the artwork in either Manhattan or Baltimore before it was sent to the printing plant in Baltimore.  Topps of course switched over to Zabel Brothers of Philadelphia to print their cards once LBP got out of that line of work.

The (she) devil is in the details sometimes....

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Needful Things

Gonna span the decades today way of a sideways look at premium offers.

You remember of course the retailer premium certificates we have looked at a few times previously; some of the posts that are germane to this discussion can be found here, here and here. The gist was the more a retailer sold, the more he or she could accrue toward gifts, some of which were quite nice.

Well all those certificates had to be mailed somewhere and that somewhere was Topps HQ in Brooklyn (albeit until the early to mid 1950's it was via a PO Box). So what happened to each redemption once it hit Brooklyn?  Well thanks to a recent pickup of mine, it can be told.

Yes, Sy Berger himself (errrr, his secretary actually) would respond to you via form letter once your certificates were dispatched.  It's interesting that war stamps were still being discussed seven years or so after the end of the Big One. It also looks like inflation was rearing its head as well.

The supremacy of Bazooka is on display here; the original certificates lost their Topps Gum headings and changed over to Bazooka by the mid 50's although they flip-flopped sometimes before going over to Topps Chewing Gum later on, probably in the 1960's.

Here is a real early one, which lists Topps' original commercial address, although they used one of the Shorin family house addresses when they started up in 1938:

This certificate has no expiration date, a situation they would eliminate pretty early on in the process. The earliest expiration date I have seen is January 30, 1944. That one also had 60 Broadway as the address so the one above is quite early as its A 1624 registration number also attests. The main group of certificates switched to a format where the letter followed the numbers and was in place by the time the 1/30/44 expiry certificate was issued. The paper is of a type used in the securities field at the time so these certificates were considered to be as important as cash to Topps, almost like a bearer bond.

So anyhoo, the certificates had to be collated and once that happened a receipt was filled out and sent to the lucky recipient.

Can you imagine how much paperwork was involved in this operation?!?!

Even as late as 1970 there was a coterie of clerks keeping track as this internal Topps Teamates trading card shows:

I'm not sure when the program was halted (if indeed it has been) or switched over to some digital or online format but I have some certificates from the mid 1970's, although they were called Gift Certificates by then. They still had registration numbers on them and were validated by the Topps treasurer.  The security paper was long gone by then though.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Photo Finish

A large trove of Topps corporate items have just arrived here at the Main Topps Archives Research Complex, among them old sell sheets and some other goodies that will be the subject of a few upcoming posts.  There are also about a dozen publicity photos and I thought I would share some of the better ones today as much of the material is going to require a camera and will take me a while to get up on the blog.

Here is Sy Berger accepting an ash tray from Frank "Shag" Shaughnessy at the December 1963 Minor League Meetings:
Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick is shown here accepting a large donation from Topps President Joseph Shorin. This is undated but likely taken in the mid to late 50's.  I think Frick looks more like Shag's T206 than Shag does:


See the resemblance? 

Sy Berger with a display of some 1971 Topps Baseball Cards:

Joel Shorin, Mayor White and some kids along with Clarence Jones, October 3 1968 at the inaugural of a kids bike race in Boston. That is a 1968 uncut sheet they are holding and the kids are also holding five cent wax packs . Jones was a close friend and speech writer for MLK:

Those kids are holding 1968 wax packs by the way. Topps and the Shorin family were always major civic and civil rights supporters, stretching as far back as I have been able to find.

Here is an Abbott & Costello promo picture issued in conjunction with Bazooka advertising; I believe they either ran copies of this off for their sales and promotional staff or hung it in their offices as the captions are glued right to the photograph:

This also came with the transcription disc aircheck of the broadcast (or at least the ad) from what I believe was a February 5, 1949 radio broadcast of their Saturday morning children's show (the disc is dated February 7, 1949).  It's a shellac 78 from the looks of it and the darn thing won't spin on my CD player. This is just before the dawn of widespread television viewing.

More to come!

Saturday, November 1, 2014


It has been an auction season of mixed success for your intrepid webmaster. I've won some nice, old Topps companion pieces, made some purchases (some of which will be featured here in future posts) and lost out on some really killer items.  My most recent whiff concerns some Robert Crumb sales material produced for Topps in 1965, during his first foray to New York where Woody Gelman reeled him in for a short time after a hoped for job at Harvey Kurtzman's Help! magazine fell through.

During his nine months in New York City Crumb produced Monster Greeting Cards for Topps and did a couple of other projects.  One of these was an 18 page sales brochure designed for Topps jobbers and their retailers, a piece I did not manage to snag.  The brochure is rare (possibly his rarest extant publication) and also chased after by Crumb collectors, who are legion:

Much like his work on Monster Greeting Cards, Crumb's style was not fully developed in 1965. According to the man himself, he didn't start drawing in the style for which he is known now until after he started experimenting with LSD in late 1965 into mid 1966. I am curious if his LSD adventures were shared with anyone at Topps!

Two pages of interior artwork have been auctioned by Heritage fairly recently.  Here is page 5:

Page 13 is a doozy:

I love the old pasteups; everything was done manually back then.

I'm of the opinion that original Crumb artwork is moving into that magical realm of high end art collectors, if it's not there already.  He's going to be looked back upon as one of the 20th Century's major illustrators and artists.