Saturday, February 18, 2017

Canadian Football Logic

Things are a bit wonky around here right now, so I thought I'd go with something light today, namely a look at some Topps CFL boxes and wrappers, just because they are cool and unusual.  Plus, they can teach us a little about Canadian manufacturing and distribution information.

I turned to one of main men for OPC and Canadian information, Bobby Burrell (a Friend o'the Archive if there ever was one) as 1960 Football Tattoo indicia, not to mention that of Magic Funny Fortunes of the same era (likely 1961), was showing both US and Canadian information. Meanwhile the 1960 Baseball Tattoo packs have separate US and Canadian versions, the latter of which says "Made in Canada - Printed in Canada".  So clearly something changed in 1960 between baseball and football season but as we will see below, there were two football seasons!

Take a look at this array of Topps CFL boxes:

From top left to bottom right these are: 1961, 1962, 1959.  Topps would often repeat graphic elements over a few years for sports issues in Canada, whether it be wrappers, boxes or features lifted from other card sets.

When you turn the boxes over, you get to the deets:

1962 is on top, 1961 on the bottom left and 1959 on the right.  As you can see, the 1959 box is blank on the bottom, while 1961 and 1962 have added both a Printed in Canada line and a full set of manufacturing indicia, showing O-Pee-Chee's licensing deal with Topps. I'm not sure if the 1960 box is like the one from 1959 but I would really like to see it.  These are not easy to find by the way.

There's a lot more to this story as US Football sets were also sold up North; their CFL season precedes that of the NFL so Topps had two seasons to sell product. More on all of this some other time, I really just wanted to show these boxes today and that is going to take more effort than I can expend right now.

I've been impressed in composing Canadian-centric posts over they years, with how much effort Topps put into their marketing north of the lower 48.  They pretty much got right into Canada after World War 2 ended and likely had a presence before the war as well (I can't find much on their pre-war Canadian operations). Canada had roughly ten to twelve percent of the population of the US in the post war era but Topps continually stuck with a trading card strategy centered around their Hockey issues and a host of non-sports sets before they really let loose with O-Pee-Chee in 1965 on Baseball. They had established a beachhead for Topps Gum and later Bazooka on the confectionery side even prior to this. My take is that as a percentage of population Canadians bought more cards than kids in the US.


Hepcat said...

With respect to the marketing of NFL issues in Canada, the only Topps NFL cards I can say were distributed in Canada prior to 1966 were the ones for 1962. My buddy and I collected ALL cards for several years up until 1965-66 and the 1962 ones were the only NFL cards of which we were aware. This was in London, Ontario which was where O-Pee-Chee was based. Therefore if NFL cards showed up anywhere in Canada, London would have been ground zero.


P.S.: If you really want comments, don't make people jump through hoops by requiring some kind of yahoo account.

toppcat said...

I beleive Topps had a distributor in Western Canada as a number of early sets of all types have been found in Vancouver and environs. TV and radio range would have been a determining factor but you would think Lions games made it to London.

I have no idea what the Yahoo account reference means. Comments are moderated to eliminate spam but this is a Google product and as far as I know, just uses reCAPTCHA.

Hepcat said...

Sorry about the Yahoo comment. I meant Google.

With respect to Detroit Lions telecasts and NFL telecasts in general pre-1966, I know that CFPL in London which was a CBC affiliate carried one NFL game on Sundays. I never watched though.

Cable TV had made wide inroads into London by the middle part of the decade. We had it by 1966. The cable TV package provided twelve channels - CFPL, CTV affiliate CKCO from Kitchener, independent CHCH from Hamilton, three stations from Detroit, three from Cleveland and three from Erie. The Erie stations came in the most clearly so they accordingly got the most viewership in London when it came to ABC, NBC and CBS network programming. (In fact, some London businesses advertised on the Erie stations which I'm sure befuddled residents in northern Pennsylvania!) Accordingly the whole gamut of NFL and AFL games were available in London to a cable TV subscriber.

But!!! This didn't mean that O-Pee-Chee thought there was sufficient demand for Topps NFL cards in London to distribute them. Like I say, I remember only the 1962 NFL cards being sold in corner stores when I was a kid. I turned fourteen in 1966 so my childhood card collecting years were over.

Moreover I don't remember pre-1966 NFL cards other than the 1962 set being as commonly found as CFL issues at the occasional Toronto card show through the 1980's. (Admittedly I wasn't looking for NFL cards though.) Since 1990 and the card collecting explosion and the internet, anything and everything is available across country borders of course.

Interesting with respect to Topps baseball card distribution in London and probably Canada overall. Pre-1962 high numbered cards from #265 to the end of the set were widely available. In the 1962-65 years though O-Pee-Chee didn't seem to bother offering anything other than the first three series of baseball cards up to #264. It was maddening! The high numbers of these sets are still much tougher to find in Canada in card shops or card shows.


toppcat said...

Canada was the first Topps foreign market, followed closely by Israel I believe, but it sure sounds pretty haphazard, even into the 70's.