Saturday, March 25, 2017

Punnily Enough

One of the greatest Topps inserts ever came with the 1967 AFL Football cards.  With no NFL license at the time, Topps was in the doldrums and, for a second year, down to a 132 card set of the new-ish league's players. So of course this limited type of set contained the fantastic 31 sticker set known as Comic Pennants.  But wait....there's a lot more to the story! For some reason known only to Topps, there are three varieties of this set.

Right now I'm tracking a die cut sticker variety and a numbered and unnumbered variety on cardboard stock. Both cards are exactly that: cards and they are not die cut. There could be a non-die cut variety on sticker stock as I've seen a reference to same but can't find one in the wild and am presuming it's a red herring at this point after checking with some noted FB collectors. The set has been discussed here before but not in depth.

Here's a die cut sticker and reverse:

A numbered card and its reverse;

And the unnumbered card with reverse:

All three types are standard sized.

But I'm not really here to dissect the different flavors of this set today.  I'm here because the current BST Auctions offering, which is full of wondrous treasures (and run by some friends of mine) has an uncut sheet of the stickers and it is a thing of beauty:

That's a 90 sticker array (10 x 9) and it's obvious not all subjects are printed in equal quantities. There can be 2, 3, 4 or 6 imprints of the same sticker on this sheet!  It looks like a full sheet and Topps, from what I have seen, did not print A and B sheets of their inserts like they did with the regular issue cards.  The breakdown is quite odd but of course it's an odd set.  I've capitalized the names of actual schools, places (but not Transylvania!) and AFL teams in the checklist below and listed the number of times each appears on the sheet in parentheses:

1. Navel Academy (4)
2. City College Of Useless Knowledge (2)
3. My Teacher Looks Like The Hunchback of NOTRE DAME (3)
4. Psychedelic State (4)
5. MINNEAPOLIS Mini-Skirts Are On The Rise (2)
6. School Of Art - Go, Van Gogh (3)
7. WASHINGTON Is Dead (4)
8. School Of Hard Knocks (2)
9. If I See Her ALASKA (3)
10. Confused State (4)
11. YALE Locks Are Tough To Pick (2)
12. University Of Transylvania (3)
13. Down With Teachers (4)
14. They Caught Me Cheating At CORNELL (2)
15. You're A Fink If You Don't Root For The HOUSTON OILERS (3)
16. I Flunked Out Of HARVARD (6)
17. Diskotech (2)
18. Dropout U (3)
19. Polluted AIR Will FORCE You To Wear Gas Masks (2)
20. Nutstu U. (2)
21. MICHIGAN State Pen (3)
22. The Girls In DENVER Look Like BRONCOS (4)
23. I Left BUFFALO Without Paying My BILLS (2)
24. ARMY of Dropouts (3)
25. In MIAMI I Was Bitten By Two DOLPHINS (4)
26. KANSAS CITY Has Too Few Workers And Too Many CHIEFS (2)
27. Everything Is Banned In BOSTON Except PATRIOTS (3)
28. Fat People In OAKLAND Are Usually Ice Box RAIDERS (2)
29. I'd Go WEST If You'd Just POINT In The Right Direction (2)
30. NEW YORK Skies Are Crowded With JETS (3)
31. SAN DIEGO Police Will Press CHARGERS (2)

Or, to present it another way:

Two Times: Nos. 2, 5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 19, 20, 23, 26, 28, 29, 31 - Thirteen Cards
Three Times: Nos. 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, 24, 27, 30 - Ten Cards
Four Times: Nos. 1, 4, 7, 10, 13, 22, 25 - Seven Cards
Six Times: No. 16  - One Card

That's an odd pattern, even for Topps. Harvard gets 6 impressions, which leads me to believe one other subject was pulled and replaced by the "Crimson Tide". That would make 32 subjects and I could easily see another to make 33, using the common 11 divisor of the time. Maybe a second sheet does exist, it would not surprise me given this way the above sheet is arrayed. If that's the case, it may have started life as a standalone set.

The set is full of anarchic style humor and was clearly worked on by some of the underground comix artists Topps used as free-lancers at the time.  I'd say Wally Wood did a lot of the artwork but the captions sound like Jay Lynch had a hand in them.

The set is also known as Krazy Pennants.  I have seen anecdotal evidence a wrapper by that name exists and it's possible the cards were found in those or perhaps they were stiffeners in the following year's Krazy People Posters. The possibility of Fun Pack distribution always exists as well.

There is some speculation the insert set was pulled due to its shocking humor and according to Friend o'the Archive Mike Blaisdell, wax boxes are known with the Sticker splash panel covered over with a sticker of its own indicating extra cards were in the packs. As Comic Pennants was the only insert in 1967 Football, nothing else could have replaced it in the packs so I guess Topps had to do something to stay ahead of Philly Gum's NFL cards!

 I don't think we are done looking at this set yet...

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