Saturday, June 24, 2017

Smile For The Camera

Friend o'the Archive Scott Gaynor passed along a scan of an old publicity photo that he will have up for auction the other day that I had never seen before and it is, in a word, stupendous:

Brown (left) and Gelman, are clearly on the set of the Soupy Sales show as Topps was doing their thing to promote the 1965 upcoming card set. This was not the actual shot used, or at least I don't think it was as one clearly taken within seconds of this one has been uploaded over at for some time now and seems to be the money shot, although I only know this since I started researching the above picture:

Kind of a dour look from the Topps boys, no? That Mars Attacks logo pegs the second scan to Topps proper methinks. I also have to think this shot was the one used officially. I tend to be in the 1965 camp for the Soupy set, although most sources cite 1967.  Either is possible but there seems to be more evidence for the earlier date, at least to my mind, as Soupy-mania was in full swing in 1965.

Len Brown was a protege of Woody's and perhaps his most successful one. Brown succeeded Gelman as Creative Director of Topps, having been hired by Woody as a 17 year old.  Brown worked on such things as the 1960 Baseball set, Mars Attacks, Civil War News and obviously Soupy Sales before ascending to Woody's old position upon the latter's retirement (which I think was in 1972).

Saturday, June 17, 2017

And Then A Step To The Right

More REA goodness this week kids!

I love uncut sheets and there was a doozy in the April Robert Edward Auctions offering, namely a 1956 Topps Flags Of The World half sheet:

Uncut sheets often tell a story about production methods and this one is no exception. Topps used 110 card press half sheets in 1955-56, increasing from 100 card arrays in 1952-54 without changing their main card size, which at the time was referred to as Giant Size (2 5/8" x 3 3/4").  You would think then that a 100 or 110 card series or set would make a lot of sense but generally things didn't work that way.

If this was the annual Baseball issue, Topps would have another half sheet for each series, usually with a slightly different array. They most likely did these due to the sheer volume of Baseball sold each year vs other series like Flags and had a need to print things a certain way.  Some of the print arrays were influenced by packaging patterns as well.

Here, if you count columns from left to right, you can see 5, 6 &7 repeat as 9, 10, 11 and this corresponds with the 30 known double prints in the 80 card set.  But why leave a one-column gap (at #8) between the trio of repeats?   Compare with a sheet from an 80 card 1956 Baseball series 3 sheet:

Here it's a repeat of the 2, 3 & 4 columns in 9, 10 & 11 so the extras off to the one side seem to be something of a Topps Giant Size hallmark. Even on the first series of 1956 Baseball, which had 100 subjects, the one repeated column is the rightmost one on the known half sheet:

If we could find the other half sheets for 1956, I'd bet all the repeats are in the rightmost columns. Now, the question is, what did this allow Topps to do? I mean, every kid must have wanted an extra card of Warren Giles, right?!

Saturday, June 10, 2017


The recently concluded Robert Edward Auctions spring spectacular had a huge array of vintage goodies as usual. There were, scattered among the pages of their phone book sized catalog , a number of Saleman's Samples from Topps and Bowman.  I've shown Bowman samples from 1950, 1952, 1954 and 1955 recently and don't like to repeat myself if I can help it, so will focus on the lot of 53's that was offered.

Considered, of course, by many collectors as the best looking set of all time, 1953 Bowman Baseball is indeed gorgeous.  You can see that on the two strips from REA:

Unlike Topps, who put specific copy on the backs of their samples, Bowman usually just sent out strips of cards from their production sheets accompanied by a letter with some hyperbolic copy. The backs are straight from the printing press:

Since I actually can't help it, the auction had great 1954 and 1955 panels as well and since the scans I nicked are so much better than the ones I posted here a while back, I figured what the hey.  1954 came 2x2:

Bowman stuck a sticker on the backs of some.  They also use "Salesmen's" whereas as I have always used "Salesman's". Not sure if the top one lost it's sticker (probably not) or if it was never affixed:

  Blond or chestnut, take your pick (although some hybrids with both on the same panel exist):

For their swan song, Bowman finally went to a legit sample with ad copy on the back.Gorgeous ad copy, I might add:

The 20 years of leadership refers to their first issued set, when the company was known as Gum Inc., although the first cards appeared in 1933 and they were all non-sports.  Gum Inc. competed directly against Goudey and those were the two major issuing companies in the years leading up to World War 2.

I've always liked these samples; they are great little offbeat collectibles.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

We Have A Winner

BFF o'the Archive Jeff Shepherd recently sent along what are the oldest Topps trade ads I have seen. What's below hails from March 1940, a mere 15 months or so after the company was founded.  We get a nice look at one of the bakelite Topps Gum counter displays in this piece of puffery:

That gum display is quite interesting to me as it shows the Ginger flavor and also helps date that particular tab.  Shep and I think it was replaced or overtaken by Pepsin soon after launch and you can find that flavor plus the Spearmint, Peppermint and Cinnamon varieties in tab form somewhat easily, same with their wrappers.

I've never seen the display rack variant on the left before; these are made of bakelite:

As an aside, I own a tab of the Ginger that Shep thinks may be the only one in existence:

The New York City wrapper variant probably dates to 1939 then but I can't be 100% sure as the indicia of the ones in the display obviously can't be seen.  Still, it's a good bet. We also get a peek at a vending box sleeve, where 55 tabs of refreshing Topps Gum resided until slipped into a display.

60 Broadway, which is the Gretsch Building, was the first Topps production floor. They didn't vacate the premises completely until 1965 despite moving their offices twice in Brooklyn before decamping to Duryea, Pennsylvania in 1966. They used it as warehouse space once they took more space just down Broadway a short time later.

The economics of the time are quaint but those little extras, like five extra pieces of gum per vender, were a big part of the Topps sales strategy.