Saturday, December 28, 2019

The Great White Ape

A pretty great uncut sheet of Planet of the Apes popped up recently on the Topps Vault and is a real eye-opener; it certainly made me go ape! (sorry).

Friend o'the Archive Lonnie Cummins pointed it out to me as I have to admit I am not always on top of the Vault's offerings (thank you, real life....) and it answers a couple of questions about POTA.

This is the set issued in wake of the original movie by the way and there is quite a bit to look at here. Let's zoom in on all the handwritten instructions:

Woody Gelman's distinctive handwriting and red crayon are evident. Paul need to be paying attention I'd say!  Especially since the borders are about to flip from black to white, thereby leaving behind one of the rarest of all Topps proofs, black-bordered POTA cards:

There's some additional notations about making the borders 3/32" and some other production notes as well.  But that upper left corner is very interesting indeed compared to sizing requirements:

How does a card not yet made get affixed as a visual aid on a Topps proof sheet?  Why via an Art Department paste-up!  You can just see the hint of a line running from the bottom left corner to the right under the image and there is the smallest hint of shadow at the upper right corner.  Topps did mockups all the time (click on the "Mockup"label at right to see many such examples) but this is the first one I've seen that was used to direct production of a full, issued set.

Now, it is hard to see but the commodity code for the set appears on the left side of the sheet.  It's partially obscured by pen marks but you can blow it up and clearly see this was a 1968 issue, not a 1967 as commonly assumed:

The dating discrepancy comes from the card backs.  Note the 1967 copyright date:

The wrappers clearly have a 1968 commodity code, so it's definitely a '68 issue once you see the US national release date of April 3, 1968. None of this though, explains why PSA calls this a 1969 set:

Well, now you know what it's all about on the Planet of the Apes!

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Roll The Presses!


Well about a month ago I promised a look at the very strange time when Topps took their printing in-house and thanks to Friend o'the Archive Lonnie Cummins, I now have the pictures to prove it.

Topps Magazine, which lasted 16 issues and premiered the year prior, ran a feature in one of their 1991 issues detailing the printing of the then-current, 40th Anniversary Baseball cards. A large number of pictures were included and I've snagged some instructive ones to share here.

The article notes the Topps Art Department prepared everything to produce this 792 card set and then sent the films to Duryea for production.  So the art was all composed in Brooklyn at Bush Terminal then shipped out for printing.  As noted in the prior post about the various printers used by Topps over the years, the backs were once printed separately from the fronts, then trucked to the printer of the day to have the fronts applied.  Going by the article here, that may not have been the case anymore by 1991 but it's not clear.

Here are sheets hot off the press, ready for inspection:

The sheets passing muster (which must have been 99.99% of them) went off to the cutting and collating department, where the slitting machines did their thing:

The article goes on to say the cards went on to their coded boxes and then into to their coded cases, yielding the finished stacks o'wax seen here:

If you've ever wondered how many wax cases of cards fit on a skid, the answer is 24! I assume those above were about to be banded to avoid toppling over in transit. Alternatively, they could have been hand loaded, which if done correctly fills the shipping container to the point nothing would shift. I spent a couple of years working in a warehouse during college and spent time both stuffing and unstuffing containers by hand; oh, I put in my time with the banding gun too! It was a good, physical job-not too, too strenuous but enough that you got a pretty good workout most days.

I'm not sure but Topps could have bought those presses from one of the defunct printers that did their work over the years.  They don't look all that old and there were plenty of skilled printers around Pennsylvania to run these at Topps.  This didn't go on for long I don't think and marked a massive change from how their cards were printed over the previous decades but as transport costs rose, it does seem to have been a sensible solution.


Saturday, December 14, 2019

Round And Round

Back at it on the 1970 Baseball Stars Candy Lids this week kids, with a look at the dozen American Leaguers in the set.

Yankee Stadium shots are ubiquitous in vintage Topps sets.  Luis looks pretty happy here, doesn't he?

Jim Fregosi in the classic Angels cap; it would change in 1971.

One of the nice things about this set is it mostly captures the 1969 expansion teams in their inaugural duds; Topps still had the Pilots on the banner for Mike Hegan, which gives us another dating clue as they didn't move to Milwaukee until April Fool's Day 1970.

 The Capitol Punisher at the height of his powers:

More staining above and below. Instead of finding a centered lid for Mr. October, I thought it would be instructive to show the die cut was not always on the money.  Quite a few of these lids are found off center.

Another Yankee Stadium shot for The Killer: 

Sudden Sam and his stellar sideburns are also shown at Yankee Stadium, he is upwardly off-center!

My vote for worst shot in the set goes to Denny McLain:

Sweet Lou was traded to the Royals on April 1, 1969 after being taken by the Pilots in the expansion draft but I guess Topps never got a shot of the upcoming Rookie of the Year in Royals attire in time for this set. That airbrushed hat is an atrocity....and given all the new pix taken in '69, I have to think he was in his Indians togs in the original shot. Did you know the Indians almost moved to Seattle in 1965?

Frank Robinson at Yankee Stadium in a "Big Bird" Orioles cap-classic:

Speaking of the Yankees, poor Mel Stottlemyre essentially spanned their dark years:

What better way to end our look at the set than with Yaz in --where else?--Yankee Stadium:

Topps followed with another candy lid set featuring baseball players in 1973 after extensively working up what appears to have been an intended 1972 versionGum Berries and Rocks O'Gum were issued on the Non-Sports side in various stages from 1971 to 1974 or so, indicating Topps clearly was enamored of the format.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Will The Circle Be Unbroken?

The 1970 Baseball Stars Candy Lids were a limited release that kicked off a half-decade or so run of similar issues that Topps nudged into the Non-Sports realm as well  These 1970 lids are extremely hard to find; PSA has 149 issued lids in their pop report overall and the totals graded run from 4 to 11 depending on the player. SGC does not grade these, or at least do not feature them in their pop report. These were likely a test issue based upon the current availability and competition in the hobby for these somewhat listless looking candy tub toppers is pretty intense.

The 24 subject set is made up of the usual Topps mix of the game's superstars, some top players from the non-HOF potential pool and a couple of the usual head-scratchers, although the selection here is pretty solid overall considering each team had to be repped.  I make it 11 HOF'ers (marked with an *), although I doubt Aparicio or Mazeroski were considered to be on a path to Cooperstown at the time by Topps.


I'll dissect the National League today, the American League will follow next week. Robert Edward Auctions had full set of these in one of their prior catalogs and I've liberated these scans from there, with one exception, which I will get to.

Hammerin' Hank was arguably the biggest story in the majors in 1970 as it was all systems go on his assault on the all time Home Run record:

That image looks like it came from the same shoot as his 1970 regular issue card.  I don't know why but dugout shots are probably my favorite poses.

The "Rich" Allen lid had to be capless as a big trade on October 7, 1969 sent him and and a couple other players to the Cardinals from the Phillies in exchange for Curt Flood, Tim McCarver and two other players.  Flood, as it turned out, began the course of changing baseball history by refusing to report to his new team and the deal was completed in a couple of pieces as 1970 progressed, with some substitutions made by the Phillies, although the other players involved obviously reported to their new employers.

So the set was clearly composed after the trade occurred, probably being worked on around New Year's or a little later, once the regular set was rolling along.

Johnny Bench was on the rise in 1970 but that didn't prevent candy residue from mottling this lid.  It's a common problem with the set and the product staining combined with creasing where the tab meets the circular portion of the lid brings a lot of grades down to VG-EX range or so.

The staining is quite apparent on Downtown Ollie Brown:

Willie Davis was a popular choice when Topps needed a Dodger in the early 70's to populate a limited release.  He could play a little too.

The pale, blank backgrounds on certain lids really show off the candy stains:

Juan Marichal appears in what looks like a Spring Training shot:

You can see the Pittsburgh University's Cathedral of Learning behind Forbes Field in this classic shot of Maz; check out that chaw in his cheek!

As noted above, Tim McCarver got shipped to the Phillies on October 7, 1969:

Tom Seaver's lid in REA had some registration issues. I found a different Seaver scan online that also had similar problems so there may have been some production issues with the set or at least his lid.  You can clearly see the candy was comprised of little nuggets in this sharper example:

Le Grande Orange at Shea Stadium, which would be his professional home a few years later.

The Toy Cannon is also pictured at Shea:

Back with the AL players next time!

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Every Little Thing

Quick-name the first year Topps sold complete boxed Baseball sets to collectors.  Many readers probably think 1980's (1982 started a long run of these) when the question comes up but the first time they did this was 1974, when Sears and (I believe) JC Penney offered them in their stores and catalogs.

Behold this magnificent beast, courtesy of Friend o'the Archive Brian Marcy (of Scottsdale Baseball Cards) :

These are hard to find these days but happily even though the above is example is devoid of any cards, a recent eBay auction filled in the missing bits:

I'm not sure what kind of pattern these should display if unmolested (like the zebra pattern in Topps vending boxes) but there ya go. Another Friend o'the Archive - Brian Yossef - advises the "Washington NL" variations are not present but that the red team checklists found their way into these, as did the Traded cards. (UPDATE 12/15/19-per Brian Yossef, it seems the red checklists most likely did NOT find their way into these; Steve Hart at BBCE thinks yes, the CU forums say no; it seems to me they would be superfluous in a full, boxed set. He also sent along a look at how the unmolested cards should look and they do indeed have the zebra pattern):

The bottom reveals the commodity code:

The 02 revision number is interesting but doesn't always mean the first version was retailed.

Some more views here, looks like a mouse got to some of the box:

Sears price stickers can be found on sometimes on one of the flaps, not sure about JC Penney versions, if they indeed sold these.  These are not easy to find these days, hard to believe they are 45 years old! Now, compare the above to the regular 1974 wax box graphics:

The basic background is the same.  We get a bottom view too:

That's a 1-302-70-01-4 commodity code if you are keeping score at home. Not a match to the full set's at all.  Side view, check, just not quite as tall:

The other long side is, of course, not something the full set graphics could have shown:

I mark this as the true starting point of the modern era cards.  Once the various series got the boot, it was off to a pretty generic look for most of the decade thereafter.  When Topps had no direct competition in a market, that's how they blandly rolled.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Fancy That

One of the stranger things about collecting type cards is that once you settle upon a collecting plan, you can end up with some pretty esoteric items to fill out your run. My plan consists of finding an example of anything Topps released in a pack at retail from 1948-1980, across all lines, excluding pure confectionery items that did not have an accompanying product. Topps referred to such issues as "novelties" originally, meaning a candy or gum issue that came with an "extra" component or two and I've tried to stick to that meaning.

This puts true test issues, limited and regional products and of course run-of-the-mill general releases, plus things like wrappers that have tattoos on their flip sides. I do also collect some ancillary items like internal mockups, premiums, examples of Bazooka comics and the original Topps Gum wrappers, but those are not part of the main sequence.

Of course, this means things get a little weird sometimes and one issue that certainly fits that particular bill is 1976's Fancy Pants.  Dubbed "Real Cloth Jean Stickers", this small set consists of 31 denim-like stickers that were meant to be applied to clothing and in particular, from the look and shape of them, pockets thereon.

Tell me this isn't a period piece!

There's action on the reverse as well:

Also in the pack was a puzzle/checklist card, designed like those that came with Wacky Packages, where you needed nine cards to complete the puzzle.  It appears to be an enlargement of the George Washington For President sticker.

Some observations:

1) The set is clearly truncated at 31 stickers.  33 subjects would be the norm at the time, so 31 screams that something or two deemed potentially offensive was removed by Topps brass at the last minute. I'd wager the original length was intended to be 33 stickers.

2) The sticker adhesive looks to be seeping through to the backs on most examples I've seen, which ain't many. This effect happens with many sticker sets of the era.

3) These are incredibly hard to find. The PSA pop reports reveal they have graded 11 stickers overall, with no more than one of each subject graded, plus two checklist cards  That's it and the majority of stickers have received a grade of 4.

4) Images of all 31 stickers can be found over at Todd Riley's site

5) The wrapper is clearly done test-style and coded T85-5:

This is without a doubt, one of the toughest test issues from Topps, even more impressive since it's a mid-70's release and their issued quantities at the at time generally were in excess of their 1960's test output.