Saturday, July 27, 2019

Mystery Dating

Mile High Auctions recently featured a very scarce pack from either 1967 or '68 and while not quite a unicorn, it's pretty close.  I've posted here previously (click the 1967 Topps Baseball Punch-Out labels for more) about the 1967 Topps Baseball Punch-Outs  which were mostly sold in long cello packs containing two three card panels, a most unwieldy format:

Gotta love the ingenuity, although it seems to have been a limited release--not a test--but seemingly only issued in a few regions-one was around Baltimore, so these may have been printed by a specialty lithographer down there.

The commodity code reads 0-485-51-01-7. These codes commenced in the Spring of 1966, as Topps moved production to Duryea, PA while the top brass and non-production staff remained in Brooklyn and allowed tracking of the various product and components of same. Lonnie Cummins has decoded a good portion of what these strings of numbers mean (see The Wrapper issues #316 & 317 for a very detailed look) and using his method, we can decipher some of this:

0 represents the specific media, in this case the Wrapper

485 is the Product Line/Stock Number, which can be tricky.  These can be inconsistent within a specific issue that was issued over a long period of time (often in series) and would often be reused in later years for different products.  The first digit usually signifies the product line, with a 0 for a candy or gum issue (1 is used here instead for some sets). Generally a 4 is for Entertainment Cards, which includes Sports Cards, but oddball sets (and some regular ones) don't always follow the pattern and it's not clear why.  My own take is that it may represent which group within Topps was responsible for the set but I am not real solid on that. The last two digits are the project number, which reset every calendar year and was assigned once Topps brass gave the go ahead for a particular set or product.

51 is the Format, or Style and is thought by Lonnie to relate to the printing and/or packaging process, possibly even detailing the machinery used to wrap the packs.

01 is the revision number and starts at these two digits.  This means the first iteration.

7 is for the last digit of the year of conception (and likely copyright).  For the period of 1966-68-ish it's not uncommon for a test or oddball product to be issued the year after this digit indicates (or even later in a couple of cases).

Look, a code!

That reads: 1-485-35-01-7 and means:

Display Box-Entertainment/Sports Stock #-Format Code (unknown)-First issue (no revision)-approved 1967.

Now, here is where it gets intriguing.  I have long thought that the set was first issued in the above cello livery and then reissued in wax the following year after it was revised to remove some retired a handful of players that changed leagues or retired after the 1966 season (and seemingly Bob Gibson as well) but I think I got it backwards. Check out this sucker from Mile High:

The back tells the tale, as (almost) always:

The stock number is quite a bit earlier than 485, while the format number is not really decipherable it is different than 51 and this is a second revision wrapper, which is looking like it came out in 1967.

A proof for the wax box exists and it's dated (in pen, with illegible commodity number) on March 7, 1967

Given the sixteen product gap between issues I now think both versions came out in 1967 as the Topps stock numbers go into the 90's that year. The timing of the wax wrapped Punch-Outs looks like Spring Training or just after, then once the roster moves could be processed, the cello timing looks like mid-season.

I believe this is the only Topps set issued in this super elongated cello format. The wax likely held two "cards" as you need that many to play the game.  The auction listing stated the wax packs were not issued but I disagree as we are looking at a second revision wax pack. Maybe there wasn't enough profit there, or it was the test version but some escaped in wax and while the set is tough, there are enough out there that the extant subjects are slightly beyond normal test issue territory. The PSA pop report is sparse, which seemingly contradicts this, but a lot of the surviving cards have been "popped" and not graded.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Flower People

Today we travel back to a simpler era, where every mom and pop candy shop in the country must have been in dire need of a dinnerware set. Diving right in, this was a 24 pack of Bazooka nickel rolls:

Get a better look:

What's awesome is that the smaller pieces from the set were actually packed in the box! The china set was widely distributed, both by Topps and in the real world.  It looked a lot better than the drab colors above show:

You can still readily buy the pattern today on replacement china sites and eBay.  Salem was located in Ohio and stopped manufacturing china in 1960 after a sixty two year run but distributes wares from other manufacturers to this day and was known for large, inexpensive production runs.

The 240 count jumble pack would likely have held two 120 count penny boxes.

Here's a certificate.  While this box is described as being from 1953 in the eBay listing, I believe it dates back to 1951 or so.  As the certificate below expired in 1956, it's obvious Topps had a literal boatload of this china to unload:

Given the address, I surmise the china was all stored at the Topps warehouse in Bush Terminal, Brooklyn. Here's the full Monty:

Some more detail from the Bazooka box, don't forget Topps scored their Bazooka rolls to make it look like you got 6 pieces for a nickel::

The penny packs also were scored, two for one, split down the middle!

Topps introduced the penny sized Bazooka in 1949, which is why I think this box is earlier than 1953.  It also features the original Bazooka Joe mascot, also from a bit earlier I think:

Salem sold 36 piece sets for two and a half bucks in the 1930's but Topps must have cut a hell of a deal on some overstock as they somehow had to break even at the end of the day.  I have to believe they paid just scant pennies on the dollar for whatever amount of china they ultimately bought.

For some reason, I am now hungry!

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Batter Up, Up And Away!

I've been tracking a few different things of late, almost all of them packaging related.  I usually semi-rehash things when I start looking at broader cross sections of things but dem's da breaks with this!  Anyhoo, 1968 Topps Batter Up is today's subject.

Everybody, presumably, is familiar with the 33 card insert Game cards Topps included in their wax and cello packs in 1968. What is less familiar, but known to some of us, is that Topps tried to market the complete set in boxed form as well; see here for much more detail.  I believe these were only test products, based upon this box flat proof:

I can't swear I've seen a 10 cent variety in box form (update, I now have, see end of post) but the 15 cent versions do pop up from time to time.  There's more to it than that, hence this post, but this seems like an early example of Topps trying out two price points on a test product, a practice that became more prevalent in the 70's but had to start somewhere.

The 15 cent boxes are difficult but not impossible. Here's a real nice one:

As you may or may not be able to see, the proof does seem to carry commodity codes on a box flap but I can't make it out.  I presume it ends in an "8" and suspect these were marketed around the time of the World Series or if they waited, the start of spring training and/or the regular season in 1969.

It's pretty cool of Topps to have marketed the full set but they must have had a ton of the insert cards on their hands as they are ubiquitous in the hobby.

Now what came next, presumably next that is, would seem to indicate either some sort of product dump or a complete erasure of the ten cent pricing.  I've seen these versions as well in a few different spots over the years:

The blacked out price, given the fact these exist in multiples, was probably effected by Topps.  Did they flood the tertiary market with these, market them in Fun Packs, decide a dime was too cheap, or just repurpose them some other way?  I don't know, it could even be all four.

And what of this anomaly, from an old REA auction:

By the time this stickered over version came around it seems like a dumping of product for resale at some deeply discounted rate was contemplated or perhaps actually occurred.  I've seen at least one other like that as well. The plain black circles on some boxes could indicate the white sticker has fallen off, I'm really not sure.

We should not forget that Topps actually stole this idea from Ed-U-Cards, who sold these in the late 40's and early 50's:

The quotes around "Batter Up" by Topps may have been an attempt to avoid a trademark issue. The Ed-U-Cards set was also used as a premium by a beverage company called Cott.  The whole story is here, along with details about how Topps also used a design for a paper baseball diamond/scoresheet that came in the Ed-U-Cards box in the bagged set of Red Backs that burned off excess stock in 1952 or thereabouts. It would have been a neat thing to include such an item here but they didn't, so far as I can tell.

Play Ball!

UPDATE 7/18/19-Al Richter has provided a scan of a 10 cent box that was issued.  I still think the 10 centers eventually had their prices covered but this is a neat find-thanks Al!

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Boxing Greats

Taking a look at some 60's boxes today kids-movin' and groovin'!

Topps issued an esoteric set of little plastic animals boxed up with what I assume was their Block Busters Bubble Gum, a repeat tactic from 1956 when they deployed leftover Block Busters in their Baseball Buttons packs (really a small box, just like these packs). You will recall, of course, that this bubble gum resembled little Chiclets and remained something Topps futzed around with at least into the 1970's. I have always presumed the gum was cello bagged and the pin (or animal in this case) would have been loose within the pack as I have never seen an interior with any kind of staining on the Baseball Buttons.

I'd previously show the retail pack (box) for these but here is the display box in all it's colorful glory:

We already know the set is from 1968 thanks to a commodity code on the pack flap and now we can see the checklist.  I can't find anything on the look of the actual product but they would likely be a single color and knowing Topps each could be found with all colors used for this run (likely four). It's virtually certain the animals had been used previously in another application by another firm or represent an aborted product accordingly. Surviving animals would be hard to identify today and they appear to have been made in the USA. Other oddball, short checklist sets of the era issued by Topps would often be packed so a full set could be found in each retail box. I suspect that would be the pattern here as well.

The packs have Wally Wood artwork and while I have shown these scans before, they are worth showing again:

Drifting back a year, we have 1967's Phoney Record Stickers:

Dating is confirmed by the box bottom:

I'll have to delve into the set (and the inserted Stupid Hit Songs cards) in another post as there is a lot to look at but REA had a nice pack a while back I want to show now: