Saturday, July 25, 2020

No Cards Just Gum...No Gum Just Cards

More catching up today lids as the new "deets" arriving at the Main Topps Archives Research Center continue unabated! As you may surmise from this post's title, this will be a far ranging piece today.

Friend o'the Archive Jason Rhodes has sent along a pair and a half of goodies, first up, a very old and wonderfully preserved Bazooka nickel roll wrapper with a "ride-along" bonus thrown in by the seller:


Nice freebie on that tray card Jason! I believe that "Award of Merit" wrapper debuted in mid-1949, replacing a Parents Magazine Seal,which could help date the World Famous Stamps Tray Card but that style may have persisted into 1952-53.

The reverse has a Peg comic, also possible from 1949-53 per my extant notes so a DC Comics/Topps timeline narrowing needs to be carried out!


Mr. Rhodes though was not even close to done as he alerted me to this lot over at The Sports Auction Co.  Check this bad boy out:



That is the first time I have seen a case for the Trading Card Guild Rak Paks, although I have seen the 1962 Civil War News raks before. That seems like a very small case for the Topps non-confectionery operation and I suspect it's more of a box component with several in a master case. CWN has been the subject of several finds over the years; it is quite abundant in nice shape as a result.

BFF o'the Archive Jeff Shepherd sent along a scan from an auction he ran on eBay with a 1970 Bazooka Twin-Pack (spoiler alert, I won the auction) that seems to be a successor to the 1969 Twin-Pack recently featured here:


As you can see, that's from a file book and it turns out it was sold by (and from, of course) the Topps Vault.  Seemingly, the confectionery only items were filed in a different manner than Woody Gelman's "Big Idea" sample card filing and reference system. My notion that the 1969 Twin-Pack wrapper was the latest sepia issue is therefore incorrect but both years' offerings are rare birds and the comics appear to be part of the same sequence as the 1969 wrapper ensconced #10 and here we have jumped to #17 a year later.


The distribution in packs of the 1973 Baseball Blue Team Checklists has been speculated upon in various forums and 10 cent wax is known to some as "being blue" on occasion, as this old Huggins & Scott description shows:


A thing of beauty is a joy forever, or so the poem goes....and "all 660" packs seem to hold the key to the blue checklists, which is eminently logical.

Here's the back of those packs, note the commodity code has a stock number of 401, which is correct for 1973:


However, a recent eBay auction revealed the bottom of the "blue checklist" wax box and there is a little twist-check out the commodity code, which is in red for some odd reason.


A 451 stock number is showing but what of those packs I pictured above? Compare to a "regular" 1973 10 cent wax box:


Black code there, as was usually the case and the same with the 401, which matches the wax packs. It makes sense the team checklists came in the "all 660" boxes and I suspect the red coding is related to that (and the little pop up tab on the front of the box). At first I thought it related to a long form, slap-dash test within the regular distribution since 1974's 15 cent long form test had a black commodity code, but Bill Haber explained it all (and then some) in the March 1973 issue of The Ballcard Collector revealing it was planned and rolled out from the get-go:




The cut down to 660 from 787 was assuredly due to the Topps IPO in March 1972 and the planning for 1973 Baseball would have commenced during the dog days of the '72 season. I do wonder though, if the renegotiated MLBPA CBA following the 1972 strike had anything to do with this, maybe with the union desiring to shuffle more revenue to more established major league players.

The stock number middle digit changed as well on that "all 660" box and 451 is not a number Topps trotted out often (the stock numbers would cycle through on roughly a two year basis most of the time). What does it all mean?  Maybe someday all will be revealed as more information is developed on Topps packaging ideosyncracies.

And to top it off, eBay recently had the almost unknown 1973 Team Checklist premium sheet, which went for a song (and which I missed seeing-rats!):


There were still interesting things happening as the 70's wore on!

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Super Seventies (And Extra Eighties)

Last time out I posted a couple of Topps cello Super-Packs then belatedly realized Topps had sold them for a few more years than I initially thought.  After a little more digging, I've found what I hope is most of them.

Our saga begins in 1978, with a Football cello and cross-promotion:


The back had no added stiffening tray, it was au naturel:


As 1979 rolled around, a Baseball Super-Pack was created, with a penny dropped off the price:


The back shows a tray card we've seen on that 1980's Football Super Pack shown last time out:


1979 Football got the same treatment:


Same tray....


You can check last week;s thread for the 1980 Super-Packs but I was surprised to see the cross-selling continued into 1981, the year I re-entered the hobby.  I usually keep to a 1980 cutoff here and in my collecting but am rethinking that a bit noting, while I ponder, that I never saw these anywhere that year, that's for sure:


The gum went back to its sugary roots and the back went blank, perhaps fitting for the year of the big MLB strike.  I think Topps was still trying to fend off Bubble Yum at the time (an epic fail BTW) but there could be any number of reasons why this product was picked for '81. Note the 1980 code showing year of conception as the price went up by a dime, indicating the code was not for a 1980 wrapper rehash.


There could very well be variant wrappers and contents.  The commodity codes might shift around a little or even reused for a spell as well on some Super-Packs in the era.  The only decent insert came with the 1980 Baseball Super-Packs and it's not clear to me why say, a football scratch-off game wasn't included in the Football issue that year. Perhaps they were planning the widely issued 1981 Baseball Scratch-Off set and figured why not monetize things such a product if it took off.  Who knows?

I'm learning more about Topps packaging these days thanks to some Facebook groups, especially those from the Super Seventies!

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Super Pack

I want to revisit a couple of items today, the first is Fun Packs, those little (usually) 1 or 2 card packs Topps worked up every Hallowe'en and Christmas for a couple of decades.  I've shown various wrappers from these before but they all seem to be from 1965 or later. A recent eBay sighting makes we wonder if a primordial version has finally surfaced:


There's no product code, so it's pre-1966 and it sure looks like the graphics could be 1963-64-ish.

Secondly, I posted about a fairly unknown Topps Scratch Off game from 1980 and at the time (May 12, 2009) noted Bob Lemke thought it came from Jumbo Packs:


He was pretty close as they came in Super-Packs:


I guess this is technically a test issue.  Here's our quarry, on the back, 931 matching code with the card, and all:


Dig the commodity code at the bottom:


Now I say this was probably a test because later in 1980, Topps released a Football version with two key differences. Topps went with the theme and used Super Bazooka for the gum:


But there would be no scratch off for gridiron fans, just a crummy tray card with an ad!

(UPDATE 7/13/20: Turns out there were Football Super Packs in 1978 and 1979 as well.  1978 had no backing of any type, 1979 had a similar ad card. 49 and 59 cent versions exist for 1979, the former was a carryover from the year prior. A 1979 Baseball Super Pack with the ad card backer is out there too.)


What a rip!

Saturday, July 4, 2020

The Dirty Dozen-ish

Here's a little bit of bang for the Fourth folks! I've been tracking down a few things during our forced pandemic pause and recently focused on the 1951 Topps Major League All Star cards, specifically the trio of unissued rarities that are among the rarest cards of the post World War 2 era.

I found a very old Collectors Universe thread from 2003 by a poster called murcerfan that stated (I have lightly paraphrased and slightly corrected spelling and grammar):

Mastro sold the big 3 from the current all-stars set in 1999.

Another loose and low grade example of Konsanty was sold by them in a big lot of Connie's and Currents in 2000 (might have been 2001). Here was Bill's write up back in '99:

In 1951 Topps produced a set of die-cut Major League All-Stars to complement their Connie Mack All-star issue. Both sets were supposedly to contain 11 cards, but the 'current" seemed impossible to complete due to three cards which never surfaced. In time, hobby pioneers were able to ascertain that these cards of Jim Konstanty, Robin Roberts and Eddie Stanky were never publicly distributed and that all known copies could be traced back to Woody Gelman, Topps' Art Director. No definitive explanation has ever been offered for their scarcity and Gelman who died in the early 1970's never offered an answer, so the mystery continues.

Few examples are known. Larry Fritsch and Barry Halper have sets of all 3. Both these "sets" have considerable glue damage from being mounted in Gelman's albums. Fritsch's on the back and Halper's on the front. Another "set" turned up several years ago with significant creasing. This group was hand cut and had no die-cutting. This leads us to believe these were not final production and were likely salvaged by a Topps employee....

John Rumierez (forgive me John) is the only fortunate collector in the history of the world to ever obtain undamaged copies. Many years ago a walk-in at a show sold John two of the three cards in high grade (Roberts and Stanky) but no explanation as to their origin was offered (or John didn't ask).

Finally Frank Nagy obtained a set of eleven from his pal Gelman back in the 50's. The die-cuts and card fragility worried Nagy so he scotch taped the backs (with two layers of tape that won't come off, I might add!). To add insult to Injury, Nagy stored his cards in a pile and the tape on the back eventually stuck to the fronts and caused some paper loss, although not severe. Mastro met Nagy in the 70's and they had a good laugh about that tape on one of Bill's visits.

So we have a grand total of 14 of the unissued current all-stars in the hobby.


OK, that's a bit messy, a key point is off  and I think the count above is actually 15 but it's instructive nonetheless. Let's unpack all that verbiage.

The conventional hobby story I've heard is Nagy got a set of 8 from Topps then wrote Woody to ask about the missing cards, which I guess he knew about, and Woody sent him a trio. All 11 at once or 8 then 3, it really doesn't matter as either way the story is he got his trio from Woody/Topps.

Then there are three confirmed examples numerically graded by PSA.  All three were sold by Legendary Auctions in 2010, with the Stanky and Konstanty going to Keith Olbermann, while Roberts ended up in another collection. I have to believe it remains there or has only transacted privately since.  It appears though that there was an intervening private sale before 1979 of these three and they ended up with Barry Halper as they were shown in various editions of the Sport-Americana Baseball Card Price Guide for several years (at least the first six).  Here is a shot of each of them from 1980's Second Edition:


Note the staining on the left border at knee height.


Stanky (a helluva player and the 1950 NL leader in WAR, retroactively determined of course) has staining mid uniform around the area of his left arm and chest and at the bottom of the card.


Note the connecting nub at the top and bottom of Konstanty (the 1950 NL MVP in case you were wondering how he ended up in this set) and there is a very hard to see fleck of cardboard missing atop his left knee.  The reproduction in the guide is pretty muddy but this was 40 (!) years ago. All three graded examples  have the nubs but these are the most pronounced. The nubs show these were all Baseball Candy production pieces.

These three were eventually slabbed by PSA (and it's how they appeared in the 2010 Legendary auction).  Thanks to Friend o'the Archive Kevin Struss for the scans:





I have a scan of Stanky's reverse in the slab (below) and without (not shown but a recently sent Keith Olbermann image of the liberated card confirms its the same one):



Note the tape (and old "sticky" photo album residue) but this wasn't likely Nagy's originally for reasons that will be apparent momentarily. Here is the PSA 2 Konstanty:





That's a lotta glue! On the obverse, the Roberts and Stanky stains match the Halper cards shown in the Sport-Americana guide and check out the missing cardboard on Konstanty's left knee, also a match.  The Konstanty is a PSA 2, as is Roberts while Stanky is a 1, I assume due to the tape being added (as opposed to glue?). Amazingly, it also was sold on eBay in 2006!

So the Halper examples are the sole residents of the PSA pop report for the trio, with the three Authentic examples not appearing anymore . Actually only the Roberts could still be in the Registry as in addition to Stanky, Mr. Olbermann has also liberated the Konstanty from its plastic tomb. I suspect the same happened to the Authentic examples after REA sold them in 2018. So other than Roberts, the Halper trio went to Keith Olbermann and the CU Forum description is therefore a little wonky on his two.

The Gelman trio of proofs are likely the ones REA auctioned in 2018 in PSA Authentic holders.  They have not resurfaced at SGC or Beckett holders so they are in their natural state presently. More on these a few paragraphs down.

A reprint trio with finished backs was offered (as such) in 2014 at Net54 Baseball.  These are seemingly from a different source than the Halper examples as there are no nubs (Stanky's "dirt" though seems similar to that on Halper's example but he has no bottom stain) and appear die cut but I think these are just cleaned up Halper examples as the missing paper from Konstanty's knee seems in place, as does the dirt on the left side of Stanky's uniform.


Now we get to a Stanky reproduction that looks like it came from yet another source (UPDATE 8/6/20-I've just confirmed the original was Fritsch's):


That's a known fake (it has raw cardboard back and is actually not die cut, that is a photo of the original) but note the extra creasing between Stanky's legs, the uniform dirt near his right shoulder (not on his left side) and lack of staining on the bottom border.  Do the other two from the trio also exist from wherever this sprang? At least one MLAS fake was found along with this one that had both red and blue printing on the reverse but I can't recall which player, even though I saw it in person. This could be that fake or its sibling but I can't tell. Maybe this was from Fritsch? (Yup, see 8/6/20 Update above).

Finally, let's get to the actual proof examples mentioned above.  In December of 1981, The Trader Speaks had a very interesting auction from Card Collectors Company:


It looks a lot like Richard Gelman was auctioning some of his late dad Woody's collection.  No matter, this is the only display ad I have ever seen for the trio in my entire stash of old hobby publications.

In the Spring of 2018 REA auctioned a trio of proofs in PSA Authentic slabs that seemingly matched the CCC auction descriptions:




As you can see these were blank backed, showing the white stock used to produce the Blue Backs and Major League All Stars in their sole press run, so clearly cut from a proof sheet.  If you see one with a non-white, raw cardboard reverse, it's a fake.

So, to recap a whole bunch of my findings over the years, the Red Backs and Connie Mack All Stars were apparently printed together along with the Team cards in two press runs.  The first was on a dingier stock, the other on what I call a brilliant white stock that remains so to this day. The Blue Backs only came on the brilliant white stock, as did the Major League All Stars.

My belief is the initial run of each as sold in the nickel packs Baseball Candy included all cards printed in red, with the dingier backs, so, assuming any packs still exist and someone would open one, you should only find Red Backs, Teams and Connie Mack All Stars together. Blue Backs and Major League All Stars should likewise co-habitate but Teams may have also been inserted with these despite their red print backs (more below on this). I'm not sure if the smaller cards were on the same sheets as the larger ones but this scrap clearly shows contemporaneous printing of both sizes tied to ink color on the cards and how the initial idea was to have panelized pairs:



The larger Connie Mack All Stars, Major League All Stars and Team cards were essentially inserts for the smaller cards and all were initially sold under the Baseball Candy brand.  I think Topps planned to market a kind of "immersive" experience with Baseball Candy, will all large components enhancing the smaller ones when the game was played with them; why else originally market them all under the same name?  I suspect the Connie Mack All Stars were intended to face the Major League All Stars when the game was played with the smaller cards but the virtually non-existent Topps marketing campaign never got this across and my take is legal problems--probably an injunction halting sales- shut down the entire shooting match as the Blue Backs were being sold along with the second run of Red Backs.

The Team cards are a bit of a head scratcher as to why they were included, no matter the overall intent of  the Topps marketing strategy.  It would not surprise me if it was part of an out of the box legal ploy to show they had issued cards of all players but then the set got shut down.  Perhaps the missing seven Team cards would have been issued with a second press run of Blue Backs but this is all pure speculation on my part. There's enough smaller cards out there to suggest Baseball Candy sold well and the need for a second press run of Red Backs seems to confirm that too.

What's odd looking back almost 70 years now is why certain players were included. A little bit of investigation though shows the player selection wasn't really off the mark and in addition Topps may have had limited options given their player pool in 1951.  Like Stanky and Konstanty, whom I touch on above, the other two seemingly bizarre choices for inclusion in the set were Walt Dropo and Hoot Evers.

Dropo was the 1950 AL Rookie of the year and Evers had an excellent campaign in 1950, receiving some AL MVP votes (as did Dropo). Evers was also a stellar athlete and from what I can tell all these decades later he excelled in center field.  Injuries were his biggest problem, plus a late start due to military service but he was considered a good enough player to replace Ted Williams in left field for the Red Sox when the Splendid Splinter was recalled for active duty in May of 1952 during the Korean War.  In fact, he was traded for Dropo as part of a blockbuster deal in June 1952 that brought him to Boston from Detroit (and which also included another MLAS, George Kell). So three of the eight regular issued subjects in the set were in the same trade!

Circling back to the matter at hand and as noted above, I am presently unsure if the Team cards were issued with the blue backs or which version (dated 1950, or undated) came with which run of Red Backs or even if some got held back to be inserted with the Blue Backs. There could certainly have been a mixing after the first Red Back/Baseball Candy run was sold and even some legal strategy in the timing of of issuing dated or undated versions.

Later, bagged "sets" of Red and (possibly)  Blue Backs were sold, but they appear to have been an aftermarket product and the large cards within may not have been representative of the original packaging. You can click through the links on the right if interested in more details, noting some information in the earlier posts has been amended. There were ten cent "cello" packs as well sold under the Trading Card Guild rubric; these did not come with gum and could have had some the larger cards in them. Penny packs of Baseball Candy would only have the smaller cards within; Doubles packs were 1952 reissues with out the caramel.

I decided to look at PSA and SGC pop reports to see if there were any clues in the pop reports and indeed there were.

Looking at small card panels and large cards, PSA shows a 82/18 percent Connie Mack All Stars vs Major League All Stars count and essentially the same split on Red Packs vs. Blue Backs, strongly suggesting they were marketed together by color. The Teams have an overall pop of 911 and for the dated vs undated varieties it's roughly a 50/50 split, with a little variance from team to team. The overall PSA pops for all Baseball Candy subsets as of June 27, 2020:

Red Backs: 15,117 (may include panel count)
Blue Backs: 7,356 (may include panel count)
Teams: 911
Connie Mack All Stars: 836
Major League All Stars: 183

That's very close to a  2:1 ratio for Red Backs vs Blue Backs, underscoring the extra red press run. The total of Teams vs the two All Stars sets is also quite close, roughly within 10 percent.  This could mean the Teams were packed with both colors of Baseball Candy panels. Don't forget they and the Connie Mack All Stars are also found with both dingy and brilliant white backs.

SGC has counts that mirror these results somewhat:

Red Backs: (site does not display sums) but 167 panels
Blue Backs: (site does not display sums) but 60 panels
Teams: 223
Connie Mack All Stars: 444
Major League All Stars: 67

The red vs blue panel mix is a bit off from PSA but SGC does not get nearly as many subs. The Connie Mack All Stars and Major League All Stars also match at around 87/13 while the Teams count  vs. the die cut cards is only 44/56, which doesn't track at all with PSA.  If I remember correctly, early on in the slabbing wars, SGC was able to holder more oddly sized cards at first due to their ability to create custom inserts on the fly. Beckett did not have a lot of graded examples but their overall numbers match the findings at the other two. I didn't include their Red and Blue Back counts but did count the big cards.

Combining the large card counts from both PSA, SGC and Beckett yields 2,766 examples graded like so (rounded percentages):

Teams: 1,182 (43 percent)
Connie Mack All Stars: 1,326 (50 percent)
Major League All Stars: 258 (7 percent)

Toting it all up and assuming all trios began as just that, while not knowing what John Rumierz's two examples look like and assuming there was always a matching trio that explains the "loose" Konstanty, here's what I have come up with, detailing my best take on provenance for each.  I assume the die cuts did not survive at the same rate as the Teams but we'll never untangle that one.

Roberts: 
1) PSA 2 die cut -Woody Gelman/??/Halper/2010 Legendary/Current Whereabouts Unknown 
2) Raw die cut- Woody Gelman/Nagy (double taped back)/Mastro 1999?/Current Whereabouts Unknown 
3) Raw die cut "nice" - Rumierz show walk in
4) Raw die cut/back glue  - Woody Gelman/Fritsch/Current Whereabouts Unknown 
5) PSA A "Good" Proof - Dec 81 TTS CCC ad/likely 2018 REA/Current Whereabouts Unknown 

Stanky:
1) Former PSA 1 die cut  - Woody Gelman/??/eBay/??/Halper/2010 Legendary/Olbermann
2) Raw die cut- Woody Gelman/Nagy (double taped back)/Mastro 1999?/Current Whereabouts Unknown 
3) Raw die cut "nice" - Rumierz show walk in
4) Raw die cut/back glue  - Woody Gelman/Fritsch/Current Whereabouts Unknown 
5) PSA A "Good" Proof - Dec 81 TTS CCC ad/likely 2018 REA/??/2019 Goldin/Current Whereabouts Unknown 

Konstanty:
1) Former PSA 2 die cut  - Woody Gelman/??/Halper/2010 Legendary/Olbermann
2) Raw die cut- Woody Gelman/Nagy (double taped back)/Mastro 1999?/Current Whereabouts Unknown 
3) Possibly "in the wild" (was this separated from the Rumierz walk-ins?)-Mastro 2000 or 2001/Current Whereabouts Unknown
4) Raw die cut/back glue  - Woody Gelman/Fritsch/Current Whereabouts Unknown 
5) PSA A "Good" Proof - Dec 81 TTS CCC ad/likely 2018 REA/Current Whereabouts Unknown 


A tip of the hat to Anthony Nex and Al Richter for background on some of the Mastro auctions. Many questions remain on Baseball Candy and the "Big Three" MLAS but they helped solve a couple already.