Saturday, November 21, 2020

Dive Right In

Time traveling back to the early days of TV today kids as we take look at Milton Berle, or more specifically, at an obscure Bowman novelty associated with him.

Berle got his start in vaudeville at a very young age and progressed through nightclubs and some forgettable movies in the early 1930's before parlaying a regular slot on the Rudy Vallee radio show into his own program in 1947.  A year later he got his break in televison on Texaco Star Theatre, where was named the permanent host in the fall of 1948, earning the well-deserved sobriquet Mr. Televison.  By 1952 he was the biggest TV star in the land and Bowman capitalized:



Uncle Miltie had artwork (fairly good in execution but occasionally crude in depiction) and a short joke printed on the inside of the wrapper. Some jokes are not politically correct, which is no surprise as that's how things were back then and for several decades thereafter.

Jeff Allender's wonderful House of Checklists, lists 34 jokes (click through to his site for details) but I've found seven more, as noted below.  The set is obscure and examples are very hard to impossible to track down. I think the pack shown is one of only two known to exist and it would have sold for a penny at the time of issue.

Berle's show was on NBC and Bowman had a relationship with the broadcaster of course, issuing sets in 1952 and '53 showcasing the stars of the network.  Haelan Laboratories Inc. on the wrapper means Uncle Miltie could not have been issued prior to May of 1952 (the name change occurred on April 28) and I suspect it came out in the fall that year as the 1952-53 season kicked off.

The interior wrapper was where the action was, although the obverse design's pretty eye catching.  I can't actually find any issued examples to show but some original artwork was sold by Hake's about three years ago that certainly gives one the tenor of the set. First some paste-ups:


Told ya it could be politically incorrect!  Here is an original art piece from the same lot:


None of these are detailed over at the House of Checklists, so there's at least 41 different if all the pasteups became issued pieces (there is a pasteup of the diving board joke as well). I would think that's pretty close to a final number; Bazooka would often have 42 comics in a series and despite being a competitor's product it would not surprise me if that is the proper count for Uncle Miltie.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

A Likely Story

When I first set out on this series I didn't think it would take four full posts to cover all of the potential Tatoo subjects and I was right!  Friend o'the Archive Lonnie Cummins has sent me enough information on these sets (and some others) since my first two posts back in late September and early October that a review of prior images looks to be in order and an eventual fifth post will surely follow at some distant point.  This serves as a reminder that my more current posts on a topic are more correct and precise as this blog is often a sounding board for the anechoic nebula rotating in my brain and my musings get refined when more information comes in  But I digress......

I mapped out all of the possible original Tatoo subjects that got sucked into 1981's 24 Tattoo set last time out and ended up with a list of 80 possibilities when I started drafting this week's entry; thanks to Lonnie's sleuthing a handful now appear to have been included in some of the four Popeye Tattoo sets issued by Topps from 1958-66 but having said that, I can't rule out their origins in the original 1948-53 issues of Tatoo.  So this is even bigger than the mess I expected it to be by this point.

There could easily be a couple more or a few less than 80 as a handful do appear to be from 1968's 21 Tattoos (the first Topps larger sized issue in this vein) but from what I've seen of that1968 set, it mostly had its own designs.  A couple of designs I thought might be associated with Monster Tatoo from 1962 could be mixed in, or vice-versa.  It's really hard to tell with a number of these.

Some of my unknown subjects in the last post are probably from 21 Tattoos, again with possible exceptions either way as I've seen only three or four of the 16 sheets from '68.

I won't excise them from the 24 Tattoo sheets to show here (boy it's been a schlep-and-a-half already just eyeballing all of those subjects) and you can track the coordinates from the post last week.  However, since my dad was Navy veteran, I'll just show their emblem as an example of a likely original subject, with a "flip" showing the "applied" version:


Here are the 80 likely additional subjects.

ACE OF HEARTS
AERIAL BOMB
ALIEN WAVING
ALLIGATOR
AMERICAN INDIAN BRAVE WITH FEATHERS
ANCHOR
ARROW GAG
ARTISTS PALETTE
BANJO
BANJO WITH MUSICAL NOTES
BASEBALL HITTER LEGS CROSSED
BASEBALL HITTER LEGS OPEN
BISON
BOY WITH APPLE AND ARROW
BUFFALO BILL
CLOWN
CLOWN STANDING
CLOWN WITH BOWTIE
COCHISE
COMPASS
COWBOY WITH SIX SHOOTERS
DEVIL COSTUME
DIVER
DOLLAR BILL
ELEPHANT
EXECUTIONER
EXPLORER WITH BUSHY MUSTACHE
EYE
FIRE EATER
FLORIDA CONF. BATTLE FLAG
GENIE
GREAT DANE
GYPSY MAN
HANDLE WITH CARE
HEART WITH DAGGER
HOURGLASS
ICE CREAM CONE
JET PLANE
JOLLY ROGER
KEY
LIBERTY BELL
LIGHTNING BOLT
LION ROARING
LIPS
MATADOR
MEDAL FOR BRAVERY
MEDAL OF HONOR
MERMAID
MUSICAL NOTES
OPEN COCKPIT RACE CAR
PANTHER
PORPOISE WITH COMPASS
RATTLESNAKE
ROCKET LAUNCH
ROCKET ON INCLINED LAUNCHER
ROCKET WITH CLOUDS
RUNNER
SAILOR WITH SPYGLASS
SAINT BERNARD
SEAHORSE NO SPIKES
SILVER STAR
SITTING BULL
SMILING FISH
SNAKE LADY
SPACESHIP 
SPACESHIP FLOTILLA
STRONGMAN MUSCULAR
STRONGMAN THIN
SUBMARINE
TECUMSEH
TEST PILOT YELLOW HELMET
TRAIN
TRAINED SEAL
TWO HEARTS WITH RIBBON
US NAVY EMBLEM
WHITE HAIRED MAN WITH HAT
WOLF
WOMAN
WORM IN APPLE
WRISTWATCH

I previously counted and (hopefully) confirmed 136 Tatoo subjects and associated artworks so this haul brings us to a potential 216-ish but that count remains fungible.  That fits the Topps Vault numbering scheme but I suspect more lurk out there and that the Vault has art from the other sets mixed into their numbering.  

I could easily see the Aces of Diamonds and Clubs, possibly George Washington, Abe Lincoln, U.S. Grant, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower and Annie Oakley being available, plus several more generic subjects like cowboys and athletes.  Probably some American Flags would be in there too and it would not surprise me if more Confederate State flags popped up. Maybe there actually are 250 different across the "100" and "150" issues!  Eisenhower (as "Ike") does appear in at least one later set and I'm also going to have to unravel the Davy Crockett Tatoo subjects, although I am reasonably sure those stand on their own.

As mentioned previously, we'll never get to a true count but we can keep adding to the Tatoo checklist--and others--, so stay tuned!

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Sheets Getting Real

After a bit of a pause to gather more information, the deciphering of the aboriginal Topps Tatoo issues continues today, with a look well past the 1948-53 sets in order to determine what a checklist might look like. First, let's look at the full list of tatoo/tattoo issues that Topps came out with in order to determine a potential universe of subjects (self-contained gum tab wrappers unless indicated):
  • 1948 Tatoo
  • 1949 Tatoo
  • 1953 Tatoo
  • 1955 Davy Crockett Tatoo
  • 1957 Popeye Tattoo
  • 1958 Popeye "New Series" Tattoo
  • 1959 Woody Woodpecker Tatoo
  • 1960 Popeye Mystery Color Tattoo
  • 1960 Magic Tatoo
  • 1960 Baseball Tattoo 
  • 1961 Superman Tattoo
  • 1962 Monster Tatoo (of relevance)
  • 1963 Astroboy Tattoo
  • 1963 Walt Disney Character Tattoo
  • 1964 Baseball Photo Tattoo
  • 1965 Tom & Jerry Tattoo
  • 1966 Mighty Mouse And His Pals Tattoo
  • 1966 Popeye Tattoo (commodity code confirms date for this and subsequent issues)
  • 1967 Comic Book Tattoo
  • 1967 Dr. Doolittle Tattoo
  • 1968 21 Tattoos (folded sheet/accordion hybrid)
  • 1969 Archie Tattoo (accordion style)
  • 1970 Bugs Bunny Tattoo (accordion style)
  • 1971 Baseball Tattoo (accordion style)
  • 1971 TV Cartoon Tattoos (accordion style)
  • 1973 Wacky Packages Tattoo
  • 1975 Bugs Bunny Road Runner Tattoos (stick gum wrapper)
  • 1975 Monster Tattoo
  • 1981 24 Tattoos (folded sheet/accordion hybrid)
Take some of those dates with a little salt but that's pretty much a continuous run from 1948 through 1975 (in fact it's an average of exactly one set per year) that looks to have finally ended only when it was not possible to sell such a product for two cents (such pricing starting with Wacky Packages Tattoo) or a nickel (accordion and hybrid styles) anymore.  Topps went to a 25 cent package for the much bigger 24 Tattoos in 1981 and then issued many more tattoo sets thereafter with the higher price points apparently finding a sweet spot that solved the 1970's post oil crisis profit problem. Anyhoo....

One thing that is not clear to me is the origin of the dating of the 1953 Tatoo set. The 1948 set is documented in Topps sales and advertising literature and the 1949 set is as well (to a degree).  But I've never found anything to date the 1953's and it may be as simple as one of the early hobby publications reported on these and I just haven't stumbled across the reference.  I also think it's possible that there was something of a continuous run of these little novelties from 1948-54 or so, than is described in hobby literature then and now. Why wouldn't you keep a cheaply produced novelty like Tatoo in production during the baby boom?

A generic, unlicensed Davy Crockett Tatoo came around in 1955 and then Popeye caught up with the cartoons that had been packaged up for TV in the fall of 1956 some time in '57. This began an impressive run of tattoos featuring everybody's Spinach guzzling sailor, with Topps issuing three distinct sets under a licensing deal with King Features Syndicate (KFS). Then new, made-for-TV Popeye cartoons debuted in 1960 and Topps moved on as a new licensing deal was probably needed because of the newly created cartoons. They certainly went all in on licensed comic and animation themed tattoos once they tasted the profits Popeye generated.

They did revisit Popeye in 1966 with a new (or possibly reissued) tattoo set in the wake of a 1965 re-syndication that was by all accounts, a massive televison success.  When it comes to tattoo issues though, the Baseball issues of 1960 and 1964 reign supreme with collectors, as does 1962's Monster Tatoo, although the latter does not seem to have been all that popular when issued. What Monster Tattoo has going for it is fabulous Jack Davis artwork-artwork so good it joined a host of old Tatoo images in 1981's 24 Tattoos. The 1968 21 Tattoos issue also reused a bunch but also had new designs.  So far, I've checked only two of the sixteen 21 Tatoos sheets but the designs match up with the original Tatoo subjects

24 Tattoos cost a quarter per pack, for which you got a sheet of 24 tattoos. With 12 sheets that made 288 impressions and almost all of them were culled from either Tatoo or the Monster Tatoo sets. I think this is why some of the Topps Vault numbering on original art extends into the 200's. I'm going to feature all 12 sheets here, so be warned!

I'll need a matrix reference system to go through all of this and it's a little tricky as there are some tattoos that are half the size of the others and several that repeat across the sheets (I'll sort those out in a recap at the end).  For Sheet #1, it would look like this and it's worth noting all sheets have the same array:


A B C D
1 Top Top
Bottom Bottom
2 Top Top
Bottom Bottom
3 Top Top
Bottom Bottom
4 Top Top
Bottom Bottom

So on Sheet #1, below, 1A would be the monster in the upper left corner, whereas 1B Top is Uncle Sam. Each master sheet has 8 large tattoos and 16 small ones. I'll take each sheet one-by-one and try to determine:
  • Repeat Tatoo subjects
  • Likely Repeat Tatoo subjects (based upon their design) highlighted in green
  • Known Art subjects (without confirmed Tatoo) including Benjamin's illos.
  • Repeat Monster Tatoo subjects
  • Unknown subjects
I'd say the top three categories are all at least potentially "original" Tatoo-worthy; the first obviously is, with subjects from the second and third categories remaining to be confirmed as originals. Off we go with the first sheet:


SHEET 1

9 Repeat Tatoo Subjects: 1B Top, 1C, 1D Bottom, 2A, 2C Top, 2D, 4A, 4B Bottom, 4D
8 Likely Repeats: 2B Top, 2C Bottom, 3A, 3B Top, 3B Bottom, 3C Bottom, 4C Top, 4C Bottom
1 Known Art Subject: 2B Bottom
6 Repeat Monster Tatoo subjects: 1A, 1B Bottom, 1D Top, 3C Top, 3D, 4B Top

You will see immediately on Sheet 2 that subjects within this set repeat as well (the Flying Saucer is in slot 4 D bottom above and 2A below).



SHEET 2

4 Repeat Tatoo Subjects: 1A, 2A, 2D, 4B Top
11 Likely Repeats: 1B Top, 1D Top, 2B Top, 2C Bottom, 3A, 3B Bottom, 3C Top, 3C Bottom, 4A, 4B Bottom, 4D
1 Known Art Subject: 1C
7 Repeat Monster Tatoo subjects: 1B Bottom, 2B Bottom, 2C Top, 3B Top, 3D, 4C Top, 4C Bottom
1 Unknown: 1D Bottom

NB: 2B (Strongman) seems to be taken from the display box/canister art for Tatoo, while 4D (Porpoise with Compass) seems to match a very badly abused and washed out Tatoo I've seen on eBay.




SHEET 3

4 Repeat Tatoo Subjects: 2A, 2C Bottom, 2D (seen but not scanned on Tatoo), 3C Bottom
12 Likely Repeats: 1B Top, 1B Bottom, 1C, 1D Top, 1D Bottom, 2B Top, 2B Bottom, 3B Bottom, 4A, 4B Top, 4C Bottom, 4D
1 Known Art Subjects: 3A
7 Repeat Monster Tatoo subjects: A1, 2C Top, 3B Top, 3C Top, 3D, 4B Bottom, 4C Top




SHEET 4

7 Repeat Tatoo Subjects: 1A, 1D Top, 2A, 3A (just missing tethers here), 3D, 4B Top, 4C Bottom
6 Likely Repeats:  2C Top, 2C Bottom, 3B Bottom, 4A, 4B Bottom, 4C Top
10 Repeat Monster Tatoo subjects: 1B Top, 1C, 1D Bottom, 2B Top, 2B Bottom, 2D, 3B Top, 3C Top, 3C Bottom, 4D
1 Unknown: 1B



SHEET 5


4 Repeat Tatoo Subjects: 1B Bottom, 2A, 3A, 4A
11 Likely Repeats: 1C, 1D Top, 1D Bottom,  2C Top, 2C Bottom, 2D, 3B Top, 3B Bottom, 3D (seen but not scanned on Tatoo), 4B Top, 4D
9 Repeat Monster Tatoo subjects: 1A, 1B Top, 2B Top, 2B Bottom, 3C Top, 3C Bottom, 4B Bottom, 4C Top, 4C Bottom



SHEET 6

3
 Repeat Tatoo Subjects: 1A , 1D Top, 3B Top
12 Likely Repeats: 1B Top, 1B Bottom, 2A, 2B Top, 2B Bottom, 2C Top, 3A, 3C Top, 3C Bottom, 3D. 4B Top, 4C Top
1 Known Art Subject: 4A
8 Repeat Monster Tatoo subjects: 1C, 1D Bottom, 2C Bottom, 2D, 3B Bottom, 4B Bottom, 4C Bottom, 4D





SHEET 7

3 Repeat Tatoo Subjects: 2B Top, 2C Bottom, 3C Bottom
13 Likely Repeats: 1A, 1B Bottom, 1C, 1D Top, 2A, 2B Bottom, 3A, 3B Top, 3C Top, 3D, 4A, 4B Top, 4C Bottom, 4D
7 Repeat Monster Tatoo subjects: 1B Top, 2C Top, 2D, 3A Top, 4B Bottom, 4C Top, 4D
1 Unknown: 1D Bottom




SHEET 8

9 Repeat Tatoo Subjects: 1C, 1D Bottom, 2B Bottom, 2C Bottom, 3B Top, 3B Bottom, 3C Top, 3C Bottom, 3D
7 Likely Repeats: 1B Bottom, 2A, 2B Top, 2C Top, 2D, 4B Bottom, 4C Bottom
8 Repeat Monster Tatoo subjects: 1A, 1B Top, 1D Top, 3A, 4A, 4B Top, 4C Top, 4D




SHEET 9


13 Likely Repeats: 1B Top, 1C, 1D Top, 2A, 2B Top, 2C Bottom, 3A, 3B Top, 3C Top, 3D, 4B Top, 4B Bottom, 4D
10 Repeat Monster Tatoo subjects: 1A, 1 B Bottom, 2B Bottom, 2C Top, 2D, 3B Bottom, 3C Bottom, 4A (repeats, same as 2C Top), 4C Top, 4C Bottom
1 Unknown: 1D Bottom



SHEET 10


10 Repeat Tatoo Subjects: 1A, 1C, 1D Bottom, 2A, 2B Top (without clouds here), 3B Top (without musical notes here), 3B Bottom, 3B Top, 3D, 4C Top
6 Likely Repeats: 1B Top, 2C Bottom, 2D, 3C Bottom, 4B Bottom, 4D
1 Known Art Subject: 2C Top
6 Repeat Monster Tatoo subjects: 1B Bottom, 1D Top, 2B Bottom, 4A, 4B Top, 4C Bottom
1 Unknown: 3A




SHEET 11

10 Repeat Tatoo Subjects: 1B Top, 1D Top, 2A, 2B Top (without "motion lines" here), 3A, 3B Top, 3C Bottom, 3D, 4A, 4B Top
6 Likely Repeats: 1A, 2B Bottom, 2C Top, 2D, 3B Bottom, 4C Top
1 Known Art Subject: 2B Top,
Repeat Monster Tatoo subjects: 1C, 1D Bottom, 2C Bottom, 3C Top, 4B Bottom, 4C Bottom, 4D




SHEET 12

5 Repeat Tatoo Subjects: 2A, 2C Bottom (without "motion lines" here), 3C Top, 4A (mirrored here), 4 C Bottom (without background here)
10 Likely Repeats: 1A, 1B Bottom, 1C, 1D Top, 1D Bottom, 2C Top, 3A, 3D, 4B Top, 4D
8 Repeat Monster Tatoo subjects: 1B Top, 2B Top, 2B Bottom, 2D, 2B Bottom, 2C Bottom, 4B Bottom, 4C Top
1 Unknown: 3B Top (could be a Monster Tatoo)

Whew!

Now for the fun part.  The "likely subjects" that were in the original Tatoo issues are pretty numerous.  I could be off on a couple I have assigned to Monster Tatoo (all noted here in what I believe is a set of 96 but there are hardly any scans at that site) and the chance any subject I have identified as "unknown" could be in either Tatoo, Monster Tatoo or just culled from something more obscure (Sputnik for example could be from 21 Tattoos), is high. One or two gun or cowboy-themed subjects could be from the extremely obscure Davy Crockett Tatoos but after they issued that rare set the Topps tattoo issues are almost all licensed products (Davy was generic) and I doubt any of those were repeated here.

What we are left with then are the likely original issue Tatoos where I can't find a corresponding single.  I doubt we'll ever truly know how many subjects were created originally and there is no way to tell what the "official" set counts mean.  100 + 100 + 150 = a potential universe of 350 subjects but we know Topps repeated some of those, reissuing them in larger sizes as they went along through 1953 or thereabouts.  Of course the bottom number is theoretically 150 but I'd say the true answer lies in between.

I'll break this all down in the final post in this series, creating a checklist of possible Tatoos that should at least show a nodding acquaintance to fact.