Saturday, January 30, 2021

Red Light District

Well the NHL is back but things are still quite a bit wonky out there, so why not take a peek at the ur-Topps Hockey set today!  Why not indeed, it's gorgeous:

I've covered the 1954-55 Hockey set here previously and figured it's high time to lok at some original artwork.  I'm going off memory for some of this as the Vintage Hockey Forum shutdown has impacted my ability to document things properly but here goes anyway (and please contact me with corrections).

First though, some hazy "facts"-according to hockey hobby maven and Friend o'the Archive Bobby Burrell, the cards were transported into Canada whole, where they were cut and paired with some O-Pee-Chee bubble gum in wrppaers produced north of the border.  I recall seeing an accident involving a truck carrying the sheets somewhere near Detroit (London Ontario, home of O-Pee-Chee is about 120 miles Northeast of Detroit) made at least one news report but as noted, no dice on the source at present.

The 60 card Topps set only included the four American teams while Parkhurst, the main competition in Canada, had all six in their 100 card set (they switched to just the two Canadian teams after this for a spell).  The Topps set is more abundant these days than Parkhurst's by at least a 2 1/2 to 1 ratio on a card-to-card basis if you go by PSA's numbers and they are not difficult to find generally, although top grade examples are rare due to the full bleed borders.

Bobby Burrell advises no Topps cards were sold in Boston, Chicago or Detroit.  It seems possible that the New York City area saw some being Topps HQ-land and all but I can't imagine they sold too many that way.  The March 20, 1959 Card Collectors Co. Catalog #10 offered singles and sets ($3!) and I'm assuming the offered cards did not readily flow back across the border (even allowing for Detroit "black market" activity).  A year later the price had doubled in the catalog and then they were gone. Topps may have had sheets held back, or they had cut the cards already for sale but either way, Woody Gelman had 'em. Fun Fact: -Topps would cut sheets specifically for CCC (and presumably for its antecedent, Sam Rosen) and also pre-sort the cards they sold to Woody:

Several years ago (decades really) the original art from the hockey cards were offered on a team-by-team basis and they went for a song (again, from memory).   The artwork, as you can imagine, is stunning, as this scan nicked from Heritage Auctions shows:

Here's the card for that art, I just love the flying ice:

The backs are superb as well and the All-American red, white & blue scheme seems like a pretty overt choice to me:

Here's four Red Wings, likely remnants of the 15 player team painting groupings:

Friend o'the Archive Mark Newgarden indicates there was a lot of touch up work done on these but either way thay are fab an whatever they did to them at Topps sure worked!

Saturday, January 23, 2021


We visit Pennsylvania today kids, courtesy of our friends at Topps and a piece of their history that remains in the Keystone State and one that escaped.

The escapee first-I recently picked up this sheet sheet of Topps shelf labels that looks like it might have covered their full retail confectionery line from 1978 or so:

I was able to roughly date this piece, measuring roughly 11" x 14", due to the lack of additional Ring Pop flavors and the curved Topps logo, which was killed off for 1981. Ring Pops were introduced in 1979 (some sources say 1977) and are still made by Topps in Scranton, Pennsylvania; these messy and sticky bits of faux jewelry may be the last product they haven't outsourced. This is where the magic happens:

Sure hope they fixed the "t" in that logo! (EDIT 1/24/21-I just found a reference in the 1976 Topps Annual Report that this 33,000 SF building had been acquired and was expected to begin candy production by the start of the second half of their fiscal year.  The Topps Fiscal Year ran from March 1st so presumably it was purchased in 1975 and began production by October 1976).

I was surprised to see the former Bowman flagship Blony on there but I suspect that it was still a popular regional brand in the Philadelphia area and environs, if not Pennsylvania proper and parts of the region to the southwest once considered coal country. I certainly never saw it on Long Island.

Here's a help wanted ad from the Scranton Times that appeared last August that indicates Ring Pops are considered a Bazooka Candy Brand these days even as the iconic bubble gum is now manufactured under license:

Maybe there's still an opening, although employee reviews seem decidely mixed.

I never heard of The Pits or Munchy Mummies but was a major consumer of Gold Rush back in my younger days.  The little bags were useful for storing small objects and coins. I have no idea if they still make it but would be sad if it turns out they don't. This was The Pits:

Grubbits has all the deets on Munchy Mummies. Other than those two and Blony, I believe I sampled at least one flavor of every brand on the sheet as a kid!

Saturday, January 16, 2021

A Tale Of Two Berts

A recently concluded REA auction had a pretty sizeable offering of 1969 Mod Generation Stickers original art. You can click on the appropriate labl to see but I've shown a half dozen or so of these previously.  A couple of the originals have already been shown here so I'll skip those and there's one little headscratcher as well.

There's nine to show.  Here's Bert:

All well and good but this is also Bert:

It looks like a second Bert label was created and incorrectly applied as that particular elephant-flared individual is known as Louis in the set.  Charlie is pretty far out man:

Is Herb looking for some herb?

Judy, Judy, Judy....what kind of instrument is she holding?!

Personally, I've always liked mini-skirts:

Why does Paul have a cane?

Meanwhile Pete is really groovin':

Maybe Phil's playing along?

The set was definitely a period piece and at this point I think all the actual flower children are in their 70's (or worse). A lot of nostalgic fads have come and gone only to be reignited a generation later but it seems to me the hippie fashions did not really re-appear in the 90's.  Maybe Pete and Phil are playing an elegy.....

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Vertically Oriented

Here's a couple of interesting art pieces to kick off the New Year.

These two original artworks were used for the 1969-70 Basketball Ruler inserts. Hal Greer leads things off:

That pencilled "62" indicates his height, as shown on the finished insert:

I may have mislabeled my scans as I thought these came from REA but a search of their site says no.  Oh well, here's our next subject:

Thats's Nate Thurmond, although his head may have been Frankensteined.  Here is the insert in all it's glory, not sure why his height (6' 11'-yikes!) is not shown on the artwork like Greer's:

The Greer's reverse is blank but Thurmond's has some vintage Woody Gelman scrawl:

The Rulers were one of the more innovative Topps inserts of the era. There's 23 in the set with one subject (Bill Russell) pulled to screw up the math leading to 24 since the number of subjects in the set was printed right on each ruler! (UPDATE 1/28/22:  It's probably NOT Russell but instead was meant to be Rudy Larusso!  See my 2/12/22 post for details.)

There were a mere 14 teams in the NBA during the 1969-70 season, so some teams ended up with an additonal subject or two.  Here's the checklist:

1. Walt Bellamy (Detroit Pistons)

2. Jerry West (Los Angeles Lakers)

3. Bailey Howell (Boston Celtics)

4. Elvin Hayes (San Diego Rockets)

5. Not Issued

6. Bob Rule (Seattle Supersonics)

7 Gail Goodrich (Phoenix Suns)

8. Jeff Mullins (San Francisco Warriors)

9. John Havlicek (Boston Celtics)

10. Lew Alcindor (Milwaukee Bucks)

11. Wilt Chamberlain (Los Angeles Lakers)

12. Nate Thurmond (San Francisco Warriors)

13. Hal Greer (Philadelphia 76ers)

14. Lou Hudson (Atlanta Hawks)

15. Jerry Lucas (Cincinnati Royals)

16. Dave Bing (Detroit Pistons)

17. Walt Frazier (New York Knicks)

18. Gus Johnson (Baltimore Bullets)

19. Willis Reed (New York Knicks)

20. Earl Monroe (Baltimore Bullets)

21. Billy Cunningham (Philadelphia 76ers)

22. Wes Unseld (Baltimore Bullets)

23. Bob Boozer (Chcago Bulls)

24. Oscar Robertson (Cincinnati Royals)

Topps maybe could have gone with Lenny Wilkens to represent the second of the Supersonics, although at 6' 1" he would have been the shortest player in the set (which is Greer)  but a guy named Bob Rule was probably too much for them to pass up  In fairness, Rule was a very solid player, a 1969-70 All Star, averaged over 24 points a game that season and was coming off his best campaign as a result: