Saturday, April 24, 2021

Fields Of Screams

BFF o'the Archive Jeff Shepherd was nice enough to loan me some old tobacco journals a little while ago to pick through for Topps-related content and they did not disappoint. While I continue to search in vain for any American Leaf Tobacco Company ads (some mags were from the 30's), Bazooka and its early ad partners certainly were present and accounted for. I've included one a little further below I think many of you will like.

Topps took advantage of radio in advertising Topps Gum (which had a jingle I'm still searching for) and also Bazooka on the Abbott & Costello Show. I've shown this original piece before but it gives you the setup perfectly:

 A&C had been on NBC Radio for a five year run before switching over to ABC in the fall of 1947.  A couple of months later they launched a Saturday morning show for the smaller fry and that is where Topps parked their radio ads for Bazooka.  Topps Gum was marketed to adults and would have been hawked on the traditional, evening show. 

Both of their ABC shows are described in the references I have as "sustaining", which means they had no national sponsor but instead relied upon a little meager, often  local "spot" advertising or merely network promos to remain on the air.  Sustaining shows did not necesarily have long lifespans but the "plug" for Bazooka seems to indicate the Abbott & Costello Show had some national revenue generated via Topps buying "spot" advertising. Given that they aired their last children's episode on March 26, 1949, this ad from the April 2, 1949 edition of "The Tobacco Leaf" Topps must have been in at the kill:

A&C's evening show only lasted about ten weeks after the Saturday show aired its final episode and television was about to change everybody's lives whether they liked it or not. I actually have a transcription disc of one Abbott & Costello radio show with a Bazooka plug but have no way to play it as it requires a special turntable that plays "inside-out" and no audio files have yet turned up on YouTube or the Internet Archive but I keep digging.

Topps was about to come around on the idea you could have multiple price points on a confectionery products but at the time the above ad ran, the penny Bazooka tabs we all knew and loved were not yet in the market.  That referenced DC advertising campaign was also widespread and lasted slightly over two years, running from mid-1948 to mid-1950.  These two ads were running in a couple of dozen DC titles at the same time the above one appeared:

Yes, 1,800 colleges to choose from, meaning those pennants were printed on demand!

Abbott & Costello continued to make movies and of course had a syndicated TV show for two seasons running from 1952-54. Their best known routine is obviously "Who's on First?" but that's been played to death and I find this clip from the telly a lot funnier personally:

"Good night to everybody and good night Paterson, New Jersey!"

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Pop, Pop, Pop

I stumbled across a bit of an oddity involving Bazooka the other day and since it's something I've never seen before, figured I'd throw it out there to see what might stick (*groan*). 

In 1977 Topps introduced the Bazooka Lollipop. It sold for a nickel and according to a source I found, tasted like bubble gum (which sounds fabulous, actually):

15 comics worth of premium power for five cents?  Deal! Ring Pops were coming, though and I'm not sure where this particular product lies in the evolution of those persistently top-selling Topps pops. As I detailed a couple of months ago, Ring Pops were either introduced in 1977 or 1979 but I can't find a source to confirm this either way. I suspect their introduction was closer to 1979 than 1977 and perhaps this lolly was a precursor or even a test. Or just a failed, separate experiment...

(EDIT 4/19/21): Lonnie Cummins advises Topps filed for a Ring Pops trademark on March 17, 1975.  I suspect that is the date to allow for test marketing purposes.  It would seem then that 1977 is probably the operational year full retail commenced.  If the Bazooka lolly was a test, it wasn't for Ring Pops.)

Ring Pops became (and remain) a monster seller for Topps and they have also been selling Bazooka Pops, which have a bubble gum center, for many years now.  The 1977 Lollipop though, had no such chewability within and echoed back instead to some very early Topps products.  I'm not sure which came first but it was one of these two products, one with a Christmas theme and one with Western flair:

I lean toward Rudolph being the uber-Topps lolly as there was a 1948 movie followed by the massive  smash hit song recorded by Gene Autry that hit number one during the holiday season in 1949. The luractive but fleeting licensing deals for the franchise would probably have occurred prior to one of those events, so I make it either '48 or '49.  I cannot make out that copyright on the box and have never seen another example where the indicia might be deciperable.

As always, there's a chance Topps played catchup with Rudolph and Hopalong Cassidy was the first one in 1950, the year Topps procured a license as Hoppy-mania kicked in over his chopped down kiddie flick rerun fare that ended up as the number one filmed show on TV.  But I don't really think so.  Here's Hoppy again.

Topps had Santa Claus lollipops ready for 1951 and possibly also the year following but they shut down their Candy Division at some point soon thereafter and have to confess I'm not exactly sure when they made a pure candy play again, although it was well before the Bazooka lolly saw the light of day.

Saturday, April 10, 2021


Time-travel Saturday kids as we revisit the late 40's and early 50's! 

Topps, in their primordial bubble gum days, planted four comic sets inside of their early one cent Bazooka wrappers: Spalding Sports Show (by Willard Mullin), Historical Almanac (finally properly named after all these years and previously mid-identified as not only Famous Events but also This Date In History), Know Your Sports and Famous Events. Thanks to a recent Love of the Game Auction (hi Al!) and a bit of additonal research, I've been able to determine that the Mullin set and Historical Almanac (which featured a calendar page showing a specific date in history) were printed together in 1949 and appear to be the first comics in what was then the debut of Bazooka one-cents tabs that year.  Furthermore, I now know Famous Events is not calendar-page based and seems to have been printed in 1950 along with Know Your Sports.

They're unfortunately all cut down but in order from the top: Famous Events, Know Your Sports and Spalding Sports Show, all from LOTG:

Shiny was their outside packaging:

Here's Historical Almanac, for reference, from BFF o'the Archive Jeff Shepherd:

It's extremely doubtful all dates can be found and Shep says at least one repeats. None of these are easy to find, so it's all a big mystery as to how many subjects can be found from each series. The fortune on the bottom was a persistent Topps trope for many years with Bazooka comics of all sorts.

Moving into 1951 now, Friend o'the Archive Rob Lifson sent this pic along awhile back, which held penny packs of 1951 Blue Backs and came on the heels of the first series of Red Backs, which in turn were all part of the Baseball Candy set. I've never seen a box with this sticker before and Blue Backs as a whole are about twice as hard to find as Red Backs. As you can see, this was a Topps file copy as there is a stamp indicating it was to be returned to Woody Gelman. These packs actually had caramel in them and should not be confused with the Doubles packs that were reissued without candy a year later by Topps.

Speaking of Doubles packs, a hoard of them were found in bulk in 1983 at a Philadelphia jobber's warehouse and a large supply of them entered the hobby.  The July 8, 1983 edition of Sports Collectors Digest succinctly explained it all:

There were 120 packs per box, so roughly 12,000 packs were unearthed, mostly of Red Backs. I was lucky enough to buy a pack of these, $11 was the price if memory serves.  Still have it too and you can clearly see a Red Back lurks within:

I suspect Bowman got the Baseball Candy set shut down in mid-production, or at least managed to get the distribution stopped in the Philly area, although I've never been able to prove it.  Something clearly happened to it though.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I just love the pre-1952 history of Topps as it's all just so unpredictable!

Saturday, April 3, 2021

A Killing In Milling

I was lucky enough to pick up a Spearmint Topps Gum five-cent box recently which not only complements my Peppermint pack but also allowed me to glean some additional information as to how Topps provided confectionery products to the U.S. Government for various military field rations.

The original field rations from Topps were one cent gum tabs, some slightly in differing size from the retail Topps Gum tabs that they made their name on before and after World World 2. When Topps Gum went from a traditional "flat" chew to a "chiclet" style around 1950 (once Bazooka penny tabs proved their staying power) some similarly sized one cent packs also held two of their flagship's chiclet-style, candy-coated "nuggets" (wafers?).  These also seem to have been used for field rations into the 1950's. See here for the deets.

Topps also introduced a nickel pack of this smaller, minty gum in the 1950's, likely after they got keel-hauled in court by the American Chicle Company for ripping off the look and style of not only Chiclets packaging but also that of Clorets. The pack was sized to fit into cigarette vending machines (remember the Shorin family's fortune was originally built on tobacco) but it could also handily nestle in with various field rations in each kit:

There's been anecdotal evidence of these being military ration components previously (alluded to when I bought my Peppermint pack a few years ago) but this one comes with a pedigree:

Not sure what all of that means (maybe no caffeine is indicated by the crescent moon?) but it's like a Topps commodity code on steroids!  Here's the all important box bottom, with more details:

Van Brode Milling was a packager and distributor of military rations for years as near as I can determine and they had a subsidiary that seems to have perfected the plastic spork. The auction listing describes the rations as being Viernam-era and I e-mailed the seller for some details.  He came back with these carton scans but not a year of issue and that manufacturing date under the burst test information sure looks like March 1957 to me, although it's hard to read.

Multiples of five seem to be a US military ration "thing" and there some that mention "tens" as well.  Anyone out there familiar?

What is odd to me is that the pricing remains on the Topps packaging.  It seems like it doesn't belong but as we have learned with Topps, the unexpected is very much expected!