Saturday, November 6, 2021

The First Christmas...

 ...Fun Packs! And it seems appropriate to look at Christmas just after Hallowe'en, although I'm a bit of a piker as my local Home Depot stores have had their holiday displays up since mid-September.

Among the many mundane tasks I undertake to keep this blog and my related research going, I sporadically scan (or download if I can) pertinent articles from various hobby magazines, auction catalogs and the like.  I'm in the midst of a monster scan-a-thon of almost 340 issues of The Wrapper and I've already extracted a ton of great articles and ads just from the first 77 issues.  

But this one took the (fruit) cake, from issue #51 (May 15-July 1, 1985) as Wrapper King John Neuner describes buying Topps Gum tabs in 1949:

You will note he specifically mentions the Fruit flavor.  Well that is interesting as the only example of a Fruit wrapper that I have ever seen came from Chris Benjamin's' Sport Americana Non-Sports Guide, whcih featured this singular image:

I can't make out the copyright date but suspect it's 1946 as the wrapper style matches the other flavors (Spearmint, Peppermint, Cinnamon and Pepsin) from that year and by 1949 Topps had converted to selling Chiclets style gum in their non-Bazooka penny tabs (2 pieces per pack) [Update Nov. 8, 2021-it is indeed a '46, see postscrip below]:

I'm not 100% sure but think only Spearmint and Peppermint survived the transition period. Dig that LBP (Lord Baltimore Press) logo on the back's waste area!

Getting back to the Fruit wrapper, I have to believe it came from Neuner's collection.  1939 Ginger wrappers have popped up (2 tabs and a wrapper at last count) so the Fruit variety seven years hence is presently the holiest grail for Topps Gum.

Notice too the sell sheet that makes up the article's background art shows the last round retail canister Topps sold their tab gum in, for the original 1948 issue of Tatoo. By 1949 they had switched to true display box format, which would have elimiated the need for overboxing each canister in a shipping carton.

The Stop 'N' Go (aka License Plates) set is, other than 1955's Hocus Focus series of 126, the hardest gum tab card issue of them all. I suspect it had only just been introduced when Topps switched over to the larger, 1950 version for the reissued Stop 'N' Go set (and the slightly renamed Flags of the World-Parade) and pulled the ol' retail plug. Given the paucity of surviving cards I doubt it even saw a vending issue like X-Ray Roundup --and I suspect Flags of All Nations-Soldiers of the World-- which can be found with relative ease.  

The story does not end there though, as Neuner saves the best for last, describing a "Santa's Fun Pack" (per the header card but with no illustration provided, alas, he had picked up for what looks to be $420, or a little less if the Fun Pack was dicounted (can't tell):

That backdates Fun Packs to 1949 and not 1950 as I had previously thought.  

For the record, it's not clear if all the products he listed could be found in Santa Fun Packs.  That Hocus Focus is Magic Photo of  course and Pixie is X-Ray Roundup. The theory was, if the card set failed, the gum name (Hocus Focus, Pixie) could live on I guess.

OK, who's got a Santa Fun Pack to show?!

Postscript Nov. 8, 2021 - Lonnie Cummins reminded me that he now owns a Fruit wrapper and I believe it's likely the one shown in Benjamin.  Embarassingly, he had sent me scans of it awhile back, which I promptly misfiled!  So here is the 1946 Fruit wrapper in all it's considerable glory, with a tip of the Topps cap to Lonnie:

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