Saturday, June 25, 2022

Short Sighted

There's been several concerted efforts these past two or three years by some intrepid researchers over at Net54 Baseball trying to piece together various uncut sheets arrays for Topps series' where short prints either reside or are thought to.  I chime in on these threads sometimes and there's been some impressive debunking of various SP and DP theories as a result of a kind of crowdsourced look at miscuts and sheet remnants.  Since my interest in off-the-beaten-path Topps stuff started with trying to decipher the 1967 high number SP's four decades(!) ago, I love following these discussions.

The 1967 highs have been pretty much put to rest in terms of SP and DP rows and I'll get into that next time out as I've not posted anything on what I hope and believe are the final findings, but today I want to look at the 1967 semi-highs.  These span nos. 458 to 533 and include eight Hall-of-Famers. Like the high numbers in 1967, it's a 77 card series, which seems to be a magic number for Topps tomfoolery. Of particular note is the long held impression in the hobby that card #476 of Tony Perez was short printed, often the only one from the series identified as such in the guides.  A single SP in a full series is a rare thing with Topps and it implies the "broke the pattern" for some reason.  Before eBay and the internet, it was hard to prove or disprove such things.  Not so anymore.

You can pretty much assume, with a couple of exceptions, that any standard sized Baseball sets (2 1/2" x 3 1/2")  issued by Topps in series will not have short or double prints if the series count was 66 or 88.  The former gives you four impressions of each subject across a full 264 card uncut sheet, the latter three. Outside of those two, the only other series that is an even number is 110 , which Topps used to lead off the first every year from 1958-69, although once they started printing checklists as discrete cards (1961), those series run only 109 cards, with a preview checklist covering the next series tipped in. Those generally result in 44 (or 43 with the extra checklist added) over prints (vs. a more unwieldy-to-describe 88 - or 87 - short prints) in the series as the first wave in most years was produced in massive quantities, which seems to smooth out the press run.  Rule of thumb: if it's not detectable in the pricing, then there aren't short prints in the abstract sense, as there were too many cards produced in the series to matter.

The odd number series are where all the fun is, especially those that are 77 (76) in number.  55 subject series tend to be like the 110's in that they produce over prints.  There's only one 99 card series (the 4th in 1969) and then we get into the 1970-72 era, which had 132 card first series runs.  There's an anomalous 121 card series (the 5th) in 1971 plus the drawdown from 7 to 6 series in 1971 & 1972, before the bottom dropped out in 1973 with a mere 5 series as Topps went over to issuing all cards at once, although there is certainly some SP-DP fun thereafter. So we get some good, old-fashioned variety!

So here are the 77 card (76 in all cases) series:

1961 5th

1961 6th

1962 5th

1962 6th

1962 7th

1963 5th

1964 5th

1964 6th

1965 5th

1965 6th

1965 7th

1966 5th

1966 6th

1966 7th

1967 6th

1967 7th

1968 6th

1969 6th

1969 7th

That's 20 distinct 77 card series!  I'll try not to step on all the work done over at Net54 so am limiting the discussion here to 1967.  I ran the semi-highs through an eBay search on June 13th and came up with this:

I designated the two World Series teams from 1967 (Cardinals and Red Sox), Hall-of Famers and Yankees to make sure to weed them out if they had weirdly high counts.  I wanted to see if the semi-highs were as strange as the highs when it comes to double printed and short printed rows.

It sure seems like the Coombs, McFarlane, Dodgers Team, Rigney, Hicks and Martinez should be in a "super print" row based on eBay's listings, while Palmer as a HOF skews some numbers in the Merritt/Santiago row it's been determined he resides in.  Palmer is really popular to grade for some reason and I don't think there is a true super-print row in the semi's based on his positioning and counts I will show below.  I still suspect the 67 highs had a production issue that really changed two planned row counts but believe the semi's were not similarly affected. I say this because of the PSA populations.

If you take the HOF'ers out for a minute, the top 11 counts from eBay are (with eBay to the left, PSA pops to the right):

Coombs 106 - 199

McFarlane 105 - 295

Dodgers Team 101 - 523

Rigney 94 - 230

Hicks 91 - 245

Martinez 89 - 276

Senators Rookies 80 - 260

Landis 80 - 303

Bowens 72 - 259

Wert 70 - 253

Davidson 61 - 237

The Dodgers Team probably skews high due to Koufax being in the team picture. 

But based upon research over at Hicks (91 eBay hits) is in a row with Menke (60) and Talbot (50), whose PSA pops are: 245, 253 and 279 respectively.  That is a major eBay disparity on Hicks, like Palmer.  Maybe there's commons that are so lowly literally nobody buys them?

Conversely, the lowest 11 counts are, with PSA pops to the right:

Twins Rookies 15 - 235

Arrigo 16 - 227

Stephenson 17 - 265

Cloninger 18-235

Clemens 19 - 227

Humphreys 21 - 225

Lachemann 21 - 194

Campbell 22 - 194

Braves Team 22 -251

Pirates Rookies 22 - 196

Houk 22-317

I think this relative smoothness among the two sets of counts means that 33 x 4 and 44 x 3 is the likely row setup for the semi's then over the 264 card press sheet array.  Nothing really jumps out when you look at PSA's figures.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Foiled Again, or, Two Wrights Don't Right A Wrong

Topps was starting to experiment a bit with production methods and materials in the years leading up to their February 1966 plant and warehouse move from Brooklyn to Duryea, Pennsylvania.  For reasons that may or may not be linked, after this occured some really innovative products and almost-products being worked upon by Woody Gelman's New Product Development department for a period of six or seven years, right up until the company started reigning in costs to prepare for their IPO.  NPD were still getting their bearings though in 1965 when they popped out not one but two sets featuring foil embossing.

The most well-known of these embossed sets are the 72 inserts that came with the 1965 Baseball cards,  which I've touched upon these briefly in the past and won't dwell on here.  That set is heavily documented and I'll probably end up dissecting it more fully down the road in a sports inserts series I'm contemplating anyway.  Those cards were essentially credit card sized while today's subject, Presidents and Famous Americans, were produced as "tall boys" that measured 2 1/2" x 4 11/16".  Topps was enamored with using these larger cards in many of their mainstream 1964-65 issues, for reasons I cannot quite determine. 

The 44 subjects in the set include 35 U.S. Presidents and 9 Famous Americans. The run of Chief Executives includes Lyndon Johnson and with Grover Cleveland's two terms only requiring a single card, the first 35 cards in the set are presented in a straightforward chronological manner, with a short paragraph of description and the some indicia. The cards, which were blank backed, spread the subjects amid five colors, with black reserved for Presidents who had been assassinated, as shown here:

Presidents who did not die at the hands of others were issued with red, white or blue backgrounds and the Famous Americans were all done in green. There is no variation among colors and subjects, if Woodrow Wilson was blue, he stayed blue.

The wrapper, to my eye,  is one of the better ones produced by Topps in the 60's and the tall boy format let them go horizontal, unleashing Mount Rushmore to great effect:

The red, white & blue theme was also one dear to the Shorin family, the owners of Topps, going back to 1908 and Morris Shorin's American Leaf Tobacco Company, although no examples of any ephemera exist to show this, only family recollections. This patriotic livery is still on display today with Bazooka.

I'll not bother with a checklist for all 44 cards but will detail the 9 Famous Americans that close out the set:

36. Benjamin Franklin

37. Charles Lindbergh

38. Alexander Graham Bell

39. Alexander Hamilton

40. Albert Einstein

41. Henry Ford

42. Orville Wright

43. Douglas MacArthur

44. Frank Lloyd Wright

While one of the Wright brothers apparently got short shrift, the inclusion of another similarly surnamed fellow, the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, was unexpected:

(Courtesy The Wright Library)

Most of the others are no-brainers though and it's worth noting Albert Einstein was a frequently depicted Topps subject, going back to 1952's Look 'N' See set.  

As you can imagine, the combination of the tall boy sizing and foil embossing is not one that allowed higher grade examples to survive in any kind of quantity.  The set also seems to have been pretty limited in release and it's not the easiest thing to find these days. Demand is low and let's face it, the portraits look, well, kinda boring.  It's an odd duck of a set, albeit one that pulled together a few overarching themes at Topps in 1965.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Opening Day

I stumbled across something that was both interesting and infuriating a couple of weeks ago concerning a 1952 Topps Baseball pack opening. Yes, certainly an interesting thing to do but it's infuriating to me that it survived 70 years and then got dismantled. Here's a link to the whole video but you will need to watch it on Cardporn's Facebook feed (sorry).

However, there's a silver lining, or at least a white one.  I've known for some time that many of the early penny and nickel packs sold by Topps came with a glassine insert that I thought helped protect the cards from the gum.  However, it seems, after watching the video, it's possible the insert was fashioned in order to allow the gum to be inserted into the pack to allow for a neat final sealing job vs. being a purely protective measure.  

Here, check out these two frame grabs to see what I mean.  This is the arrangement after the pack was opened; you can see how the white insert is partially, but neatly, folded around the five cards within:

Then on the flipside, you can see how the insert is still only providing partial cover.

Now, it's possible the gum rotated sometime during its 70 year nap and was meant to be inserted horizontally and just lightly adhere to the glassine, but it sure seems like the inner wrap was needed to help stabilize the gum and cards for outside wrapping.

Topps would often have in-house advertising or premium offers on the inserts and I'm not sure why they didn't in 1952, at least for the Baseball set (this was a first series pack, with first run black backed cards within) but this video, which essentially documented the destruction of a $80,000 pack in what I have to assume was a quest for a really nice #1 Andy Pafko, at least has given us some good information.

I've seen videos like this before but this is the best view I've seen of such proceedings, disturbing as they may be.

Saturday, June 4, 2022


I'm sure some regular readers of this blog recall the old Baseball Hobby News, which competed against The Trader SpeaksSports Collectors Digest and a couple other of the more "major" pubs back in the heady hobby days of the late 1970's and into the 1990's.  I subscribed from around 1982 to 1990 and BHN probably peaked around 1986 in terms of content and influence. Published by Frank and Vivian Barning, a married couple who were active card dealers, BHN was probably the best in terms of "pure" hobby content among the major hobby periodicals of the time.

When this July 1986 issue came out, Beckett was just getting his footing in the pricing rag trade (where your faithful blogger also trafficked at Current Card Prices in its two earliest years), Baseball Card News was in year three of existence and The Trader Speaks was a distant memory that remained adrift then lost for good after its mailing list was bought by Sports Collectors Digest in 1984 and a relaunch (as a monthly SCD special insert) failed to generate any traction for the brand.  There were others at the fringes and also the formidable Baseball Cards magazine, slickly produced and sold at newsstands across the country.  Tuff Stuff  was another slicker looking mag that debuted in 1984;  Baseball Hobby News persisted amid this competition for a quarter-century (1979-93):

Frank Barning passed away last month after a long illness.  I never met him, not even at a show, but he always seemed like an old friend, his smiling face atop his regular "Barnstorming" column (which later became a less hobby-centric blog) saying hello every month:

(courtesy David Kathman)

He also made it onto a Topps Stadium of Stars card, shot at at the 1992 Atlanta National, each subject (66 hobby-centric folks) getting a 500 count "vending box"  of their own cards, which used the 1992 retail Topps design:

I've heard Frank never liked this image but trust me, it's better than many others in the set!  

Here's the back:

It's a little fuzzy, sorry.  I'll be looking a the set, and a companion issue, hopefully with less fuzz, shortly but wanted to pay tribute to a hobby lifer.  RIP.