Saturday, January 28, 2023

A Colorful Past

Topps ran vigorous ad campaigns for their early products as they plowed profits back into the company to encourage growth.  Ads for Topps Gum were legion in various magazines, buses and subway cars in the 1940's and Bazooka joined the fray in 1947 with the launch of the nickel roll.  When the first Topps novelty project, Tatoo, was unleashed in 1948, there was no letup.  Let's take a look at some of their ads for the product launch today.

Color was the name of the game as Topps used multiple hues on the gum itself: 

I haven't been able to track down the specific titles yet but that sure looks like a centerfold from a comic book. (UPDATE-it's actually  a 1/3 page Sunday Comics ad per Mark Newgarden) The year would be 1948 and it may have run in some Fawcett titles, based upon an early alliance with Topps, but I've had no luck so far with further tracking.

They ran trade ads as well:

It may seem strange but "As Natural As Freckles" was surely coined to drive home the idea that Tatoo was a safe product, which it was as there are still to this day regulatory requirements for inks that come into contact with any food items (they have to be vegetable based and thus limit the color palette). The window streamer is colorful too, of course, and is a fairly close match to the center spread ad above. Sorry for the left/right divide, it's not stitching properly in my graphics editor:

But for me, the best promotional piece for Tatoo is this one, even though it ties in other early Topps products:

Now that is one colorful ad!  The Party-Pak Topps Gum canister at upper right was a short lived product, eventually replaced, albeit not in kind, by the familiar 20 and 25 piece Bazooka party boxes that were ubiquitous in supermarkets and groceries in the 1950's and 60's.  Party-Paks were sold at Sears candy counters from the looks of things in these two photos provided by Friend o'the Archive Lonnie Cummins, although I'm sure it was offered in many other locations:

I'm not positive and it's a little hard to count but I believe there were 60 pieces and at a guess the suggested retail price was 49 cents.  Check out this other Sears photo, which shows the 1948 Tatoo canister (100 count) at right and the Party-Pak, which is clearly smaller and is seen a little left of center.  There's a nice run of Bazooka nickel rolls on the counter below them too:

Tatoo was also offered in something called a Tourist Pouch but the only time that's ever come up, so far as I can tell anyway, is in an old picture, presumably from a sales sheet, that was reproduced in one of Chris Benjamin's Sport Americana Non-Sports Guides. You can see it says "Tatoo Tourist" on the side of the retail box:

Tatoo sold well enough that it was slightly reconfigured in size for confectionery vending machines of the day (the 1948 original was for counter sales only) and then saw yet another relaunch a scant few years later, attributed to 1953 but that date is hobby lore at present and not confirmed. The "1953" issue was in an obviously larger size and this all bears further investigation. And then beginning in 1955 Topps started keeping a brand or two of mostly character-driven tattoo sets in circulation well into the 1970's. 

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