Saturday, March 25, 2023


The Topps Premium Rewards Program for wholesalers, direct markets, consolidators and retailers has been covered here a few times previously.  It required a full department, called Premium Records, to deal with all the paperwork as Topps had thousands of accounts, all of which were eligible for the program. I suspect this department also took care of the prizes ballplayers received if they chose not to take cash from Topps. 

I've shown this several times before but it's germane here, from the internal-only team building exercise creation 1970 Topps Teamates set:

Salaries, overhead, etc. would have eaten up some dough, so Topps clearly valued the program.  All good but also not what I want to make the main focus today, although it's certainly tangential.  

I've recently found some official records detailing purchases made by the U.S. Government in 1952 and Topps Gum, a product already reconfigured for retail before a final transition to Military Rations-only occurred mid-decade.  In July of 1952 the U.S. Army placed two separate orders with Topps for their flagship product.  Here, check one out from the 1952 Public Contracts Bulletin:

The order presumably was for 33,000 pieces of Topps Gum and I imagine they were destined for ration kits.  There's another order that month for 24,000 more that I don't feel the need to show (same with the codes that unravel what the line entries mean) as it really just resembles the one above.  I believe the amounts referenced do represent individual pieces rather than some larger configuration but I would like to confirm that someday. 

Speaking of the military, I've shown the Topps Gum rations before as well (yes, this is a total re-hash post!), which wre very close in some cases to the retail product, and in other cases they were the retail product. This is a 1949 dated wrapper and this particular gum tab indeed came out of a ration kit but Topps was still sending the traditional "wafer" gum for ration kits as well into the 1950's as well:

Now, nine years ago I showed this letter from Sy Berger to a woman from South Carolina who was redeeming some certificates for three bath towels.  Today, it ties in with my musings above and the address it went to is intriguing:

Miss Livingston lived on the Naval Base in Charleston as I've now noticed.  It seems possible to me she was ordering for the Navy Exchange on the base but I'm not sure if such places sold everyday retail items to the people who lived on the base or if they came through an official procurement.  I also note Sy Berger was still working in premiums and promotions, right as 1952 Topps Baseball, a set helped create, was launching. And check out the 20% inflation that diminished the value of the merchandise being offered out of the most recent catalog. Topps must have amended up all the old catalogs and related form letters before printing up new ones.  Very typical for them.

It's all very intriguing and raises the possibility Miss Livingston was buying the old, non-candy coated version of Topps Gum, as seen on the receipt attached to the letter.  Or maybe the gum was procured by the Navy in retail boxes and she accumulated the certificates. I like how a new certificate recognized and memorialized the submittal of certificates for redemption! The ladies in Premium Records must have been extremely busy!

I hope to unearth more information about the commercial ventures Topps had with the various branches of the military but do know it was a long relationship, very much tended to by the Shorin family, and two of the founding Shorin boys (Abram and Philip) served in the army during World War 1. The family was a patriotic bunch and their use of red, white and blue packaging for Bazooka was a direct result of this.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Vend For Yourself

We've got a bit of a conundrum to work through today kids.  A couple of  months ago Heritage Auctions offered a 1959 vending box of Topps Football cards:

Exciting news, right?  Well, there was a definite twist:

Yup, those are bindles of cards, seven per batch and I really don't think that they came that way from Topps. The Trading Card Guild box is 100% correct as that's how Topps branded their cards not sold with gum at the time (and through about 1966) but this was likely the work of a third party repackager. I'm not sure these were bindled for vending machines as it seems superfluous since those devices were designed to dispense cards in pre-measured quantities.  The other thing against them to my mind is Topps would not put in a lot of extra work on resale items.

Two bindles were exposed for the auction and the centering is pretty typical of late 50's Topps cards:

A Topps vending box should have the cards packed neatly, and in a zebra stripe pattern, like this one from 1987:

So color me skeptical that 1959 box left the factory that way.  Anything's possible I guess but I'd need a lot more evidence to be convinced. As part of the web surfing research I did for this post, I found that Topps still makes vending boxes of a sort, although I guarantee these will never see the inside of any kind of dispensing machinery. I think these were only resurrected in 2022:

A breaker on the Jabs Family You Tube channel broke a 2022 vending box and I tried to grab some stills.  The advertised inserts rest on top of the regular issue cards:

There's no real zebra stripe pattern but things are done a lot differently these days.  Topps stopped making the traditional vending boxes in the mid-1990's from what I can tell but I'm not sure of the exact year that happened.

You can watch the whole break here if you like:  

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Past Times Were Good Times

Well I'm still dredging up old scans (and some new ones) here at the Topps Archives Research Complex and recently found a handful of  trade journal photos featuring the Shorin's, the original and long time owners of Topps, at least until Michael Eisner came along.

Here's an item from March of 1940, taken at the Wholesale Candy and Tobacco Salesmen's gathering at the Commodore Hotel in Manhattan, a place where I have attended many functions myself over the years. I swear that folding screen behind the group was still being used when I was attending soiree's there in the 90's.  The roughly 1300 attendees were mostly what is referred to as "jobbers" (wholesalers) and they were a vital cog in the Topps sales machinery. Candy and tobacco were inextricably linked as distribution channels at the time and Topps made their bones through such relationships.  

Here's three quarters of the Shorin boys, along with a coterie of Topps salesmen, they are seated second (Joseph), third (Abe) and fourth (Phil) from the left:

Phil looks a bit like Ira to me but there's very little non-wirephoto quality imagery available of either man, nor of Abe for that matter. As President, Joe Shorin was in many more photos than the rest of the boys. Here's a better shot of the three from the dinner:

Here check out this page from a Topps Topics promotional brochure circa 1948, maybe you can tell better than me:

You can definitely see Phil here though, at right in a snapshot from the National Candy Wholesalers Association trade show in June 1949 and holding his ever present pipe:

This was just prior to the deployment of the one-cent version of Bazooka (the nickel roll had launched two years earlier) and you can see on the banner behind Phil that Topps was still pushing their flagship gum along with the bubble gum's nickel roll. The fellow on the left is Al Bagle, who also worked for Topps.

Backtracking slightly, Topps would go pretty heavy on the PR in the late 1940's and this photo, part of a press release package, is typical as it shows the Topps board having some goofy, bubble blowing fun as they meet, which I'm sure was a planned and well-staged exercise. In this case, taken from a Minneapolis newspaper in September of 1948, these images and some expertly massaged text sometimes ran in Sunday magazine sections:

I believe the fellow on the left blowing a bubble is Dick Guido, who handled Sales Correspondence and Promotions (and who presumably was Sy Berger's boss in the early days) for the company and was featured on the Topps Topics page above.  Note the Tatoo tourist pouch just beyond his left hand, last seen here.  There's one at the head of the table as well.

I'll leave you with a grainy blowup of the pouch:

Boy I'd sure love to find one of those!

Saturday, March 4, 2023

Nuggety Goodness

After the recent, somewhat choppy look at the various Venezuelan Topps tattoo issues here of late, I've stockpiled some interesting scans that have absolutely nothing to do with each other.  So today I'm just going to wing it with some interesting Nuggets O'Topps related stuff.

You may recall the early card dealer Sam Rosen and the matchbooks he had designed every year for the annual Rathkamp Matchcover Society conventions starting in 1948. Well 1956's effort has now revealed itself, along with a very slight address change just down the street from a prior location, from where he was also selling aftermarket baseball and other trading cards :

Convention Committee Chair?  Sam seems like he was the kind of guy that would relish the role and was an eminently logical choice as the show was held in his hometown and he liked to have a good time with the boys.  I love stern visage and, even moreso,  the chair made out of a matchcover but watch that cigar ash Sam!  Some of his past made the reverse:

I'm hoping the 1957 and 1958 versions will eventually pop up as I suspect he would have had some made up for each do; he would pass at the end of 1958 so that year would be the absolute possible end of these.

At the end of a matchcover convention, I'd imaging you would want something to freshen your breath after all the cigars and cigarettes that had been smoked.  What better way then with some Scents gum, as seen here in a scan provided by Friend o'the Archive Jason Rhodes:

Scents looks very much like a reboot of the original Topps product, a one cent gum tab aimed at adults, then reformulated to mimic C. Howard's Violet Gum. Take a look at the box and gum it copied:

(Courtesy C. Howard)

Topps was adept at ripping off candy-coated gum, that's for sure.

And how about those Niners?  No, not the football team, the actual '49ers where the 100th anniversary of the California Gold Rush informed a 1948-49 sales promotion we've seen bits of previously:

Sales promotions would rapidly pivot to Bazooka after this as the ubiquitous one cent tab had been introduced before 1949 was shown the door. 

See ya next time!