Saturday, April 22, 2023

What Have You Done For Me Philately?

We've been looking at 1952 for the good part of a month now but today let's travel 22 years into that future for a look at the 1974 Topps Stamp Albums. Continuing a tradition started in 1961 and 1962, where stamps were inserted in regular issue Baseball packs and a separate, large album was sold for ten cents, their second full-fledged effort at producing a stand-alone set of baseball stamps (1969 saw the first), was a colorful affair. Packaged as a self-contained combo of a handful of stamps and a mini album (one for each team) for a mere dime, the 1974 release should have been a hit based upon past experience and results.  

Except it wasn't and vast mounds of uncut stamp panels, in a 2x6 array, survived, often found with tightly cropped ends. Up until five or six years ago complete stamp production runs of the 24 different panels, all with close cropped left ends, could be found on eBay for a relative pittance, presumably from a never-folded large stash, and always offered in a nice, neat stack. As you will note, there are but ten players for each team, so this means 48 subjects were double printed. Complete sets in full or partial panel form are still offered, as are incomplete production runs of 22/24 full panels, with the best two HOF-subject rich panels removed. Mostly these seem to be partially disincorporated stock or pack contents, as the original stash, which was always sold in full 24 sheet production run form, seems to have dried up.

As for the albums, they are tough items today, especially if the team has one of the ongoing hobby superstars on its roster (think Ryan, Rose, Yaz) and it's not exactly clear what caused the obvious population mismatch between stamps and albums today. I've addressed the 1974 set previously but recently found some production items that are interesting.

First though, let's take a look at what was being sold. The pack is a typical one used by Topps for tests at the time and with no pricing (that would have been on the generic test boxes).  The assumption is these were sold for ten cents but with no extant test boxes or scans available, it's not certain.  In fact, Topps may have attempted a higher price point, or even multiple ones, dooming, or perhaps skewing, the test:

As mentioned above, the stamps were colorful and surviving panels usually found with the left ends cropped so tightly that no border is visible.  As the wrapper states, a dozen stamps were inside these were folded twice vertically. The pack inserted panels usually. have a typical wavy cut along the top and bottom borders, whereas the "stash" panels are symmetrical.

This is from the stash:

That's a fabulous sheet of course, as I count six hall-of-famers! This one is from a pack, surf's up with that wave!

You see that kind of cut, or worse,  on Bazooka Joe comics all the time.

As for the albums, whereas Topps used a somewhat drab orange color scheme for all the 1969 mini albums, they went with a much more eye-catching palette in 1974:

The facsimile signatures on the back page revealed who would be found with a space for affixing within:

Proofs are known:

That appears to be a proof for colors matching.  I think this one is too, even though both seem to have full color:

This gives you a flavor of the interiors:

The table of contents is a really nice touch:

The failure of this set put the kibosh on similar future issues of this ilk, until Topps introduced sticker and album combos in 1982, bringing in a  new style of small, sticky novelties.. 

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