Saturday, October 21, 2023

My God, It's Full Of Stars

I was recently sent a wonderful package of in-house Topps goodies by Friend o'the Archive David Eskenazi, which originated with longtime Topps photographer Doug McWilliams, who spent 1971-1994 snapping pictures for the company. Doug has donated most of his negatives and prints to the Baseball Hall of Fame and also sent David some corporate ephemera over the years as they are longtime friends. Short story long, David was kind enough to send me a few goodies, and I am honored to add them to the collection of curiosities deposited in the Main Topps Archives Research Center Vault!

I'll have a few posts about this trove as the rest of the year progresses but wanted to start out with what might be the grooviest looking thing I've ever seen, namely the 1971-72 Gift Catalog from which ballplayers could, in lieu of a cash royalty from Topps, select from a bevy of goods.  And I mean bevy, as we shall see.

The cover gives a really good idea of where the graphics were going:

Right away, Topps shared details on how everything would go down:

We've seen some of this this explanation before, in the 1973-74 catalog but that was a mere shell of what was about to be unleashed in the pages within this one. First though, dig the exposition from Topps as it turns out this was the first catalog to offer a Five Star gift option:

They would toy with the symbols in later years but the idea was always the same, if you had the extension bonus option, you could get better swag. The extensions, so far as I can tell were made effective by having a Topps card issued in the prior year, although I'm not sure if that covered the multi-player rookie cards. Topps kept track of all this on ledger cards they maintained for each player in their Premium Records Department.

Now, let's get our groove on and look at each of the offered categories! Lots of players were into Photography, back when you had to know what you were doing:

All that do develop the film-can you imagine?! Although Polaroid had the right idea (for a time).

Some players would furnish their houses:

Furniture was a major category, with seventeen of the catalog's 64 pages devoted to it. If that didn't appeal to some folks, then they could opt for Housewares.  This page had a two star option. vs. just the one star seen for the two tables above.

Look at that Five Star Washer! Players could bank their points, that would have taken three years to nab! 

If you liked to spend your time at home outside, Topps had you covered: 

That Weber grill on the right would still be in fine shape if it was taken care of, the older ones were tanks.  Speaking of tanks, you could probably build one with some of these:

Meanwhile, Electronics were still expensive and big, quite literally in fact:

  And for the finely dressed man?  Well, there was this:

Look, I came of age in the 1970's and it was really the last best time in some ways but I would very much like to expunge from my memory all manner of Leisure Suits and wide ties-yeeeesh!!

There's more to it and the whole thing is just a riot of contemporary color and hip design.  This might also be the most extensive catalog they ever offered.  I only have a handful to compare to but it seems like it's got the most stuff and I suspect after their March 1972 IPO they refined things a little as the one after this was not as robust in its offerings.

In addition to banking points for more expensive items, players could also exceed their "star limits" and pay Topps the difference if they went over the $250 and/or $75 thresholds. Looks like the boys from Brooklyn knew how to work all the ends of this deal!

1 comment:

John Bateman said...

Well I think I would have taken the $250.00. (or a couple of cases of Topps cards).

To put things into perspective the average MLB salary in 1970 was $20,000

Today it is 4.9 million. So that $250 would equate to $61,250