Saturday, November 25, 2023

What In The Sam Rosen Is Going On Here?

I was rolling through images on my hard drive the other day and pulled up a sell sheet from Sam Rosen (the antecedent, as a business, to Card Collectors Company and also the step-father to Woody Gelman) that had some curious series breakdowns for the the 1958 Topps Baseball set. The '58 set is a weird one as Topps was dealing not only with major league expansion to the west coast but also expansion of their signature annual set by 88 cards over the high of 407 cards they issued in 1957, tying it with 1952 as their most prolific at the time. Mix in their first All Star cards, the yanking of Ed Bouchee's card at #145, in-series checklists (ordered, for the most part, both numerically and alphabetically) and the much-ballyhooed signing of Stan Musial and it's clear Topps has a lot going on sixty five summers ago..

But I'm not sure what can explain the series pricing for the set sent out by Rosen in July that year:

Rosen seems to be referencing single and double prints in his pricing but they seem way too neatly divided to really reference the vagaries of the usual 132 card A&B slit printing impressions for each specific tranche of cards.

Compare the above to the way the numeric checklists lagged things vs. how the press sheets were run off for each series and you can see an interesting pattern pretty easily:

That was a fairly common structure with Topps for a spell, here with a 110 card first run, followed by three runs of 88 and what may have been intended as a final run of 66 before the 55 high numbers got the green light. Yes, the 22 card lag over the four initial series is reflected in Rosen's pricing structure, which also suggests a 3:1 ratio as well, Extra Print vs. Short Print. But those 88 and 66 card series really imply the cards should  have been printed in the same quantities.  And the 110 card first series essentially has 44 overprints if things were handed the way I suspect they were. And what is going on with the first 88 cards, where the pricing structure is an imposing 4:1?! 

Well, for a long, long time it was thought the first series was more like a traditional high number series, where less cards were printed than in all other series but pricing and population trends over the last couple of decades suggest pretty much all cards in the set are equally available, in one of the smoothest distributions ever pulled off by Topps. They likely learned from it though, as the high numbers get tough again in 1959 and we start seeing semi-highs with some reduced numbers as well. But I wonder if this was the start of the idea the cards in the first series in 1958 were scarcer began?

The one slit I have seen for series two has a classic set up, imagining 44 card blocks, of A B A, that suggests the other slit as B A B (noting Jim Bunning was slotted in to take the place of Bouchee as an off-the-cuff Double Print):

So either Rosen was pulling a fast one, made a mistake or got some bad intel from his stepson. It's certainly clear today that the precise divisions from San Rosen's price list exist. But it just seems odd, supremely so, that this was how Sam was selling the set in 1958.


Eric C. Loy said...

We pointed out the Bunning variation before,,,,wonder why his is the only pink background on this sheet?

toppcat said...

Only one black background as well.