Saturday, March 23, 2024

Don't Cello Me Short

Friend o'the Archive David Danberg posed a question to me recently about which specific packs could be found in which specific boxes of 1969 Topps Baseball cards. It's an interesting question because this is the year Topps sold both five and ten cent packs of cards; the former in traditional wax livery, the latter in a printed cello that was offered in seemingly in some kind of fairly widespread and lengthy test (at least as far as their test issues go).

To refresh our collective memories, these were those, wax first:

You can see this nickel pack which I believe is from the first series, was produced in Brooklyn.  This would change with the fifth series as the origin switched to Duryea. 

But Topps also issued 10 cent printed cello's, which are extremely hard to find today, all through the baseball season:

Note the see-through quality of the front, especially within the white circle, where you can see the gum, and on the back, where a clear, little window shows off the bottom card which shows above and below as well. The yellow panel used on the wax pack to describe the Magic Magnet Set is white and semi-transparent here, then the art for it is rotated ninety degrees for some reason.  As I said, they are tough packs to find and wrappers are even tougher as these tended to self-destruct upon opening.  And just like the wax packs, these were also released series-by-series; this pack too is from the first.  All printed cello's, no matter which series they held, show they were produced in Duryea.  It's an interesting divide and it makes me think a lot of the testing of this pack (and new ten cent price point, albeit still at a penny per card) could have mostly occurred around the Topps complex there. 

Topps being Topps though, they still issued a traditional clear (and gumless) cello pack in 1969. Here's some more first series action:

There were at least three other distribution methods used as well, two of which I will get to shortly (there was also the self-explanatory vending release). 1969 was an immensely interesting year for Topps, as they had major league expansion to navigate, with the MLBPA's boycott of Topps photographers ending as well. There were also two miniaturized sets which used the card design, one standalone and one an insert, plus Supers, Stamps and Deckle Photos available at various points to tempt the tykes. Topps was flooding the market after making nice with the MLBPA, whew!

Right, so Mr, Danberg's question was related to the cello "wax" packs.  One of the great things about Topps (and also quite frustrating at times) was their use of Commodity Codes for their products. This provided a way for them to track all the costs and profits associated with a particular project (usually a specific set, allowing that was not always the case) through its sales cycle, although some inside knowledge to navigate the system over several years sometimes (more on this below) was surely required. Friend o'the Archive Lonnie Cummins has been researching these codes for years and is still trying to decipher the part of the string that comes after the stock number.

The five cent wax packs had a first series commodity code of: 0-401, where the three digit stock number is 401. This ties to the five cent box's stock number of 1-401, so they are a match, of course:

Isn't that a great looking box?

The ten cent printed cello's code starts off as 0-301 but there's two possible boxes as this guy also was produced:

It starts off with a 1-401 commodity code and while the clear cello's have no printed code, they tie in at 401 due to the lack of gum.

The last digit of the code is a 7 (for 1967), meaning Topps had been using this box for the two years prior to selling clear cello Baseball packs. This is one of the anomalies with the codes and I'm not sure if Topps just wrote the entire production of these boxes off to a specific 1967 budget or if they somehow amortized the cost. One thing is for sure, leftovers never got tossed, just re-used.

That leaves us with the ten cent box, which should follow the 301 stock number found on the printed cello wrappers:

(Courtesy John Moran)

David checked his collection for this box's stock number and it is, no surprise, 1-301.  Game, set, match.  Also, this six-pack of sorts was marketed in 1969, continuing a configuration that debuted in 1967:

The back is quite busy and the commodity code is small and hard to see but it reads 1-401-30-01-8, so we have a cardboard tray that was also used for the 1968 marketing:

There were also rak-paks:

OK, now it gets a little weird.  While Topps used to sell rak paks that contained three overwrapped cello packs and only changed that procedure in 1968, when the cards were bagged loose in each "cell" of the rak. The rak header card seen above, with a code of 1-081-93-03-7 debuted in 1968, while they were debuting cello pack-free raks!  In 1967 it looked like this:

While the code on that also ended with a 7, although the stock number was different.  Se we'll call the "New Trading Cards" pack the "new" header  and the one with the batter the "old"one. The 1967 Football raks used the "new" header" so they didn't carryover from Baseball that year. And the codes had only debuted in 1966 in general, as did the famous curved-t Topps logo. 

So what gives? Durned if I know.  All I can tell you is after 1967, I consider this the best-looking regular-issue Topps set of the decade, which I realize may not reflect the hobby's opinion at large. Beyond that, in order: 1965, 1960, 1963, 1966, 1962, 1961, 1968 and 1964. Your experience may vary!

P.S.-WTH, let's do the Fifties and Seventies as well, ranked best to worst by yours truly:

1957, 1952, 1954, 1953, 1955, 1959, 1956, 1958.

1971, 1972, 1970 (best reverse ever BTW), 1975, 1973, 1979, 1974,  three way tie for last.

1 comment:

bbcardz said...

Awesome post! I really appreciate all the time and research put into it. 1969 Topps rules!