Saturday, January 9, 2021

Vertically Oriented

Here's a couple of interesting art pieces to kick off the New Year.

These two original artworks were used for the 1969-70 Basketball Ruler inserts. Hal Greer leads things off:

That pencilled "62" indicates his height, as shown on the finished insert:


I may have mislabeled my scans as I thought these came from REA but a search of their site says no.  Oh well, here's our next subject:


Thats's Nate Thurmond, although his head may have been Frankensteined.  Here is the insert in all it's glory, not sure why his height (6' 11'-yikes!) is not shown on the artwork like Greer's:


The Greer's reverse is blank but Thurmond's has some vintage Woody Gelman scrawl:


The Rulers were one of the more innovative Topps inserts of the era. There's 23 in the set with one subject (Bill Russell) pulled to screw up the math leading to 24 since the number of subjects in the set was printed right on each ruler!

There were a mere 14 teams in the NBA during the 1969-70 season, so some teams ended up with an additonal subject or two.  Here's the checklist:


1. Walt Bellamy (Detroit Pistons)

2. Jerry West (Los Angeles Lakers)

3. Bailey Howell (Boston Celtics)

4. Elvin Hayes (San Diego Rockets)

5. Not Issued

6. Bob Rule (Seattle Supersonics)

7 Gail Goodrich (Phoenix Suns)

8. Jeff Mullins (San Francisco Warriors)

9. John Havlicek (Boston Celtics)

10. Lew Alcindor (Milwaukee Bucks)

11. Wilt Chamberlain (Los Angeles Lakers)

12. Nate Thurmond (San Francisco Warriors)

13. Hal Greer (Philadelphia 76ers)

14. Lou Hudson (Atlanta Hawks)

15. Jerry Lucas (Cincinnati Royals)

16. Dave Bing (Detroit Pistons)

17. Walt Frazier (New York Knicks)

18. Gus Johnson (Baltimore Bullets)

19. Willis Reed (New York Knicks)

20. Earl Monroe (Baltimore Bullets)

21. Billy Cunningham (Philadelphia 76ers)

22. Wes Unseld (Baltimore Bullets)

23. Bob Boozer (Chcago Bulls)

24. Oscar Robertson (Cincinnati Royals)

Topps maybe could have gone with Lenny Wilkens to represent the second of the Supersonics, although at 6' 1" he would have been the shortest player in the set (which is Greer)  but a guy named Bob Rule was probably too much for them to pass up  In fairness, Rule was a very solid player, a 1969-70 All Star, averaged over 24 points a game that season and was coming off his best campaign as a result:




Thursday, December 31, 2020

All Gummed Up And Nowhere To Go

Well here we are at the end of the strangest year imaginable.  As mentioned last time out, I've moved up the holiday season posts this year and will be back on a Saturday schedule in 2021. Today's entry is really just a catch-up post and then it's off to the champagne and confetti!

Friend o'the Archive Jason Rhodes sent along a scan of what looks like the 42nd subject from Bowman's Uncle Miltie Bubble Gum--examined here last month-- and it's one that allows a sizing comparison:


Shorter and wider than a typical Topps penny tatoo of the era, it looks like glassine to me.  Also of note is the little production rip just like the ones Topps produced.  And then, quite amazingly, this showed up on a UK eBay auction:


There's treasure inside:


One of those packs is on its way to me but arriving too late to include here.  These are a hard act to follow, just like Berle, but I'll give it a whirl!

A 1955 trade journal gives us rough dating for what looks like a coffee-flavored chiclet-style gum:


I've only seen one other reference to this product, which must have fizzled pretty quickly despite the caption.  Karl Fink (not Kink!) was as Shorin in-law and also became a renowned designer of commercial and industrial products.  I am looking for details on him since despite his fame, very little seems to be available on his activities.

Finally, Friend o'the Archive Lonnie Cummins sent along a neat old picture showing a load-in tie-in from Topps Bush Terminal HQ:

McKeesport Candy Company is still in business! It's also an area (near Pittsburgh) where the 1971 Topps Winners contest entries seem to have been concentrated, perhaps a connection to wholesalers is the key to that weird and now-expensive set!  More fodder for 2021-Happy New Year folks, see ya on January 9th!

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Stocking Stuffer

I'll be posting on Thursday this week and next in view of where Christmas and New Year's Eve fall on the calendar, then back to the normal Saturday schedule in (gulp!) 2021.

One reason I'm moving things up is so everybody can get a stocking this year:


Yes, that is a five cent 1952 Topps Baseball pack peeking out from a polythene stocking! This stocking was not a Topps product but something they must have worked on as a "special promotion" as detailed in last week's post. I say that with confidence as the promotional piece above appeared in an August 1952 trade journal.  Given the lead time to assemble this holiday treat, the time to prepare the publication and the practice of advancement of issue dates on printed matter in the early 50's, I'd estimate Topps had this deal in place around June 1952 if not earlier, possibly smack dab in production of the middle of the "long" series of cards spanning nos. 81 to 250,  or even close to the time the semi-highs were being printed.  

Offically dubbed "Santa's Sack" before such a moniker would produce a ROFL or LOL, the stocking appears to have also held some hard candies and a pack of candy or gum cigarettes called "Mumps" (Correction: "Humps", as per Brett Alan's comment below). At a guess, more than one brand of candy cigarette would have been available.  Here's a slightly closer look.


Topps probably ran such cross-promotions well into the 1960's while also selling their own Fun Packs and the like at various points in the year (which were roughly keyed to Valentine's Day, Hallowe'en and Christmas).  They also had their own Candy Divison pumping out some holiday treats in the early 50's.

Merry Christmas everybody!

Saturday, December 19, 2020

We Belong To The World

Some partial scans are better than others. Friend o'the Archive Peter Fishman unearthed this little beauty from his own archives recently and it's worth a look I think:

The dating is said to be 1956 and it's from a publication called The Candy Buyer's Directory, although I think the dating could be a smidge too late. I'll revisit momentarily.

Three things jump out at me with this ad. The first is the very clear message that Topps was an international concern.  Indeed, beyond their North American activities (Canada and Mexico came along quite early) they were making inroads in Europe, South America and even the Middle East (Israel was getting Topps products by the end of the 40's) and were looking well beyond those areas as well.

Second is the obvious promtional nature of the advert.  Topps was well-versed in cross promotion by the mid 1950's and would continue as the decades progressed.

Third, there is no mention of Bazooka, which is a little odd.  Clor-Aid Gum though is clearly on display and that leads me to our little dating conundrum. On March 4, 1954 The U.S. Second Circuit's Court of Appeals ruled that Topps was prohibited from using the Clor-Aid name as it infringed upon American Chicle's Clorets brand name and packaging.  The year before Topps had previously lost to that firm in marketing Topps Gum in a package that was to close to that of Chiclets:


Pretty darn close to a Chiclets package for sure!

With that, I think this ad is from early 1954, and also as below.

Present are a number of 1953-4 issues; putting aside the perennial Baseball, we have Wings, which was marketed in 1952-53,  World on Wheels (1953-54), Tatoo (a 1953 reissue), the 1953 version of License Plates, Who-Z-At Star (also 1953), Scoop (1953-54 but late 1953 and early 1954) and Tarzan, which was somewhere in the 1952-54 continuum (precisely where in those years is a bit of a mystery still for the two sets issued under this title but one seems almost certain to have been from 1953). Then we have the head-scratching World Coins which premiered in 1949 as a penny tab product and was reimagined as Play Coins of the World in 1950. Perhaps the international appeal of the original title was behind it's prominence, or maybe Topps had extra coins still to puch out the door.

Clor-Aid may have been intended to capitalize not just on the American market but also in French-speaking areas (France and Switzerland) as the court noted it sounds the same as Clorets in that tongue. But Topps got sued by American Chicle in 1953 for repackaging the re-imagined Topps Gum (again, they had previously tried to glom onto the Chiclets brand with packaging that was ruled too close for comfort) and while they were found to have copied the packaging, a trademark infringement suit failed.  American Chicle then appealed, leading to the March 4th judgement by the same judge that dinged them on the Chiclets affair. So it was an odd choice I think to use in in this ad.

We know Wings, which intriguingly had a Spanish Langauge version issued in Mexico (and possibly parts of South America) saw a tie-in with Doeskin Tissues and also with a brand of sneakers called Red Ball Jets in 1955, so maybe the ad was designed to burn off excess stock after all (and perhaps the ad resulted in those tie-ins!).  Maybe even an excess of chlorophyll gum nuggets found their way into some promotional scheme somewhere. 

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Gouache They're Nice

It's been exactly half a decade since I last revisited the topic of the 1953 Topps Baseball original paintings and there is an exciting bit of news to report.

The recently concluded Love of the Game auction had a half dozen of these beauties, all new to the hobby and coming out of the Ted Patterson collection. All represent images from issued cards.  Ted was a Baltimore broadcaster for decades but I can't see any Baltimore link to the six he had, which were displayed in his home along with tons of ofther great memorabilia. Ted had interviewed Sy Berger before a big Baltimore card convention in 1975 and I can't help but wonder if these six came from Sy's basement stash of paintings at some point thereafter.

Here is Carlos Bernier, which is a bit below the quality of many other images in the set IMO:


Dale Mitchell is next, looking wistfully at a distant srping training horizon:


Frank Campos, the 1952 Topps semi-high variation legend, looks pretty pleased with things here:


Up next, Johnny Wryostek, whose visage graced the leftmost portion of the 1953 Topps strip that used to adorn this blog's apex.  Mantle was just to the left of him on the sheet,


Ray Boone is up next.  You all know about his son (Bob) and grandsons Bret and Aaron but did you know the Nationals inked great-grandson Jake out of Princeton earlier this year?  If he makes the bigs, the Boones will be the first family to send four generations of players to the majors.


Wally Westlake rounds out the half dozen:


If my math and inquiries are correct, 164 of the originals are now confirmed, plus nine paintings of unissued subjects.  110 to go!



Saturday, December 5, 2020

Bang On A Can

There are still some amazing things popping up when it comes to Topps.  I've posted about several different 1940's Topps Gum displays previously, with a good summary found here. If you click that link and scroll down, you will see a traditional cardboard Topps Spot Display that measures about two inches high and held 100 gum tabs.  I've now landed an entirely different beast, namely one made of mild steel:


It's a smidge under 4 inches tall and quite heavy.  It could easily have doubled the gum load held by the cardboard version and then some. This metal version's visuals are similar to the 1946 cardboard graphics; earlier canisters, some with foil highlights and some without, are dated 1942 and mention "Only Natural Flavors". There's at least one later version as well but I don't have any dated past 1946 here at the main Topps Archives Research Complex. The seller obtained it from a collection in Syracuse, New York but he didn't know any history of it beyond that.

Topps had to use some artificial ingredients as WW2 raged on, so I'm not exactly sure when they switched over from "Only Natural Flavors" to "Take Your Change" but believe it was either during the latter part of the war or just after it ended and this motto clearly ties to their Changemaker ad and PR campaign that went into overdrive after the war.  


Yes it's rusty!


I mentioned opening earlier, didn't I?  Well you needed a key to open these and Topps handily sent one along for the ride.


Another key certainly opened this bad boy up, perhaps from the same shipment. Well guess what, the day after I received my metal can, another popped up on eBay, albeit from a different seller and sans affixed key, which obviously got used as intended.  This one though, still had the lid, although it had been keyed:


I'm about 99% sure the example with the lid was being offered by a store a little to the Southeast of Cleveland. Both of the known metal canisters seem to be connected to the old Rust Belt/Great Lakes area then, which is interesting given the packaging and Topps' connections to a printer or two in the Great Lakes vicinity. The heaviness of the can though seems at odds with Topps micro-managing the shipped weights of their products in the 40's as they had razor thin margins on their penny confections.

This may all show details of an old Topps jobber's distribution route but it's not really clear and another one of my guesses as to its market tends toward military or similar rough use.  Shipboard in the Navy or on display at a foreign PX somewhere seems to make sense but I just don't know.   All I know is I had never seen one before and now two popped up within ten days of each other!

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Foreversharp

BFF o'the Archive Jeff Sherman sent some old Topps promotional material across my transom the other month and it's high time I unveil things here.

Regular readers of this blog know that Topps unofficially dubbed their pre-Bazooka penny gum tab the Changemaker. I have no idea who came up with this slogan but it was genius.  Now Bazooka eventually led to the demise of their first and quite traditional gum line but in 1947, as the postwar boom was taking off, things were going full tilt at Topps. Until the point of discontinuance was reached in the early 50's they had deployed a multi-layered advertising and promotional campaign that was a thing of beauty.

In a continuation of their waritme use of comic illustration humorous ads aimed at consumers were deployed in various magazines, on subway cars and buses around the country and pretty much anywhere they could fit one in.  Here's a prime example:


The best way to push their ubiquitous penny tab to consumers was to get the jobbers and their customers in line. Jobbers (wholesalers) got to participate in the Topps Jamboree, which gave away such prizes as new cars and exotic vacations to the top selling individual performers.  This blurb from a 1949 trade journal shows just how well their PR machine was oiled:


You can see an old American Leaf Tobacco Company connection in the winner of that 4th place prize. Retailers didn't get left out but the prizes became commensurately skimpier the further down the food chain they went. This promotional pamphlet from 1947 (about a year earlier than the cartoon ad above) laid it all out:



Those premium certificates have been covered here in depth and were key to the Topps sales and marketing strategies. For this iteration of the Changemaker promotional cycle, things were decidedly Eversharp:


As to what was so Eversharp, I have to say it was quite disappointing, although not having been around at the time maybe I'm overthinking things...


...or maybe I'm not-mechanical pencils were probably just as boring a prize back then as they would be today!