Saturday, March 25, 2023


The Topps Premium Rewards Program for wholesalers, direct markets, consolidators and retailers has been covered here a few times previously.  It required a full department, called Premium Records, to deal with all the paperwork as Topps had thousands of accounts, all of which were eligible for the program. I suspect this department also took care of the prizes ballplayers received if they chose not to take cash from Topps. 

I've shown this several times before but it's germane here, from the internal-only team building exercise creation 1970 Topps Teamates set:

Salaries, overhead, etc. would have eaten up some dough, so Topps clearly valued the program.  All good but also not what I want to make the main focus today, although it's certainly tangential.  

I've recently found some official records detailing purchases made by the U.S. Government in 1952 and Topps Gum, a product already reconfigured for retail before a final transition to Military Rations-only occurred mid-decade.  In July of 1952 the U.S. Army placed two separate orders with Topps for their flagship product.  Here, check one out from the 1952 Public Contracts Bulletin:

The order presumably was for 33,000 pieces of Topps Gum and I imagine they were destined for ration kits.  There's another order that month for 24,000 more that I don't feel the need to show (same with the codes that unravel what the line entries mean) as it really just resembles the one above.  I believe the amounts referenced do represent individual pieces rather than some larger configuration but I would like to confirm that someday. 

Speaking of the military, I've shown the Topps Gum rations before as well (yes, this is a total re-hash post!), which wre very close in some cases to the retail product, and in other cases they were the retail product. This is a 1949 dated wrapper and this particular gum tab indeed came out of a ration kit but Topps was still sending the traditional "wafer" gum for ration kits as well into the 1950's as well:

Now, nine years ago I showed this letter from Sy Berger to a woman from South Carolina who was redeeming some certificates for three bath towels.  Today, it ties in with my musings above and the address it went to is intriguing:

Miss Livingston lived on the Naval Base in Charleston as I've now noticed.  It seems possible to me she was ordering for the Navy Exchange on the base but I'm not sure if such places sold everyday retail items to the people who lived on the base or if they came through an official procurement.  I also note Sy Berger was still working in premiums and promotions, right as 1952 Topps Baseball, a set helped create, was launching. And check out the 20% inflation that diminished the value of the merchandise being offered out of the most recent catalog. Topps must have amended up all the old catalogs and related form letters before printing up new ones.  Very typical for them.

It's all very intriguing and raises the possibility Miss Livingston was buying the old, non-candy coated version of Topps Gum, as seen on the receipt attached to the letter.  Or maybe the gum was procured by the Navy in retail boxes and she accumulated the certificates. I like how a new certificate recognized and memorialized the submittal of certificates for redemption! The ladies in Premium Records must have been extremely busy!

I hope to unearth more information about the commercial ventures Topps had with the various branches of the military but do know it was a long relationship, very much tended to by the Shorin family, and two of the founding Shorin boys (Abram and Philip) served in the army during World War 1. The family was a patriotic bunch and their use of red, white and blue packaging for Bazooka was a direct result of this.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Vend For Yourself

We've got a bit of a conundrum to work through today kids.  A couple of  months ago Heritage Auctions offered a 1959 vending box of Topps Football cards:

Exciting news, right?  Well, there was a definite twist:

Yup, those are bindles of cards, seven per batch and I really don't think that they came that way from Topps. The Trading Card Guild box is 100% correct as that's how Topps branded their cards not sold with gum at the time (and through about 1966) but this was likely the work of a third party repackager. I'm not sure these were bindled for vending machines as it seems superfluous since those devices were designed to dispense cards in pre-measured quantities.  The other thing against them to my mind is Topps would not put in a lot of extra work on resale items.

Two bindles were exposed for the auction and the centering is pretty typical of late 50's Topps cards:

A Topps vending box should have the cards packed neatly, and in a zebra stripe pattern, like this one from 1987:

So color me skeptical that 1959 box left the factory that way.  Anything's possible I guess but I'd need a lot more evidence to be convinced. As part of the web surfing research I did for this post, I found that Topps still makes vending boxes of a sort, although I guarantee these will never see the inside of any kind of dispensing machinery. I think these were only resurrected in 2022:

A breaker on the Jabs Family You Tube channel broke a 2022 vending box and I tried to grab some stills.  The advertised inserts rest on top of the regular issue cards:

There's no real zebra stripe pattern but things are done a lot differently these days.  Topps stopped making the traditional vending boxes in the mid-1990's from what I can tell but I'm not sure of the exact year that happened.

You can watch the whole break here if you like:  

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Past Times Were Good Times

Well I'm still dredging up old scans (and some new ones) here at the Topps Archives Research Complex and recently found a handful of  trade journal photos featuring the Shorin's, the original and long time owners of Topps, at least until Michael Eisner came along.

Here's an item from March of 1940, taken at the Wholesale Candy and Tobacco Salesmen's gathering at the Commodore Hotel in Manhattan, a place where I have attended many functions myself over the years. I swear that folding screen behind the group was still being used when I was attending soiree's there in the 90's.  The roughly 1300 attendees were mostly what is referred to as "jobbers" (wholesalers) and they were a vital cog in the Topps sales machinery. Candy and tobacco were inextricably linked as distribution channels at the time and Topps made their bones through such relationships.  

Here's three quarters of the Shorin boys, along with a coterie of Topps salesmen, they are seated second (Joseph), third (Abe) and fourth (Phil) from the left:

Phil looks a bit like Ira to me but there's very little non-wirephoto quality imagery available of either man, nor of Abe for that matter. As President, Joe Shorin was in many more photos than the rest of the boys. Here's a better shot of the three from the dinner:

Here check out this page from a Topps Topics promotional brochure circa 1948, maybe you can tell better than me:

You can definitely see Phil here though, at right in a snapshot from the National Candy Wholesalers Association trade show in June 1949 and holding his ever present pipe:

This was just prior to the deployment of the one-cent version of Bazooka (the nickel roll had launched two years earlier) and you can see on the banner behind Phil that Topps was still pushing their flagship gum along with the bubble gum's nickel roll. The fellow on the left is Al Bagle, who also worked for Topps.

Backtracking slightly, Topps would go pretty heavy on the PR in the late 1940's and this photo, part of a press release package, is typical as it shows the Topps board having some goofy, bubble blowing fun as they meet, which I'm sure was a planned and well-staged exercise. In this case, taken from a Minneapolis newspaper in September of 1948, these images and some expertly massaged text sometimes ran in Sunday magazine sections:

I believe the fellow on the left blowing a bubble is Dick Guido, who handled Sales Correspondence and Promotions (and who presumably was Sy Berger's boss in the early days) for the company and was featured on the Topps Topics page above.  Note the Tatoo tourist pouch just beyond his left hand, last seen here.  There's one at the head of the table as well.

I'll leave you with a grainy blowup of the pouch:

Boy I'd sure love to find one of those!

Saturday, March 4, 2023

Nuggety Goodness

After the recent, somewhat choppy look at the various Venezuelan Topps tattoo issues here of late, I've stockpiled some interesting scans that have absolutely nothing to do with each other.  So today I'm just going to wing it with some interesting Nuggets O'Topps related stuff.

You may recall the early card dealer Sam Rosen and the matchbooks he had designed every year for the annual Rathkamp Matchcover Society conventions starting in 1948. Well 1956's effort has now revealed itself, along with a very slight address change just down the street from a prior location, from where he was also selling aftermarket baseball and other trading cards :

Convention Committee Chair?  Sam seems like he was the kind of guy that would relish the role and was an eminently logical choice as the show was held in his hometown and he liked to have a good time with the boys.  I love stern visage and, even moreso,  the chair made out of a matchcover but watch that cigar ash Sam!  Some of his past made the reverse:

I'm hoping the 1957 and 1958 versions will eventually pop up as I suspect he would have had some made up for each do; he would pass at the end of 1958 so that year would be the absolute possible end of these.

At the end of a matchcover convention, I'd imaging you would want something to freshen your breath after all the cigars and cigarettes that had been smoked.  What better way then with some Scents gum, as seen here in a scan provided by Friend o'the Archive Jason Rhodes:

Scents looks very much like a reboot of the original Topps product, a one cent gum tab aimed at adults, then reformulated to mimic C. Howard's Violet Gum. Take a look at the box and gum it copied:

(Courtesy C. Howard)

Topps was adept at ripping off candy-coated gum, that's for sure.

And how about those Niners?  No, not the football team, the actual '49ers where the 100th anniversary of the California Gold Rush informed a 1948-49 sales promotion we've seen bits of previously:

Sales promotions would rapidly pivot to Bazooka after this as the ubiquitous one cent tab had been introduced before 1949 was shown the door. 

See ya next time!

Saturday, February 25, 2023

The Edge Of Nineteen

Another month, another batch of 1960 Topps Venezuelan Baseball Tattoos!

Eight new subjects have come to light and, as a bonus, we now have a scan of Early Wynn. Here's the skinny:

Tony Gonzalez (Topps made an s out of the z) was Cuban and had played two seasons for Havana in the minors (quite ironically a farm club of the Reds at the time) and was a 23 year old rookie with Cincinnati in 1960.  He is a Venezuelan only subject and quite a curious one at that.

Dick was firmly established as a major leaguer by 1960 and would win the MVP that season.  He was also in the U.S. issue.

Frank Lary was a heckuva pitcher for the Tigers until he hurt his arm in 1962.  Known as the "Yankee Killer," he was also in the U.S. issue.

Juan Pizarro (with one z and two r's) was Puerto Rican and is a Venezuelan only subject. He bounced up and down between the majors and the minors for the Braves for three seasons before sticking for good in 1960.  He did play for Caguas in the Puerto Rican Winter League in 1957-58 and 1958-59 and pitched very well for them.

Two more recently came over my transom and are quite shot, UV light was needed to bring out the images:

That's Gene Woodling if you can't tell.  There's others of known subjects that are even worse than that but some are just little abstract works of art at this point.  Here's a bigger name though:

Stan the diffuse man! We do have one more to show of course:

Early shows up late!  There's two more are out there though.

Pedro Ramos has shown up in an SGC pop report, although there's no scan available.  It's yet another subject that's only in the Venezuelan set and he is also another Cuban player.  SGC being SGC, I would like to see a scan someday to confirm. (UPDATE Noon 2/25/23: Just in, Mr. Ramos):

He's in nice shape too! The big news however, is the nineteenth subject:


Trashed, but it's a Clemente!  Venezuelan only, Puerto Rican national.

Bob Allison
Ruben Amaro (Venezuelan only)
Luis Arroyo (Venezuelan only)
Bob Clemente (Venezuelan only)
Rocky Colavito
Don Drysdale
Nellie Fox
Tony Gonzales (Venezuelan only)
Dick Groat
Harmon Killebrew
Frank Lary
Juan Marichal  (Venezuelan only)
Ed Mathews
Stan Musial
Juan Pizzaro (Venezuelan only)
Vic Power (Venezuelan only)
Pedro Ramos (Venezuelan only)
Gene Woodling
Early Wynn

In terms of Venezuelan-only, Venezuelan-born subjects (none have appeared so far, although it was a slim field back then) I can't believe Luis Aparicio isn't in the set (he is not in the U.S. issue).  At a guess, I would think at least 20 or 24 subjects were produced and Aparicio really should be in the set given his nationality and stellar play but until any more bubble up that's just speculation.  It sure seems like there should be some more star power as well.

As to the year of issue, the 1961-62 winter season sure seems like the best bet at this point. The Caribbean-centric non-US players are very intriguing and may hold some clues as to how these were marketed but I'm hearing the pipeline of these has closed, who knows when (or if) more information will come out.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Additional Guidance

Well, my lament last month about missing out on the full set of 1971 Bazooka box back set prosaically titled A Children's Guide To TV Football has been partly assuaged by the fact Friend o'the Archive Lonnie Cummins snagged a scan of these last year, which now allows a full checklisting of the set.

This is the macro view:

You can see that there's three subjects with full illustrations, one with a referee's hand and flag on the left opposite a brutish football player on the right and another eight with a football coach and player on the left and a spotter with binoculars on the right. I managed to show each variety in the previous post about this set due to dumb luck last time out. As I mentioned last time out, Topps did not put a lot of effort into this set, which would become a bit of a trend with Bazooka in the 1970's.

The full checklist is like so (top left description is listed after the subset designation):

1 Football Lingo - Automatic
2 Football Lingo - Broken Field Runner
3 Football Lingo - Audible Coverage
4 Football Lingo - Game Plan
5 Football Lingo - Interception
6 Football Lingo - Killing The Clock
7 Football Lingo - Belly Series
8 Football Lingo - Prevent Defense
9 Officials' Duties -Referee
10 Officials' Signals - Running...Into The Kicker
11 Officials' Signals - Touchdown
12 Officials' Signals - Crawling

There's a few more early Bazooka sets I want to corral, it's  a slow but ongoing project and results will be posted here as things are uncovered.

Saturday, February 11, 2023

South American Soiree

Maybe it's the Caribbean World Series just concluding, or just some random luck but there's more to report on some Venezuelan issues, circa 1960-61, this time on the non-sports side.

The recently discovered batch of 1960 Baseball Tattoos out of Venezuela were not the only tattoo issues licensed by Topps (and possibly another entity) down there. Thanks to Friend o'the Archive Josh Alpert, we now know that Woody Woodpecker and Superman were also subjects of local interest and marketing, although there is a bit of a twist with ol' Supe.  Check out the three wrappers shown here:

These are in addition to a Popeye Tattoo that's I've known about for quite some time, thanks to Lonnie Cummins:

We've seen the Baseball Tattoo wrappers a few times recently but today I want to focus on the application instructions and indicia these various issues sported. The "floating image" version on the Baseball and Woody Woodpecker tattoos, although obviously in English, first popped up on the 1949 Topps Tatoo wrappers and was used into the 1970's, when this style of packaging was finally eliminated. This would be the preferred style going forward in the U.S., although the 1955 Davy Crockett Tatoo wrapper had no instructions, presumably as Topps was trying to pull a fast one with the release, which capitalized on the Disney TV series and movies without actually using any copyrighted or trademarked material. And this after issuing two licensed Crockett card sets! 

The 1959 U.S. release of the Woody Woodpecker Tattoos (a tough set BTW), used the floating images,  so it was redesigned here for some reason, which is kinda weird. Woody and Popeye both reference the licensor and indicate Topps in the indicia, making it clear they were produced in Venezuela.

The really interesting one to me though is the Superman Tattoo wrapper. It clearly uses the U.S> release's graphics but unlike the other two wrappers, there is no Topps copyright.  Instead, it indicates manufacture in Venezuela by La Corona Y Sport, a local confectionery company who either produced or advertised on the album intended to house the 1968 Topps Venezuelan Baseball cards and may have produced some of the prior albums (which have no attribution on them). Topps clearly had a relationship with them and the vagaries of marketing Superman in a foreign country must have led to this odd partnership.

Here's the U.S. Superman Tattoo wrapper:

It's a little hard to read but National Periodical Publications, which issued the Superman Comics, shared a copyright with Topps.  I'm sure there's a long, convoluted story there.  Here's some tattoos from the set:

I wonder what kids made of that dress shop image with what must be Supergirl in the lower right?!

Let's not forget Woody, here's a batch of his from Venezuela to boot:

I'm not sure what there's an anchor in this set but there is! Perhaps it was a mistake carried over from Popeye.

I am very much wondering what other tattoo sets were licensed by Topps for issue in Venezuela and suspect some more will surface.