Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Go Scratch

In 1970, with Topps in the midst of a multi year run of top notch inserts in their baseball (and other) packs, a colorful set of interactive cardboard panels appeared. Scratch Offs were a brightly colored set printed on thick cardbooard.

Here is what the front and back look like, no matter which vintage (they were reissued and reinserted in 1971):

Folded, these measure 2 1/2" x 3 3/8". When opened they revealed a large panel with 44 black blocks that gave off a distinct optical illusion.

Notice the white interior color. In 1971 it turned crimson:

Each block had a baseball play printed under it such as "Single" or "Out" and you could keep score on the back. Oddly enough for me, my hybrid set is intact and I can't show a scratched card. Each team in MLB at the time had their own team captain and the set is loaded with hall-of-famers. We played this game for hours back in the day. The red is probably in shorter supply (I have 5 red and 19 white interiors in my randomly assembled set) but these are pretty easy to find and there is no real pricing difference.

There is a reference in an old wax pack article that mentions a rewrapped pack for the Scratch Offs, renamed “Pocket Sized Baseball Game”. Rewrapping insert cards was a Topps hallmark, helping to siphon off excess inventory from their warehouse and selling it to the public, but I have never been able to locate a copy or even a scan. It would have to be one of the rarer Topps wrappers out there if it exists and I have to think it would be in a test wrapper format. (NOTE 7/12/11: It is not a re-wrap but an entirely separate issue.  Click here for details)

The uncut sheet shows off the three colors used for the fronts; this is likely from an Ebay auction last year:

I would have thought the color distribution would even out at 8/8/8 but no it's 6/7/11.

In 1973/74 Topps issued another scratch off with the Action Emblem cards. These were tallboys (even tho' the Action Emblems were standard sized) and while they were the usual 2 1/2" wide, they were a whopping 4 11/16" tall. The scratch off material was different this time out and there were no team captains but the play was the same.

In 1980, Topps issued another scratch off card, similar to 1974 but resemebling the 1970 version as well.

These were also 2 1/2" wide but a fraction shorter than in '74 at 4 1/2" high. Their distribution is a little murky but Bob Lemke of SCD thought they might have come in Jumbo Packs in 1980 (the back has a 1980 production code and the offer on the locker expires on 12/31/80) and Topps was selling cello packs with a couple of dozen cards or so packaged above a pack of stick chewing gum at the time, all overwrapped in an elongated wrapper. A look at the production codes shows a match with Major League Baseball Gum's 931 product code and the back of the scratch off card, so it's a good bet Mr. Lemke is correct:

While it is technically a year past my arbitrary 1980 bright line, Topps resurrected a 108 card set with a twist in 1981 as it was issued over 36 three card panels, as shown in a recent Ebay auction:

Before being ripped into its three component panels, this big boy measured in at 3 1/4" x 5 1/4". The set was marketed on its own and is one of the better 80's efforts from Topps.


Lance Karutz said...

I've been going nuts trying to figure out the difference between a '70 and '71 Scratch-Off for a while now, and was able to grab the card I needed off of eBay this morning. Thank you so much for shedding light on the mysterious world of the Topps Scratch-Offs!

toppcat said...

Ah, the wonders of color scans! Glad I could help out.

Cuno said...

That rare "Pocket Size Baseball Game" scratch-off pack just sold on ebay tonight (350475782624 - July 11, 2011). Check it out.


IFA said...

nice, really people of 70's and 71's really gonna love this

scratch off poster