Saturday, December 29, 2012

I Am Curious Yellow

All sorts of oddities pop up when it comes to Topps proofs.  There are rare proofs that are valuable, such as the 1977 Reggie Jackson-Orioles variation or 1967 Roger Maris-Yankees team version but many of them do not curry favor with collectors.  Another type of proof is the color progression proof, where Topps would print a subject in each discrete color in the proof stage and then sometimes combine two or more colors as they neared final printing.  One good example of this is this 1962 Baseball Stamp grouping:

I'm not sure where that came from-I've had this scan for ten years and cannot recall. That looks like a green/yellow progression.  There should be six colors in all I believe, for products of this era.  One piece I do have provenance for (because it's mine), is this 1967 San Francisco Giants Baseball Disc of Herman Franks:

It too is missing some color but has the black process, unlike the stamp proofs.  The Giants Discs were a distinct issue from the other 1967 Baseball Discs, which depicted Major League All Stars. Both Disc sets were only issued in proof form and the thinking is they were going to be turned into pins. I think a post on them is overdue and will have something in short order.

Happy New Year folks! 2013 will be a banner year around here, so stay tuned,

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Available Formats

Still cleaning up the hard drive kids and still finding treasure.  One of the enduring words in the printing business is "artwork", which these days 99.9% of the time means "Photoshop". However, back in the days before digital, artwork meant exactly what it implied.  If you wanted to print a baseball card, you needed to have the "mechanical artwork" ready and in most cases this involved the work of a few different folks, namely the artist who created the work to be reproduced and the paste-up artist who got it ready to print.

We have seen the 1953 artwork used by Topps to create that set of baseball cards here previously but the landmark 1952 set also used artwork extensively, especially so in the first three or four series.  Here is a 95% complete pasteup of card #130 in 1952, depicting Sheldon "Available" Jones:

You can clearly see the buildup of the various layers (and evidence of rubber cement) from the bottom up, even the black neatline is there.  You have the photo (heavily Flexichromed) which then has the name box with stars added on top, although I can't quite tell if the layer of stars was added first and had a large, black interior section.  In turn, the nameplate (which ahs slipped) and team logo have been built up on top of that.  The border of stars looks like it was added in small strips of six or seven stars as well.  I never noticed it before but the top and bottom borders of stars are aligned :"straight up" while the left and right border's twinklers are off set and even more impressively, oriented left and right depending upon which side they were placed.

The facsimile autograph is missing and looks like it may have fallen off sometime in the last 60 years. I'm certain this artwork would have been pasted up by the art agency of Solomon & Gelman.

The back is a lot like the 53's:

At first I though the penciled number 50 was added after the fact but Jones is #130 in the 1952 set and is the 50th card in the second series (#81-130).  Here is the finished product:

The nameplate obscures much of the detail in the background at the bottom.  The original photo, which looks to have been widely circulated, has some great stuff going on behind Jones and was also the basis for his 1948 Bowman card.  Here is the photo, from Wikipedia:


Actually, I'm not so sure that isn't his 1948 Bowman card shown there.

Here is the '48 Bowman just in case:

I think Topps either added some detail to the background or the knife slipped when the mask for the black process was created -check out the way the top of the grandstand looks in the Topps card vs. the view above:

It's clearly the same shot (look at the sunlight reflecting in the bottom right as well as the way his uniform is draped) but there's a little spire at the top right of the taller stand (Braves Field?) on the Topps version.

By the way, Jones got his nickname since he was always available to pitch, either starting or in relief. He was traded to the Boston Braves on April 8, 1952 so Topps must have finished the artwork for his card before that date, probably in very late March.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Happy Festivus!

Yes, it's already time for the "holiday for the rest of us"!

I'll be shutting down until after the holiday in order to get the Main Topps Archives Research Center in proper trim  and to rest up for the feats of strength later today.  In the meantime, Merry Christmas and a belated Happy Hanukah from The Topps Archives, along with a fervent wish that you all survive the Airing of Grievances tonight!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Follow The Flying Ball

One of the promotions Topps came up with in the early 1950's to get rid of some excess card inventory involved sticking a leftover 1952 Wings card -- and what I have to hope was a fresh stick of gum -- into a sneaker giveaway pack in 1955.  Red Ball Jets were a popular brand of sneaker sold from 1951 until 1971 and Topps took advantage with this promotion.  They also stuck a premium offer on the wrapper offering 15 additional cards for a dime:

Interestingly, the mail away address seems to match that of Red Ball's parent company's HQ so I suspect Topps managed to offload a truckload of cards on the unsuspecting sneaker manufacturer!

While Topps Chewing Gum is not identified per se the indicia does trumpet the pink stuff was manufactured by the "Makers of World Famous 'Bazooka" Bubble Gum". These packs are often though to contain the smaller, black & white 1956 Photo Album Jets (to use their full title) cards, but they do not and you can clearly see the Red Ball packs came out a year before Jets.

Wings indeed featured cards from all countries of the world.  Here's a French plane to cite just one example:

Saturday, December 15, 2012

We're On The Blog Of Misfit Toys

I was digging through my hard drive today (which I am organizing finally, thank you very much), looking for some Holiday Themed scans when I decided to do a quick Google search for "Topps" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer".  What usually happens at such times is I get 72,000 hits for my own blog but today I got some eBay links and found out Topps put out an American Pie card of everybody's favorite reindeer in 2011:

This neatly ties back to one of the first Topps Candy Division issues, Rudolph Pops, which have been discussed here previously and were issued around 1950 or '51. The times being what they are, the American Pie Rudolph had all sorts of parallel issues, etc.  It also ties back to me, since Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer is my all time favorite holiday show!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ben Meaning To Fix This

With all the attention I give to Woody Gelman here, I sometimes feel like his old art agency partner Ben Solomon gets short shrift.  One of the reasons is that there is far less out there, info-wise, on Ben than Woody.  I am working on correcting that but I still don't have a lot of details on Mr. Solomon; in fact I'm not even sure when he joined Topps.  It may have been as late as 1964 or as early as the mid 50's.  I do believe he came over after Woody (who in turn, I think, was still a Solomon & Gelman partner when he went to work for and at Topps in 1952-53).

Ben Solomon was the Art Director for Topps in it's go-go days and had final approval over all artwork from many of their sets and products.  I will turn up more on him but for now here is a small picture, courtesy of his daughter, Lois Grabash, of the man who launched a thousand sets (OK, maybe I'm exaggerating a little!):

I am welcoming any and all information any of you out there may have on Ben while I dig into his past.  I do know he encountered Woody when they were both animators in the 1930's and that he directed about a dozen cartoons for Fleischer Brothers and Famous Studios.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Double Mint

Once again BFF o'the Archive Jeff Shepherd has come through with some unique pictures that I should have used last time out.  You will recall, I am sure, our last episode, wherein I showed a Clor-Aid gum matchbook.  Well, ol' Shep has pictures from the actual exhibits used in the lawsuit filed by American Chicle against Topps and you can clearly see how closely the packaging was between the two (since Topps purportedly copied it on purpose):

The resemblance is pretty close, although not all that exact.  Here is a close up of the Clor-Aid box:

"For a breath of spring"?!"  Well, advertising has come a long way since then baby!  And those green gum nuggets sure look appealing 60 years later, eh?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Striking Last

Topps tried a few strategies in the 40's and 50's to get into the "gum nugget" market, which was really the domain of American Chicle, which produced Chiclets and Clorets. We've seen one such attempt memorialized on a matchbook we discussed a few years ago when the initial "ammoniated" foray was just called Topps Gum.  It's not yet certain that version of Topps Gum evolved from their original gum tabs of the same name but it probably did.

American Chicle launched Clorets in 1951 and it looks like Topps countered by changing their nuggets of Topps Gum to a brand called Clor-aid soon thereafter.  Topps also changed their packaging to something too close to that of Clorets and was thrashed in court by American Chicle and forced to withdraw Clor-aid from the market.  That is a lengthy saga, which I am still disentangling but in the meantime I found a Clor-aid matchbook, which now resides at the Main Topps Archives research Complex:

Some multi-packs of Clor-aid can be seen in this photo (which I have shown here before and appears in many places on the web) from a supermarket shelf in mid-1953. They are to the left of the Wings boxes:

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Bang For Buck

I probably should have shown this in my post on the 1959 Fleer Ted Williams set but to tell the truth, I forgot it was on my hard drive!  I am organizing all my scans these days during the final preparation of what I am calling The Modern Guide to Topps Chewing Gum: 1938-1956, which is nearing completion, so there will bursts of these hidden gems posted here. While final distribution details of this tome are still a couple months off, it will be available, for free, via download.

In the meantime, take a gander at this letter Fleer sent to hobby legend Buck Barker, detailing why #68 in their Ted Williams set was not to be found in the packs:

It's a little hazy but you can see that Buck was to receive multiple #68's!  That's why they're called the Fabulous Fifties folks! Here is a transcript of the letter, which was dated August 27, 1959.

"Dear Mr. Barker:

Due to the possibility of legal overtones, card #68 of the Ted Williams series was not put on the market for sale.  However, it was made and we have been able to send several to people such as you who have inquired.

As we are new in the card business we certainly do not want to have any ill feelings among card collectors.  Therefore I am forwarding you a number of our card #68.

As stated in your letter we request that no charge is made for any of these cards.

Fleer definitely intends to stay in the gum card business and will produce more baseball cards when the opportunity arises.

Art Wolfe
Assistant Promotion Manager"

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Free Movies!

Well gang, I am still reeling from my close losses in the latest Legendary Auction.  I missed out on two lots, one a non-Topps lot I won't bore you with and the other a treasure trove of 1950 Topps Hopalong Cassidy cards and related ephemera.  There were two neat pieces in this lot I thought I would take a look at today.

One is a straight up promo sheet, probably part of a point of display ensemble:

The "Save 'Em Trade 'Em" motto was created along with the Hoppy set and would last into 1951, used on packaging for over half a dozen sets.  That's a great looking piece, pardner!

Also in the lot was a comic book ad advertising both the penny and nickel packs of Hoppy:

It's hard to make out but the five cent pack held six card, comprised of three 2 card panels. You can clearly see that the bubble gum was intended as the selling point, not the cards.  Topps would realize in short order they had their priorities reversed but 1950 the pink stuff was king!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

You Never Had It So Good

Sometimes you never realize what came before something iconic.  Take Bazooka Joe for instance; foisted upon an unsuspecting world in 1954, he ushered forth a never ending stream of bad puns and corny jokes all the while tempting us with premium offers and offering us our fortune in one simple line.  But before there was Joe, there was a long trail of lesser strips.  I'm slowly unraveling the various pre-Joe strips with the massive help of BFF o'the Archive Jeff Shepherd (who is helping along a Bazooka Joe book due out next year) and there will be much ado about these at a later date but for now, take a gander at this early 50's production:

Licensed from DC Comics, this type of strip makes you realize how good the bubblegum was, since I have to think most kids who opened up their foil wrapped chews to find that square jawed lunk staring at them would have given up buying the product if it was not "Young America's Favorite"!

For the record, here's what the outer wrapper looked like:

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Full Disclosure

After winning the bidding war for Ted Williams in 1954, Topps wasted no time in promoting their catch-Williams led off the 1954 Baseball issue with card #1 (he would later close out the set at #250 as well).

While compelling Bowman to pull their own card of Teddy Ballgame, Topps featured Williams on their box design in 1954:

That is the Canadian version of the box. Many unopened packs and surviving boxes emanate from up North-you have to be vigilant when buying or bidding on Topps items from the 1950's as many sellers do not alert consumers to this fact. Thanks to Friend o'the Archive Ken Meyer, who provided scans for the Archive today, an interesting "extra" has been uncovered as well.  Check out this empty one-cent box:

Your get twice the expected Splendid Splinter on the topper! I really love the way Topps extended the artwork on this one-totally unnecessary but very, very cool.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Benn-Hubb Hubbub

I found a few scans of old Bennett-Hubbard products poking around what's left of eBay the other day. Benn-Hubb (that's what all the cool kids call it) you may recall, was a Chattanooga candy company purchased by Topps in 1943 and closed down around 1951.  Bennett-Hubbard also produced a few items other than candy though, as this little picture show will reveal.

Table syrup (think pancake syrup without the maple) was a big line for Benn-Hubb, as this industrial size can shows:

You can never be too sanitary! I would say this pre-dates the table syrup can above and is probably from the 1920's:

Also on the menu, peanut butter:

There are a variety of peanut butter jars but that one is the most descriptive.  I suspect Topps may have sold off some non-confectionery lines when they bought the company but that's just a guess. There's a fair selection of Benn-Hubb containers out there if you choose to pursue such things.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Like Father, Like Son

Well, I've shown his father and his son (although I thought it was he until corrected) but to date nothing of Joseph Shorin proper.  Joe Shorin, you may recall was the President of Topps Chewing Gum from its inception in 1938 until his death in 1959. Prior to that he had run American Gas Stations for the Shorin family  and today would be the equivalent of a gregarious CEO I think, as he appeared frequently in photo ops and acted as a panelist on things like radio game shows. His childhood antics were also the inspiration for Bazooka Joe.

I have some grainy photos of him but finally managed to snag an original press photo, dating I assume from 1959 when it was issued to accompany his obituary in the papers:

That is the face that launched a billion pieces of bubble gum folks!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Comic Relief

Up until they switched over fully to wax wrappers in the 1956-57 time frame (and sporadically thereafter) Topps used to insert a premium offer and comic in their gum card packs.  These inserts mostly appeared in five cent packs but in earlier times could occasionally be found in the penny versions. Many of the early wrappers were made of glassine, which is similar to wax paper it that it preserves and contains air and liquids such as grease but is not as durable.  Glassine is also subject to staining, making it less than ideal for selling things such as baseball cards and gum.  So an inner layer to assist the outer layer makes sense if you are selling gum cards. It makes even more sense to use it to sell some stuff.

Topps would use one-panels for the comics, as opposed to the panel by panel action of their earlier strips and of course Bazooka Joe.  Here is one called Li'l Pat:

Sometimes the insert was blank and I'm not sure if that was just due to ink running out on a run or cost saving measures.  Earlier penny wraps were really just premium offers but interesting nonetheless:

The best of the bunch though is one shown here previously that features Roy Campanella and has Roogie himself endorsing Bazooka in way of a movie starring some Brooklyn Dodgers called Roogie's Bump.  The Bazooka Joe Comic is pretty  nice too!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

On Golden Bond

You fearless webmaster managed to snag, amidst all the hoopla of the past two weeks, the partial remains of a 1956 O-Pee-Chee Golden Coin package of eBay the other day. Golden Coin has been blogged on here before but remains a slippery issue as there are questions as to the exact contents of the 1948-49 issue compared to 1956's, the correlation with various Meet The Presidents games, the oddity of a Canadian issue for a set of US Presidents, the lack of an identifiable 1952 issue and even the composition of the 1956 coins (as in chemical composition-metallic or plastic?) but my purchase answered none of these!  Rather I wanted to investigate the inner sleeve that held the coin and gum.

Redesigned from 1949, the inner sleeve is made of a thick cardboard with yellow and blue highlights:


Measuring exactly two inches by four, the sleeve advertises 33 coins, even though Grover Cleveland's kangaroo straight made it 34 in actuality.  The back shows the checklist and a glued down flap:

I even took a side view-it measures about 3/8" even though its distorted here:

The coins were numbered in 1956 but I can't find a Cleveland to see if he has 22 and 24. Here is our fifth President, James Monroe, to illustrate:

The number is clear, as is the shield--the 49's had a text back, as do all game pieces from Meet The Presidents no matter which year the latter were marketed:

The coins look metallic but are made of a hard plastic, unlike the brass ones from 1949.  Mine is warped a little and there is a seam on the rim.  If I get another I'll dissect it to see what's what. These are larger than the 49's, which were an inch in diameter.  These are 1 1/8".  The coins may have been in a cello wrapper as well; I am unsure about that at present.

Here is the wrapper that held the above:

As mentioned, it appears to be a Canadian issue:

The flipside held a It Happened To A President Comic, which have been looked at previously. These are red, the earlier version is not and is more of a brown/rust color. That though is fodder for another day.

ACC numbers are:

1948-49 Golden Coin PX14
1956 Golden Coin PX15
1948-49 It Happened To A President R711-5
1956 It Happened To A President (none)

I am very much interested in information on Golden Coin.  If you have something new or different, drop me a line.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


I got a real interesting bunch of scans and information over the mojo wire recently from Friend o'the Archive Ken Meyer. I'll post bits and pieces here and right now want to focus on the one of the more interesting tidbits, a 1952 Topps high number pack that held a big surprise.

You may recall the 1952 "second" series of high numbers had it's own color scheme, which was discussed here yonks ago. Well Mr. Meyer has opened a pack that held six 1954 Topps baseball cards within (plus gum, plus the ad insert.  The pack had the 1952 copyright so I have to wonder if this was a very early rewrap by Topps (assuming the pack was untampered with, which I am leaning towards based upon the other, drool-worthy scans he sent). Here is the opened pack:

I'm working on getting a scan of the contents, which I will post when received.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Sandy Not Dandy

Well, the Main Topps Archives Research Complex has weathered Hurricane Sandy but is presently without juice.  We'll be back as soon as the power comes back on but in the meantime, here is a better Sandy for you all to contemplate:

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Binders Keepers

While I don't often deal with post 1980 issues from Topps, there are the occasional releases from the boys in Manhattan (nee Brooklyn, nee Duryea) that are quite nice.  One of these is the 2012 Heritage reprint set of Mars Attacks.

Originally tested in New York City (perhaps solely in Brooklyn) as Attack From Space (although the cards were not any different than those form the retail release), the set was rebranded and sold locally in New York City and environs before an uproar over its salacious and gory content reared its ugly green head.  Yanked from the shelves before it could be fully distributed nationally, Mars Attacks is one of the most popular non-sports sets ever released.

The PSA population report shows about 12,000 cards graded, which sounds fairly high considering the prices for these cards (about $30-$35 apiece raw, in EX right now) but its immensely popular and the old supply and demand dynamics ring true.  Add in some inferred short prints, a devilishly difficult checklist card and stellar, pulp-noirish artwork and you get a set that sells for north of two grand that is comprised of a mere 55 cards.

I toyed with collecting the originals but when Topps did the Heritage reissue this year, I snapped up a set and some extras.  I'm not really going to post on the set as its readily available but I did want to alert everybody that faithfully reads this blog that Topps released two official binders to house the Heritage set.The first is branded as Mars Attacks:

While the second uses the test issue title of Attack From Space (there are variant retail boxes and packs as well):

I picked up my Mars Attacks binder at the National in Baltimore this year.  They are not cheap ($20) but they sure are nice.  Topps is selling them still on eBay although they have an $8 shipping charge tacked on for the privilege.  It looks like Topps has issued similar binders for some other retro sets and given the response to these, I expect we can see more of them in the future.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ready For Launch

Just received my copy of the new Mars Attacks book in the surface mail, space cadets!

I am a definite aficionado of 50's and 60's sci-fi stuff but only recently picked up a Mars Attacks set-the kicker is that it's the current Heritage reprint version (which is quite well done).  The book recounts the set, shows all the cards and has some pre and post production goodies plus a few words from Len Brown.  There are also a few little anecdotes, one of which caught my eye.

In discussing the test version of the set, which was advertised on the packs as Attack From Space, there is a short note indicating that for test issues of the day, Topps shipped "four or five cases and get it into a dozen or so local stores and monitor the sales."  If you work out the math, that means each store would receive approximately half a case to test.  That would be from 6-10 boxes in  most circumstances or about 150 to 200 nickel packs in each location.  Factor in what got tossed, returned and just plain destroyed somehow, you can see why many Topps test issues of the era are so scarce.

Very interesting.....

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

File Under "Gelman, Woody"

BFF o'the Archive Jeff Shepherd recently alerted me to an eBay auction, since halted by the seller, of a reconstructed 1958 Baseball One Cent box that came from Woody Gelman's files.  Shep thinks it would have been a flat, so the seller folded it into a box (grrrrrr!!).  The provenance is quite obvious:

You can see the baseball contest ad on the back panel.  It's the front flap though, that is quite intriguing:

We've seen the insert card version of the contest before. The contest to my mind served two purposes:

1) Sell more Bazooka and Blony;

2) Find out where entrants live in an early data mining exercise.

I'm not sure if $5 a week for six months was a better deal than a 17 inch portable TV back in 1958!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Pick My Decals Off, Baby

Picking up the 1960 Topps competitor's thread from a short while back, it is interesting that while Topps had loads of fabulous inserts, especially baseball, in their nickel and cello packs throughout the Sixties, the first major confectioner to insert a second set with their sports cards was Fleer.

As noted on the (hopefully not defunct) Fleer Sticker Blog, from 1960-62 Fleer include decal insert of a team logo with their baseball cards.  There are differences between the years but the 1960 version measured about 2 1/4" x 3"  looked like this:

The back of this one, which I swiped from eBay scans, was pasted into an old photo album but you can see the blue, no Dubble Bubble ad lettering that ID's it as a 1960 version:

Notice the trademark line below the text and above what I presume is a five digit product number?  Well, some teams look like they licensed their logo while others did not.  The reverse of the Dodgers decal (scan from Dave's Vintage Baseball Cards) has no such line:

The decals (OK, Emblems) were advertised on the wrapper for the 1960 Baseball Greats set on yet another nab from eBay):

I should probably show a Baseball greats card, eh?  Well, from eBay (slight return):

Topps would not let this Fleer extra deter them and would respond by football card season. We'll take a peek at the football inserts from both Topps and Fleer next time out kids!