Sunday, July 29, 2012

Leaf Me Alone

Turning the WABAC machine to 1960 today kids, a year when Topps faced competition from a number of competitors in the baseball card market.  Topps of course, used a split-screen look in 1960:

I've often wondered why 1960 brought no less than three major competitors to the field and I think the answer actually can be traced to 1959 when Fleer introduced an 80 card set featuring Ted Williams. Perhaps thinking baseball's imminent expansions were going to provide a truly national marketing opportunity, Leaf Candy of Chicago came out with a set of 144 current major leaguers in 1960; the first national retail competition to Topps since 1955. In addition a company called Nu-card issued a 72 card set of Baseball Hi-Lites and Fleer followed up their Splendid Splinter set with a 79 card issue featuring old time players called Baseball Greats.

Leaf's set was the most ambitious. The company had provided some competition to Bowman in 1948 and '49 with a small handful of sets but opted out of the confectionery-paired card business for the 50's instead issuing boxed decks of cards known as Card-o's.  The manufacturer in 1960 was listed as Sports Novelties Inc. of Chicago (Leaf's hometown) and the set was advertised not as cards but as Baseball Photos.

Instead of a sweet confection, Leaf included two small marbles in the pack, which was quite lumpy.  Here is an opened pack, showing the marbles:

They issued two 72 card series, each with their own box design.  Here is Series 1:

You can see the team logos were not yet in evidence, nor were any player's names.  Series two would change that slightly:

It looks like Leaf took proper legal precautions as I cannot find any references to lawsuits involving them and Topps over the 1960 sets. The biggest obstacle looks to have been lack of consumer the cards had excellent photography. A lack of color photography and superstars (Snider and Aparicio were the biggest names) was not conducive to sales. The second series sold poorly by most accounts and a large find in the 1990's served to add a heft supply of these to the hobby, bringing down prices a bit.

The Fleer Baseball Greats issue featured Ted Williams, still under contract, but the rest of the players were old timers.  Card #80 was not issued in packs, or if it was saw extremely limited distribution as some seem to have been cancelled (see Collins card below) by unknown sources.  No less than three players can be found on this card today but it seems to have been meant to portray Pepper Martin, whose stats and bio are on all the backs known of this card. Pepper never made it to the front though and Eddie Collins, Lefty Grove or Joe Tinker are shown instead:

There is a lot of mystery surrounding #80!

These cards were pretty popular in 1960 and Fleer was trying to create brand awareness as they geared up for a full blown set of current major leaguers in 1963, the march toward which will be looked at next time out.  Today though I want to conclude with the Nu Card Baseball Hi-Lites set, which were oversized at 3 1/4" x 5 3/8" and featured imitation front pages of newspapers depicting famous plays, much like the 1948 Sports Thrills:

There are some variations in this set too but I am not really conversant in them.  All in all, the competition for Topps in 1960 was a bit lackluster. However, as we'll see next time out, things started picking up in 1961 as Topps fought back a bit.

We'll continue with Fleer's 1961-63 issues and take a look at Post and Jello next time as well.  I'm not sure if I can squeeze another post in before leaving for The National and we have a highly anticipated family vacation immediately following, so hang tight for a few weeks folks, I'll post as I can over that span!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Two Of A Kind

Hof on the heels of our last adventure, I thought I would take a look at two more subjects that spanned 15 years between Topps sets. While I can't come up with a subject like Captain Kidd, whose image from an 1888 tobacco set was carried through in multiple instances by Topps well into the Summer of Love, a couple of other subjects were reused between Look 'N' See in 1952 and Who Am I? in 1967.

First up, we have the sage and smart Albert Einstein.  Take a gander at this 1952 Look 'N' See card; it's particularly well executed:

I love the outer space background on that one! Compare that to his 1967 Who Am I? card, which I will first show with its coating intact:

That's actually a pretty crude rendition but it shows how the original source was still used by Topps.

Queen Elizabeth II fared a bit better over the years.  In 1952, recently coronated, she looked like a million  pounds sterling:

In 1967 she still looked just as young as evidenced by this appearance on a three card panel:

She certainly fared better than Churchill in '67 as he looks like a hungover Jonathan Winters, no? Hard to believe she is still queen but it's true!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Just Kidd-ing

As I was preparing the previous post here at the ol' Archives, concerning the copying of certain 19th Century artwork by Topps, particularly Indian Chiefs and Pirates, I decided not to use Captain Kidd in the comparison. However, as I was looking at the various examples of his cards, I noticed something neat.

Take a look at this N19 of Kidd, which I cribbed from Cardboard Junkie:

Now, we know form our previous post that the images from this set were used by Topps for X-Ray Roundup in 1949:

I have to say the image of the Captain hanging from the gallows is quite picturesque.....

OK so continuing on, there is a Captain Kidd card in 1952's Look 'N' See set:  

Wow-it's almost an exact match to the one from '49 but on closer inspection it's redrawn.  

Now let's look at Scoop, from 1954:


I thought the chain was broken but then I looked at the flipside:

Those sneaky so-and-so's just copied the Look 'N' See picture-the background is an exact match! 

Now at this point you would think Topps was done with the captain, but n-o-o--o-o-o-o-o-o-o, he makes yet another appearance 13 years later in 1967's Who Am I?:


This is actually bad news-now I will have to do a comparison not only of the 1888 Pirates of the Spanish Main set with X-Ray Roundup but of Look 'N' See to Scoop and on to Who Am I? as there are numerous subjects shared by all these sets.  Sigh.....

(Apologies again for the vertical spacing. Something strange is happening with Blogger and I can't figure out how to fix it.)

Sunday, July 15, 2012


Ahoy!  Piracy has been a scourge of the seas for almost as long as there have been sailing ships. Today we think of it in two ways: the traditional one where ships are taken by force by marauders and also as theft in the digital domain.  Topps  certainly understood the principle as it blatantly copied images from 19th Century sets issued by Allen & Ginter in 1949's X-Ray Roundup.

Here is a 1949 Sir Henry Morgan card, as issued by Topps:

He looks pretty clean for a pirate but no matter.  Now, look at this card issued by Allen & Ginter, circa 1888 from a set called Pirates of the Spanish Main and listed as N19 in the ACC:

Pretty blatant methinks! Of the 50 Pirate cards in N19, it looks like most, if not all 45 of the Pirates in X-Ray Roundup were copied by Topps (I haven't checked them all but plan to).

Topps did the same thing with all 50 Indians in X-Ray Roundup. Here is Topps' version of Geronimo:

And here is the image from the set referred to as N2, Allen & Ginter's Indian Chiefs of 1888:

I greatly suspect Woody Gelman's firm was the one that supplied the artwork in 1949.  Since Woody was an inveterate collector of 19th Century Cigarette cards, this makes some sense.  He even advertised for these cards in his 1953 ACC ad, which I showed a few posts back:

The images had probably seen their copyrights lapse, so this was not some huge artwork ripoff but it was a great way for Topps to come up with cheap source material.  Bowman would do the same thing in a couple of sets after this and the 1930's were filled with actual cases of image piracy, especially among strip card Manufacturers.  With Woody and Topps doing it, it almost seems Arrghhhhhhh-tistic!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Across The Pond With The ACC

This will be a final look at the 1953 American Card Catalog's advertising section, previously discussed here and here. Today we are traveling to Merry Olde England, where the hobby of collecting "cigarette cards" was a bit more established (and respectable) than in the Colonies.

While probably not the first firm to sell tobacco cards to collectors, The London Cigarette Card Company certainly the oldest still in existence today at 85 years young and the source of many cards in the hands of U.S. collectors. I remember being hugely disappointed the first time I was in London and finding out they had moved to the countryside about fifteen years earlier:

You can see they were already on their second price guide by 1953 and collector's conventions were already established.  Cigarette Card News has since been renamed Card Collector's News and is a relatively youthful 74years old. Their managing director, Ian Laker, was responsible for putting this crisp and succinct guide together on A&BC's cards:

That is the 3rd (and latest) edition from 2004.  You can still order it, along with many other reference works, from LCCC if you are so inclined. A&BC cards have been discussed here a couple of times and will be looked at again in more depth sometime soon.

Here is an intriguing enticement from the Universal Cigarette Card company.  Having been to London many times in the past (although sadly, not of late) I highly doubt you could fund your trip by selling off your duplicate tobacco cards even in their postwar recovery phase:

I've left the Edward Morrill ad in this image as it helps show the wide range of paper goods being looked for by advertisers in the ACC. Those Prang Album cards by Winslow Homer are quite famous and still coveted today.

Edward Wharton-Tigar, perhaps the most famous collectors ever and one of the few to warrant an obituary in The New York Times, also took out a small ad, looking for trade partners:

There are a handful of other ads from England included, even one from Italy but I'll conculde with one from The Cartophilic Society of Great Britain, publishers of the landmark World Tobacco Index, which was the first great compilation of cigarette cards:

The Cartophilic Society of Great Britain is still with us as well, still producing guidebooks and offering a lending library of reference books to members.

The hobbyists who advertised in the 1953 ACC were persevering sorts who had developed a system of trust since all trading was done though the mail and often with people you had never met. It could take weeks, if not months, for cards to arrive on one side of the Atlantic Ocean from the other.  While today we have almost instantaneous transactions and cards can be sent halfway around the world in two days, the trust level is quite a bit lower and we are all the worse off.

Monday, July 9, 2012

ACC Ads, You See

As promised in our last adventure, here are a few more ads from the 1953 American Card Catalog, featuring some very prominent collectors of the day. We'll feature US collectors today, British one next time out.

Goody Goldfaden, one of the original, if not the original, hobby dealers, ran his business (Adco Sports Book Exchange) out of a garage in Los Angeles and just passed away this year at the ripe old age of 97. Here is his ad from '53:

You can see Charles Bray (Associate Editor in charge of Prices), who ran a well known mail order auction that populated many an early collection, had an ad on the same page as well; the odds were good you could find one of his within as he had five or six of them scattered throughout the advertising section.  His main one though, is here:

Not to be outdone -although he was outnumbered - Gene De Nardo (Associate Editor in charge of Copy Revision) also had an ad in place:

De Nardo was in charge of the Post War R card section as well.  It is worth noting Jefferson Burdick also had an ad, one that was quite informative as to his collection-mounting activities for the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

Typically for Burdick the ad was not in a place of prominence nor did he use up a full page.  Another famous collector, although not an editor, who had an ad was Lionel Carter:

Almost all of the buying and selling in 1953 was done by mail-there is only one ad with a phone number listed!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

ACC, You Know Me

Most, if not all, vintage collectors have run across the American Card Catalog as they assemble sets and compile wantlists.  Jefferson Burdick's masterwork saw four major editions, the last of which came out in 1960 which is the one most familiar to almost all current collectors.  It's the ACC that gave us descriptions such as T-206, R414-1 and C46, although most collectors do not use such nomenclature anymore for issues that came out in 1933 or later. Back when almost all hobby information was done via the U.S. Mail though, such numbering schemes were quite helpful.

This is not intended to be a brief history of the ACC; there are a couple out there already (one is mine in The Wrapper #262 and Geroge Vrechek has written extensively on Burdick and the ACC over in the Library section at ) and a major one is in the works from what I know if it.  Rather I want to look at one editor and two ads in the 1953 edition.

Jefferson Burdick had ceded some editorial control by 1953 and Charles Bray, Gene De Nardo and Woody Gelman had been added to the masthead.  Woody was listed as the Associate Editor in Charge of Advertising and Publication, a job which likely meant he had access to a printer that could run the catalog off cheaply (it retailed for $2) and that he coordinated the ads, of which there were 21 pages out of 168 total.  One of the ads though, was a real beaut: 

Wow, right?! Woody clearly knew in advance the publication details and worked to have a super advertising piece made up. The great thing about this ad, other than its inherent wonderfulness, is that is shows some major Topps issues up to the end of 1952 (the guide was published in February 1953 and contains no references to any 1953 issues). Wings is clearly a 1952 issue, as is Look "N' See, while the ad touts sets that were released as far back as 1950. The Non-Sports Post War listings also prove this out:

You can see details of the full releases of the multi-series Wings, Look 'N' See and Fighting Marines (thought by some to be a '53 issue) sets. It is also obvious the numbering scheme used in 1953 changed by the time the 1960 edition was released and the latter is what has been "locked" into collector's minds.  Wings, shown above as R534, is known today as R707-4 while Look 'N' See, above as R536is now R714-16. I am fairly certain these sets in this section were shown in their order of release (or as close as possible for the time) as compiled by Gene DeNardo.

As for Bowman, they had an ad but it paled in comparison to Topps':

Warren Bowman had been gone over 18 months by the time the '53 ACC was published and I suspect he would have come up with something a little splashier had he still been around. That ad just reeks of corporate stuffiness.

The guide itself is very well made.  I have a copy that was clearly used for years back in the day (and gets quite a bit of handling from me as well) and while the cover is a bit creased, the interior pages are holding up remarkably well, as is the binding.  This is good news since it allows us to take a clear look at some advertisers of the day.  Here is a "permanent" want list from Woody Gelman himself:

That street address for Woody is the office of Solomon and Gelman at the time. S&G was an art service that did a lot, if not all, of the illustration work and design for Topps commencing about 1949 and Ben Solomon would eventually end up as the Art Director at Topps in the 60's and 70's with final say over all released printed product.  Woody seems to have come in-house at Topps while still working as a partner at S&G until at least 1957; at some point around that time he became a full time Topps employee. Ben and Woody probably first met at the Fleischer Brothers animation studio in the 1930's and a lot of early Topps employees and artists worked there as well.

Another well known figure who advertised in the '53 ACC was Dr. Lawrence Kurzrok, a famous early collector and facilitator:

Dr. Kurzrok was very early on aware of Topps:

That is his office address.  I wonder how many early advertisers used an office address instead of their home one?

I'll look at some more advertisers in the '53 ACC next time out, even though they are not really related to Topps, as it's just a fun area of the hobby to explore.

(Apologies if this post displays incorrectly-Blogger is doing something weird to my vertical spacing and I have no idea how to control it-yikes!) 

Monday, July 2, 2012

BIN Waiting For You

I am not one to out an auction in most instances but there is a very interesting item up on eBay right now I am fairly certain no one is going to BIN. If you have $25,000 to spare you can own your very own 1968 3-D Easel, plus a stained Mel Stottlemyre card and a wrapper.  Here is a nice front view of it all:

Ol' Mel has a stain at the top; perhaps it was caused by contact with the gum?

Now we have seen the components of this before here at the Archives. What I like about this current auction though is we get to see the back of everything:

That easel has a very white back considering the toning on the front and matches the purity of the card's back. The pack is missing a card, the ingredients sticker that sealed it on the back and of course, the gum but there's no way to know if the pieces above were once wrapped together.

Here's the auction proper if you are interested. You can see this is a different easel than the one Rob Lifson offered many years ago. Will it sell at that price?  I'd guess not but you never know....