Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Change Is Good

Occasionally while in the context of posting, I toss out certain phrases such as "penny tab" and "change-maker" and it occurs to me a little clarification is in order.

In the mid 1940's, Topps had an ad campaign that extolled the virtues of their one cent Topps Gum as this piece from a Legendary auction shows:


Aimed at smaller merchants who had the counter space, the idea was to get your customers to take their change in Topps Gum. The campaign worked well and the "change-maker" helped propel Topps in the early days.  What you see in the ad is a gum tab, or single piece of gum.  I am not certain of the origin but it might be an abbreviation for "tablet".  The Change-Maker was sold in a round cannister provided by Topps and which is mentioned in the above ad:

Five inches in diameter and little over 2 1/2" inches tall, that little guy held four delicious flavors of Topps Gum. The retailers also got a certificate offering premiums and which carried a value of some sort.  The program was not original to Topps but was a staple of the confectionery trade well before they got in the game.  We have covered the certificates previously but they looked like this:

or this:

Topps had a small army of clerks (OK, maybe a half dozen) to keep track of all the prizes and redemptions and attendant record-keeping. Amazing!

Sunday, January 27, 2013


As promised, there is a part 2 to the saga of the 1970  Racing Track Cards recently shown here in "layout" form. Friend o'the Archive Bill Cox is putting together both puzzles that came with the plastic Mini Model Cars in '70.  Well yours truly worked out a deal with Bill and a Soda Fountain Car Card now is ensconced at the Main Topps Archives Research Center.  Behold:

These are a strange size, just like the Racing Track Card they measure 2" x 3 5/8". The back is quite similar to the other subset as well:

I don't think the cards were made in Hong Kong, just the model cars. Oddly the Soda Fountain cards seem sturdier than the Racing Track ones; they are slightly stiffer.

Bill sent along a picture of his partially completed Soda Fountain Car.  What on earth was Topps thinking?!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Hot Hot Hot!

In the summer of 1959, it was quite fashionable for the younger set to take a plain white T shirt and adorn it with an iron on patch.  Indeed, in the days before logo'd shirts ubiquitous, having your mom take her iron to create a fresh new look was practically the only way to show your devotion to a team or breakfast cereal.

Topps, which was still hawking premiums in their nickel packs of cards at this point, had long sold felt emblems, letter and numbers, decals and other sundry for a relative pittance and a handful of Bazooka wrappers to the denizens of kiddieland.   In 1959 Hot Iron Transfers of your favorite MLB team were the enticement, as thee scans (mostly)  from Columbia City Collectibles show:

That's actually the front of an envelope, which held a folded transfer.  Before we look at those, here is a fuzzy scan of the envelope's back:

Before they outsourced their premium fulfillment operations in the 1960's, Topps filled such orders with a small team of dedicated personnel in Bush Terminal.  The decals are typical of the time in that Topps created their own version of each team's logo, although these are closer to the real ones than many of their other attempts:

You can see the fold mark running across the decal.  Here it is, mirrored:

Here's a couple more:

1958-60 was a real sweet spot for baseball themed Bazooka premiums.  More to come (eventually)!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Track Work Ahead

Well, as I well suspected, I am not the only person out there who likes and collects the obscure Topps issues from even the most unknown sets. A while back I posted on a set of insert cards issued in 1970 called Racing Track Cards. These came with the Mini Model Cars of the same year and were designed to be put together like a puzzle to form a race track for the mini models. A collector named Bill Cox has been piecing together the race track and is just shy of being halfway there (21 cards comprise a full track):

I have traded him a piece he needs and am also going to nab a Soda Fountain Car Card from him, which I will show here of course once it's in my sweaty little hands.  Those were issued in the same packs as the race track pieces but there  are only 12 cards in that subset.

If anybody can help out with the remaining pieces for Racing Track Cards or the Soda Fountain Car , I can pass a message on to Bill.  I think it would be cool to see the completed track and he indictaes he has extra pieces to trade.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Christmas Seal

Your blogmeister picked up a neat item last week off the 'bay and while I thought it would answer a specific question I had instead it created a new one.

I have seen variants of these cards before and they are sometime birthday cards, sometimes not:

The card really just thick paper and is die cut around the seal and opens up to reveal something that makes a little more sense:

The setup almost makes me think this could have been a corporate greeting from Topps but I am not sure that's right.  The gum tab has a 1946 copyright on the wrapper and I would guess this is a late 40's card.

I would have bought the card no matter but was hoping it would indicate the greeting card manufacturer but alas all it has is this (still neat but not what I was looking for):

That is number 412 by the way.  I was expecting the maker to be either Barker Greeting Cards of Cincinnati, who had cut a deal with Topps to include Magic Photos in a line of greeting cards or Buzza-Cardozo which issued a line using Hopalong Cassidy packs.  I still think Barker is the most likely as the Hoppy cards used bigger packs and the associated greeting cards had much better graphics.  There was also a birthday card that featured Varsity Football as well as an Easter gridiron variant and I am sure there are others out there.

So, my question now is: can anyone identify the manufacturer based upon the graphics and indicia on the back?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Schlemiel Schlimazel

Every few months I post about some in house Topps productions used to pitch ideas by the Product Development team to the brass. Many of these mockups take existing cards and have added artwork or they take a photo from a third party and added a couple of design elements. One such mockup is for Laverne & Shirley, the long-running show from the 70's and early 80's.

Long thought of as very difficult test cards, these are clearly meant for in-house use only:

You can see here the blue border was stuck on since it's deteriorating.  The show logo and the word balloon are also add-ons, as is the photo itself-the whole thing is an art department creation.  This one is in a little better shape:

While very rare, these are not in the same category as tests and final proofs but are true corporate treasures from Topps. In fact, if you go to this Robert Edward Auctions listing from a while back, you can see these two cards on a presentation board.

Three other shows rumored to exist as cards: Green Acres, I Dream of Jeannie and F Troop, may in fact have been sighted as presentation board mockups.  Another rumored set is called Dixie but there was never a TV show by that name that I have been able to find. I want to keep digging for scans of those cards. SInce there wer no more than a handful made, they are quite elusive!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Birth Of The Modern

So I'm sitting here, chugging along on my upcoming tome (The Modern Hobby Guide to Topps Chewing Gum: 1938-56) and realize I haven't posted much here this year. Well, I can;t promise a long post to rectify this but I can promise an interesting one.

Friend o'the Archive Ken Meyer has sent along some scans of vintage Topps material and the one that really caught my eye was this one from 1952:

Yes, the new big size would indeed be all the rage!  And 24 packs of series one cards?  Nice....

I have to admit that while I love the really graphic box tops that started coming out shortly after this, there's something about this one I dig.  Perhaps it's the breathless prose or the newness of it all.  I dunno.

For those of you that have been following my hints, I have a rather massive publication on the early days of Topps that will be out soon.  There will be two versions if things go right: a free download (in color) and a black and white print-on-demand book for those that want a printed and bound version.  The latter will probably have less illustrations than the free download but they will be posted in a web album instead.

Timing is still a little hard to predict but February looks about right.  Watch this space!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Un Warren-ted

Well cowpokes, it looks like the Obak mailer described here last time out was a bust, at least as far as J. Warren Bowman is concerned. Faithful reader Mark Aubrey writes:

"I've attached the 1900 US Census image from 54 Marion Street in Salt Lake City, Utah.  It is John W. Bowman (first line).:

I wish the outcome was more favorable to my hypothesis but alas! I think I will dig out a bit more on our man J. Warren Bowman this winter and post my findings soon.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Glorious Result Of A Mis-Spent Ute?

Happy New Year kids!  We are roaring into 2013 with a  look back over one hundred years ago, to about 1910.  And in a bit of a twist, it's a Bowman related post today, as in J. Warren Bowman, the man, the mystery, the merry-maker.

Leon Luckey, who runs, the web's premiere pre-war card site (there is a lot of postwar stuff there too), and is a type colelctor of the the highest order, also collect ancillary items relating to the cards.  He has an Obak sample item from about 1910 that was addressed to one J.W. Bowman in Salt Lake City and it has had me pondering for a while now whether or not the addressee was, in fact, J.Warren Bowman.  Here, take a gander:

I know, I know what are the odds.  However, contemplate the fact that Warren Bowman, to use the familiar, lived in the American Southwest when he was younger and he would have been around 13 or so when Obak was sending out sample coffin nails.  Some genealogical research would be beneficial here and I poked around when I had a membership there last year but to no avail.  So what do you all think?  Warren or not Warren?