Saturday, June 7, 2014

A Tale Of Two Cities

Here we go again pilgrims, with another tweak to the Topps timeline.  I thought I did a pretty good job with keeping errors to a minimum when I published the The Modern Hobby Guide To Topps Chewing Gum: 1938 to 1956 last year but knew some changes and updates would inevitably occur. I've already listed a few at the blog for the book and this will appear there as well.

In the book I noted there were two variants of the 1939 Topps Gum tab wrappers, each showing a different place of manufacture: Brooklyn and New York City (I know, Brooklyn is in New York City but it is a world apart) and a different style on the bottom or back part of what would be the wrapper when sleeved to the tab.  Furthermore after intense consultation with Jeff Shepherd, the king of all things chewing gum, we both believed that the New York City variety came first as it featured short lived Ginger flavor which we theorized had fizzled out and been replaced by Pepsin:

(Courtesy Jeff Shepherd)

As it turns out, the story is far more complex than initially thought.  Here are the backs of some 1939 NYC wrappers which I believe could still have come first:

(Courtesy Jeff Shepherd)

The wrappers from Brooklyn that have a 1939 copyright were, we thought, all like this:

(Courtesy Jeff Shepherd)

I think that glassine inner wrap dates this to World War 2, so 1942-45 period.  However, I recently picked up this lot of two 1939's on eBay:

I can't say if these examples were produced at the same time but they look like a hybrid of the two previous types. Oh, and Shapiro Candy Manufacturing Company manufactured the one on the right. Shapiro, for those not in the know (and that is almost everybody on the planet given the minituae involved) was acquired by Topps sometime in 1944.  Shapiro's plant was also in Brooklyn and it was clearly a wartime play to stretch out their sugar quota but their new acquisition did also make candy products which Topps was already into at the time.  Topps slowly absorbed Shapiro and it was fully digested by 1946. In addition a new copyright date for Topps Gum appeared on redesigned wrappers in 1946 so the Shapiro example above must date from 1944-45 or maybe just into 1946.

So the big question I have is: when did the 1939 Brooklyn wrappers come out?

In 1946 the wrapper/pack bottoms  looked like this:

(Courtesy Jeff Shepherd)

Also of note is the variant without the asterisk (indicating Registered with the U.S. Patent Office) if you look closely at the indicia

And then we have these two types of 1949-ish tabs with two gum nuggets (this is what Topps Gum turned into once Bazooka started running rampant) from military field ration kits (not sure if they sold these commercially) and which I think differ ever so slightly:

(Courtesy Jeff Shepherd)

Let us not forget this bad boy as well:

(The Sport Americana Price Guide to the Non-Sports Cards 1930-1960, by Christopher Benjamin, 
Edgewater Book Company, Cleveland, Ohio, 1993)

Shep has never seen one and the only place it has popped up so far as I know is in the Benjamin price guide but it looks like a true 1946 wrapper.

So we have seven potentially different Topps Gum tab wrappers, with up to six flavors potentially out there for all but the later, Chiclets-like products and it would not surprise me if more pop up. 

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