Saturday, December 27, 2014

Beckett List

Your webmaster has been slowly reading through old issues of The Trader Speaks, one of the more famous hobby publications in what I think of as the "pre-explosion" days.  TTS was published from late 1968 until the Fall of 1983 by Dan Dischley (a co-founder of SABR) and then, following a sale, sputtered along for another six months or so before Krause Publications bought the mailing list and the magazine was shut down.  Krause, publishers of Sports Collectors Digest, attempted a 1989-90 resurrection as an SCD insert but pulled the plug, once and for all, after twelve issues.

It's been an interesting thing, reading them in chronological order and you can spot early trends this way.  There was huge interest in the Kellogg's 3-D cards in the early 1970's, a clear surge in hobby interest in the media and among collectors in 1973, the sprouting of collector conventions around 1974-75 followed by an influx of large dealers around 1976.

The focus of course, was on baseball. It was around the Bicentennial that a number of Price Guides sprang up as well, each seemingly larger and more comprehensive than the last.  Now, when you think of early guides you think of Beckett but he was a latecomer as a half dozen or so had been published before he had Dischley run a centerfold pricing survey in the January 1977 issue.

A few months later, the results were published in the April and May issues and you can see some clear indications of rare cards and sets in the data.  The first set of results covers Topps issues, among others (in good old IBM Selectric fonts):

As noted by Dr. Beckett, the pricing was for VG-EX cards.  The 1951 Blue Back pricing is consistent with current trends when compared to the Red Back set and the $8.00 assessment for 1952 high numbers is essentially sixteen times higher then a common. It's about nine times as much for a high number these days, which reflects the reality the highs are not all that difficult. Beckett also may have inadvertently started the notion that the 1952 semi-highs started at #253 as there were plenty of ads in early TTS issues that showed they began at #251.

The other 1951 Baseball Candy issues also show their scarcity.  The $38 for a Current AS (Major League All Star) is tied for the highest amount for any set surveyed by Beckett; those are not even double the Connie Mack All Star prices, while these days it's more like 2.5 times.  The Team cards that weren't shortprinted sell for less these days in comparison to the Connie Macks, less than half in most instances.  You could buy the Team cards fairly readily from TTS advertisers in the early to mid 70's and the occasional complete Connie Mack example but I have yet to find an ad offering a complete Major League All Star card for sale in the first 100 issues or so and there were numerous buy ads for them.The 1968 3-D cards were also impressively priced.

The comments on the 1970-73 high numbers are interesting and while the 1971 and 1973 nosebleeds are not all that tough these days, 1970 and in particular 1972 highs are thought of as relatively difficult now, considering the volume of low numbers produced in those years. Bowman PCL cards also remain near-impossible to find almost forty years later.

In terms of Topps issues, the second survey results only really had some of the Bazooka cards but they were capped at 1964 for some reason.  More fascinating reading generally though:

You can see that except for the 1954 Dan Dee Al Smith, which is a super short print, the Major League All Stars compare with the 1928 Fro Joy, Lummis Peanut Butter and 1955 Kahn's sets as the most expensive out there.  This is no longer true as the Fro Joys have dropped significantly while the Kahn's (which feature a half dozen Reds players in street clothes) have kept pace, or even slightly surpassed the Topps offering.  The SCD "big book" states the Kahn's cards were only given away for one day at a amusement park in Cincinnati, indirectly illustrating how scarce the MLAS's really are.

A year later, the April 1978 TTS issue (which also noted the death of Woody Gelman) had the next year's results:

Prices were coming more into focus the second time around and the PCL issue from Bowman in 1949 was now the king of commons. As an aside, a complete PCL set had been auctioned the year prior and instead of accepting a cash bid the seller, a Chicago sports store, took 900,000 baseball cards in exchange for the set!

As it turns out, Dischley was issuing the second edition of his Modern Baseball Card Checklist Book in the summer of '77 and it would include Beckett's first stab at pricing. I have the 1979 edition and while it includes pricing, I don't think it was Beckett's any more since his first Sport Americana Baseball Card Price Guide (in conjunction with Denny Eckes) came out in February of that year.

I have further runs of magazines to go through as I continue my research and expect I will find similarly blog-worthy old school items along the way.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

So This Is Christmas...

...Topps style!

Santa came to the Main Topps Archives a bit early this year, after I purchased a nice lot of Topps items in October.  I've shown B&W scans before but here is the living color version.

The box is too big for my scanner but you get the drift.  Here is the indicia, which is always of import, left side first:

The item dates to 1951 based upon the sell sheet, which I won't show again as I have done so previously. We know this because the sell sheet shows the box with a 1952 "checklist" on the reverse to record good behavior for Santa's next visit.  This box however, waxes poetic:

I did not end up with a Rudolph Pops box unfortunately, an item that probably dates to 1950. Not to worry though, Sy Berger is on the case:

These cards are tiny and clearly meant to accompany a gift of some sort and each came with a similarly small envelope.  My guess is a bottle of booze was the gift of choice.  I have to say, for a bunch of Jewish guys from Brooklyn, Topps sure did put on a good show at Christmas!

See you after the presents are opened-Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you out there!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Farewell To A Hobby Legend

Sy Berger passed away in his sleep yesterday at the age of 91.  He began working at Topps in 1947 and by 1951 had become such a key man he was entrusted to create the 1952 Baseball set along with Woody Gelman. I've said a lot about him here and in print previously so will just offer up best wishes to his family.  RIP Sy, you were one of the best things to happen to us baby boomers.

Here is his "rookie" card, from the 1964 Topps Rookie Banquet set:

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Therein Lies The Rub

If you really want to drive yourself batty, try giving some of the 1960's Topps CFL inserts sets a go. I don't collect full sets, only an example of each set, issued by Topps through 1980 but I also seek out examples from their Canadian issues.  Some of these are branded as Topps products and others were issued under license by O-Pee-Chee.  I've covered the inexplicable eight year run of Topps CFL cards here and here in the past and today want to examine the first insert CFL set from 1961.

Topps mirrored their US Baseball inserts up North in 1961 with a small set of CFL Magic Rub-Offs. Recently a group of 16 were sold on eBay (the inspiration for this post) and they were in really nice shape.  I have used a mirror-image to show these as they would look applied to a notebook or some other surface:

The above lot represent a significant portion of the entire set.  However, the exact percentage is not necessarily a determinable number as this time.  The back of each Magic Rub-Off  has instructions in English and French and clearly indicates there should be 27 subjects:

Well as you may have guessed, there are not 27 known subjects but only 24. According to Andy Malycky's ridiculously comprehensive Collecting Canadian Football Volume 1, which is my go to guide for Topps and OPC CFL information (and from which the above back scan is pinched), only 24 have surfaced and the set may be complete at that number.  Topps often printed their insert sets in multiples of 12 so 24 is a reasonable landing spot.  

There were 9 teams in the CFL in 1961 (the Western Conference played 16 games and had five teams, while the Eastern Conference played 14 games with four teams) and all nine logos have been accounted for as the Calgary Stampeders, Ottawa Rough Riders, Toronto Argonauts and Winnipeg Blue Bombers were issued in addition to the teams shown in the scan above.  With four players produced that are also not shown above (Don Clark, Gene Filipski, Ron Stewart & Dave Thelen), all teams have three subjects except for Edmonton, Montreal and Toronto, which are each missing a player for a perfectly balanced issue of two players and one logo per franchise.

Malycky states that no unopened was packs are known to have survived from the 1961 CFL issue so the odds of missing subjects hiding in unopened product are astronomical.  Were the three missing players produced?  Probably not but the set is so hard to piece together anything is possible.

Saturday, December 6, 2014


I have posted many times about the practice of Topps to take jobber-returned or unsold card inventory and rewrap it in any of umpteen formats to resell at some point past the original issue's shelf life.  Recently a very strange Rack Pack showed up in an article in the latest issue of The Wrapper, the Les Davis helmed non-sport magazine (hi Les!), that shows just how far Topps was willing to take the concept.

In issue #287 John Juka writes of some odd rack packs that were found in an old store in Kentucky that contained a variety of Bowman non-sports cards. One was just sold in a Roxanne Toser Auction and thankfully it contained a color scan:

There are three 15 card cello packs within and as you can see Power for Peace (1954), Frontier Days (1953) and U.S. Navy Victories (1954) cello's are in this rack.  Others have been described as containing Television & Radio Stars of the National Broadcasting Company (a 1953 set). There could be others as multiple racks were found and the header card indicates as much. The article states that Juka's research revealed these were packs issued by Topps following their takeover of Bowman in early 1956.

The Television & Radio Stars of the National Broadcasting Company cards were also sold in a rack pack, which was a Bowman rewrap:

(from The Non-Sports Archive by Adam Tucker & Marc Simon)

You can see the "Collect 'Em Trade 'Em" motto is on both headers and the Card Collectors Club branding but it's a completely different configuration.  Topps had their own collectors club at the time (Trading Card Guild) so deleting that reference would make sense on the racks discussed by Juka.

I'm pretty sure all the Topps racks used returns or unsold stock from this type of original retail box; it's possible the Bowman rack also did so:

Centering was clearly an issue!

Another writer for The Wrapper, friend o'the archive Bill Christenesen, recalls buying 1953 Bowman Baseball cello's that had been reissued around 1956 so they could have come from either Topps or Bowman depending upon the exact date. They could even have been deconstructed from the "Juka" rack and sold individually by an enterprising merchant.

Does anyone out there have other Bowman racks they can show?