Saturday, March 28, 2015

Space Patrol

Of late I have been looking into various third party printers and manufacturers used by Topps over the years. In addition to their two main printers for mainstream sets (Lord Baltimore Press from the late 40's through the early 60's and Zabel Brothers from the early 60's through the 90's) they used at least one "overflow" printer, especially in the 1960's as the baby boomers were buying cards faster than Topps could make them. The evidence points to Stecher-Traung Lithograph Corporation (later Stecher-Traung Schmidt Corporation) of Rochester, New York as the overflow printer and they seemingly also printed cards for Topps in a Connecticut branch as well.

Here's an interesting hobby side note-Schmidt was the printer of the 1909-11 Obak baseball cards, which are some of the most beautiful cards ever made, and certainly printed a host of other sets before and between World Wars 1 and 2. Stecher-Traung was known more for their seed packets and fruit crate labels, which were also works of art. One of the places we frequent on vacation in Vero Beach has a large display of their labels in the lobby.  Here is a good example of one:


The Osborne Register Company did some "minting" for Topps from about 1948-52, especially the earliest versions of the Golden Coin issue.

Topps had a Japanese manufacturer for certain novelty items in the 1960's and early 70's but some U.S. Customs issues may have curtailed that relationship. That is definitely a work in progress on my end,  However, I have seen many references to a Canadian Manufacturer Topps used to make its 1964 and 1971 Baseball Coins, a firm called Space Magic Ltd. of Don Mills, Toronto, Ontario. This would be fairly close to where O-Pee-Chee was headquartered in London and it would make sense that Topp's Canadian partner would have been able to source a manufacturer for them.

Pretty much any baseball collectors knows about these colorful coins, which are printed on light aluminum, have rolled edges and came inserted in packs of Baseball.  Here's the 64's:

The 1964 coins were printed on large 255 coin sheets, as this Leland's auction from February 7, 1992 shows:

You will note there is no reference to Space Magic, so it's a bit of a leap of faith that they were manufactured by them,  However, I think it's correct once you look at this next item.  For instance, this largely uncatalogued set of 20 Batman coins from 1966 bears the Space Magic Ltd. name:

There was no second series incidentally. That blueish color looks like a dead match to me.  The coins are pretty pedestrian and used the very mundane comics artwork of the time to cash in on the TV series but the shields used to house the coins are spectacular:

Holy crap Batman!

The 1971 Baseball Coins were probably issued in three groups, each having 51 coins.  51 is interesting because it divides evenly into 255, so five complete series could be run on a full sheet. Here is one of the 51 coin series sheets in proof form

There are a number of other aluminum coin sets out there, most from the 1960's.  The 1962-63 Salada Football Coins, the 1963 version of Salada's Baseball Coins, 1962-63 Shirriff  Hockey Coins (Shirriff was owned by Salada), 1965 Old London Baseball Coins, and probably a few others I am missing.  I suspect Space Magic Ltd. made them all, even though not every one divides neatly into a 255 coin production sheet.

I have not found too much on Space Magic Ltd. so maybe one of our Canadian readers can provide some insights.  I will keep looking though.


Mark Hoyle said...

I just read somewhere and I cant remember where now. That the Old London coins were printed by the same manufacturer as the Topps coins

toppcat said...

Some of the guides have stated this and I believe am SMR article also mentions this.