Last time out I teased about the impact Wacky Packages
had on the sales figures for Topps during the initial rollout in 1973. The answers are at hand in the 1974 Topps Annual Report.
This report is probably the most widely known in the hobby due to some picture that have circulated over the years, which show production facilities and PR shots. I'll spare most of the repetition but here is a great shot, certainly staged, of some confectionery products available in 1974:
Here's a different look at some of the products can you spot a favorite or two?
I see some old line products, specifically Bozo
gumballs and Block Busters
bubble gum. Bozo
was originally a bulk gumball product sold to wholesalers (jobbers). I am not 100% certain but a reasonably sure it was phased out in the U.S. in the 1950's and moved to Canadian production and distribution, possibly over trademark concerns due to infringements of the Bozo the Clown "brand". It came back packaged in a clear cello sleeve and I certainly remember getting some in my prime trick or treating years in the early 70's. I also remember it being quite tasty!
was a Chiclets
style gum introduced in the early 1950's, probably since production of the flagship Topps Gum tab
had been shifted to an "ammoniated" gum dubbed Clor-Aid
, which was similar in form to Clorets
). The results of extensive litigation over Clor-Aid
went against Topps and they likely phased out Block Busters
as a result, although not before the last remnants of its production were used as the gum for the 1956 Baseball Buttons
. It was reintroduced at the end of 1973 but apparently did not catch on.
I mentioned the impact of Wacky Packages on sales in 1973. Here is a very handy table showing five years worth of financials and the biggest year-to-year change in net sales is from 1973 to 1974:
There might be some clues in there about why Topps went public. Look at the net income for 1970 and 1971, 1970's net is quite low compared to net sales and even that was a huge increase from 1969. They reduced debt and increased working capital over this span as well, with the latter really jumping after the IPO in 1972.
Here are some other highlights from the report:
- "In March of 1974 2 cent Bazooka was introduced into 40% of the United States and 1 cent Bazooka was withdrawn. It is anticipated that 2 cent Bazooka will be expanded into the remainder of the country during this year."
- "During 1973 a major marketing innovation was tested on Baseball Cards. This involved marketing a single series consisting of all 660 players at the beginning of the season instead of the six traditional series of 132 subjects released sequentially over a four month period. The test was extremely successful..."
- "..."the company successfully tested 15 cent Sports Cards in place of 10 cent cards during the latter part of 1973 and is currently marketing 15 cent baseball in approximately 10% of the United States. If this effort continues to show positive results, the Company is prepared to move in this direction with its Football cards in the fall of 1974 on a national basis with television support."
- "Promotional Card sales have been particularly successful this year with the introduction of Wacky Packages in March, 1973."
- "Topps new product development area is not only innovative, but also highly skilled in market research and market testing conducted prior to introducing a new product into the line."
- "Through its own sales force, Topps sells its products to approximately 5,000 jobbers, wholesale grocers and direct-buying chains."
- "Topps estimates that its products are sold in over 200,000 small and large retail candy and food stores (7-11 type), variety stores (dime stores) and drug outlets."
It wasn't all boring financial talk though. In October of 1973 (actually I believe it was Sept. 25th) Sy Berger presented Willie Mays with a special framed edition of all his regular issue Topps cards during Willie Mays night at Shea Stadium:
Let's not forget the Board of Directors, who should definitely get a hand:
Not everyone was happy though, as this article from the August 2, 1974 issue of Sports Collectors News shows:
Sorry Ron but you may have been a little naive when you bought the stock.....