Saturday, March 31, 2018

Doubling Up

Welcome to our third in a series of posts covering the first eleven issues of "The Card Collector", Woody Gelman's sorta-catalog-sorta-not newsletter of the late 50's and early 60's. Things were really picking up in the hobby in mid-1960 and TCC was all over it.

Right off the bat, the Card Collectors Co. Checklist Book is discussed.  It was hinted at in previous issues but was by now a reality. 

The Topps album being described was this bad boy, which was state of the art for the times:

Here now, is a very, very interesting Card Chatter. It says that seven copies each of the three famous 1960 "proof" errors made it into circulation.  You might need a salt shaker but given how rare these cards are, I guess it's possible.  It's funny what contemporary accounts can provide. There's also an article on the large cards issued by Post Cereal in 1960 and a blurb on the 1960 Fleer All Time Greats cards.

Bazooka gets a blast as well and also the first series of 1960 Leaf Baseball.  I'm not sure how many adult collectors would have known about such things if not for these puff pieces:

Lionel Carter, represent:

This was the last of the four page issues; it would be eight pages (amid a plea from the editor) going forward:

Gotta hand it to Woody, he would reference competitor's to Topps:

Things get a little reflective with a discussion of the 1960 Metallic Football Emblems inserts but then matter get downright funky with White Sox tickets!

Non-sports and Canadian cards are mentioned. Surprisingly, Parkhurst gets props while Topps partner O-Pee-Chee is frozen out:

Early on Woody promised articles on Exhibits.  He made good:

Programs, get your programs....

If rare regionals or checklists were your thing, TCC was the place for you:

 And now, a bit of a showstopper.  I had no idea Card Collctors Company sold uncut sheets of cards, or in this case panels.  Makes you wonder where those rare variations came from that were discussed in issue 7......

OK, I have to stop now, I'm giving myself the vapors!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Woody Tells A Whopper Or Two

Picking up from our last post, the fourth issue of The Card Collector was a more varied affair then the previous number. A prominently featured reader's letter pointed out that issue #3's 1959 Baseball checklist had two errors.  The checklist had #482 as Art Houtteman, a hard luck player who had last pitched in the majors with Cleveland in 1957 and was washed up by age 27.  To be fair, he debuted with the Tigers at the age of 17 in 1945 but in 1959 was pitching in the PCL. The actual card issued at #482, as pointed out, was of Russ Meyer (sic).

And #489 John Powers, who while nondescript, would be appearing in the middle of a personal three Topps card run. But he wasn't Jake Striker, who was listed by Woody. Striker appeared in a single, late September game with the Indians in 1959 (a win!) before his more extensive two game outing with  the White Sox in 1960 and his only Topps card would come when he was with the Pale Hose.  At 10.1 career innings pitched, he must be at or near the top of the heap for a MLB win with fewest innings pitched.  Two pitchers have managed to appear in 80 games without a win, but Striker did the opposite the easy way.

Here is Mr. Striker, who it must be admitted, had an awesome name for a flamethrower:

The observations on Basketball are, frankly, hysterical given the resounding failure of the sole Topps issue at the time for that sport (in 1957-58).  Nice to see Jack Davis get some props though, even though they came from Woody Gelman's teen protege -- and Topps employee at the time -- Len (Lenny) Brown:

Obscurity seems to be the theme in issue #5.  Interesting comment about the bulk of Bowman's 1949 PCL cards being destroyed.  Topps would have had access to Bowman's records, so it's possible, although as we shall soon see, TCC was not always truthful in explaining why some cards or sets were scarce:

OK, nobody "forgot" about pictures for four semi-high's in 1958.  Instead, they pulled them to make room for the overprinted Stan Musial and Mickey Mantle All Star cards that year, after signing Stan the Man following a period of Rawlings exclusivity.  My guess is that one half sheet of 132 on the semi high press sheet had the triple printed AS cards while the other had the four "missing" numbers.

Armour coins get a nice write up by hobby legend Buck Barker, as Woody started featuring more guest columnists.  1959 Bazooka Football also gets its due, as does the regular issue set as the promotional tie-ins with Topps continue unabated. Nice detail on the Canadian only status of 1960 Hockey cards as well and some competitor's products also get a nod:

All in all, the best issue yet.

Issue #5 led off with a pitch for The American Card Catalog and notice about an office move for Card Collectors Company. This presumably was when Woody moved all the old inventory from his late father in law's office in Manhattan to his storage or warehouse facility in Franklin Square, which I suspect was a couple of rooms in a friend or relative's house or space in a garage (Woody lived one town over in Malverne):

1952 Topps high number scarcity has been covered ad nauseum over the years, here and elsewhere, but it's worth pointing out that by 1959 Card Collectors Co. had run out of them but would restock at some point in 1960, right around the time of the alleged dumping at sea of two truckload's worth.  Hmmmmm....

I'll skip page three, which is all '52 Topps checklist and get right to the good stuff on page four, namely the 14 cards in the second series of Bazooka Baseball, seemingly issued after the Football Bazooka's!

Lionel Carter joined the newsletter for 1960 as Woody's somewhat erratic publishing schedule  indicates he must have been very busy at Topps (production of all sets at Topps probably peaked in 1959-60) but kudos for going back to pre-war issues:

Regional issues look like they are hitting the radar:

A full page of letters from early hobbyists covered a lot of different sets:

While page four gave yet another checklist, albeit one mentioned on the main letters page:

It appears this issue also came with an insert offering the 1960 Baseball cards and a bonus.

1960 would bring a few changes to The Card Collector, which we will get into next time.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Woody's Writings

Happy St. Patrick's day everybody! Topps never issued a St. Paddy's day set but maybe when I get into my latest acquisition, it will make some of you green with envy!

Woody Gelman, with competition springing up in the card resale market, began putting out a regular newsletter in April of 1959.  He dubbed it "The Card Collector" and if he didn't write the early issues himself, I'm sure he had some editorial assistant do it after Woody dictated articles to the Steno pool at Topps.  TCC would eventually see 38 issues published through August of 1964 and I've  managed to pick up a run of the first 11 issues recently, with a scattershot of later issues soon to arrive. Today I'm happy to share some highlights and amusing tidbits from the first four issues.

Fashioned at first from a single sheet of paper, folded in half (and then folded again for mailing), and featuring awesome Jack Davis artwork throughout, four small pages kicked things off:
Pretty mundane stuff really, although Woody knew his hobby history, being a part of the American Card Catalog editorial team. Things got esoteric early on, although you would not see any kind of depth in these descriptions of the 1951 Topps Baseball Candy releases:

Despite the admonition above concerning the impossibility of completion, the below checklist makes no mention of the three impossible Major League All Star cards:

The Exhibit Card overview is interesting and probably designed to insert some content that was not Topps related.  I would imagine Woody was big on collecting Exhibits based upon his promise to delve into the myriad issued from ESCO. Perhaps he scored them at Coney Island when he was a kid.
I'm not certain if a Card Collectors Catalog came along with these.  It's highly likely to my mind but none were mixed in with the publications I bought.  There was a single paged sell sheet for 1960 Topps Baseball that came with one of the later issues in the run but that's all I saw other than Card Collectors Company advertisements, which commenced in issue two.

Woody was certainly enthusiastic about publication and it only took two months for the second issue to appear:

The album discussion above is strange as Topps had already come out with a Hobby Card album premium that featured slitted pages.

Woody is being modest below as he was a masthead editor of the ACC:

Here's Honus.....and Fleer!

The back page is the most interesting of the issue.  Those are the first nine players in the 1959  Bazooka set. 14 more would be issued (plus an Aaron variation) shortly thereafter, likely along with the original nine. CCC offered this first set of nine for a buck!  I wonder if they got flats from Topps and just cut them down?

The third issue was essentially one long checklist showcasing the 1959 Topps Baseball cards. As you can see, the checklists were a teaser for what would become the Card Collectors Company Checklist Book a short time later.

No point in showing the rest of the issue, its contents are available in any price guide.  Instead, here is the CCC Checklist Book:

More TCC goodness next time out kids!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Waxy Buildup

Topps included all sorts of things in their packs over the years, to the point there are as many things inserted with the regular issue as their are regular issues! Some of these were related to the set being retailed, some not but very early on Topps started including premium offers for all sorts of things.  These were essentially for the same premiums eventually offered on Bazooka comics, starting in 1952 or so but before Topps caught on to promoting these items on the comics they used a catalog system, augmented by small inserts that came with their penny pack offerings starting in 1948-49. I've looked at some previously but have acquired some new ones of late and thought they warranted another post.

You can tell the first couple of releases of these as the first batch of inserts had numbering from #101-108 and second started at #109.  This is one of the early ones then, probably from early 1949:

That #112 offer above was repeated and redrawn, as this one features "Bazooka, The Atom Bubble Boy", who I believe came first in the real world but second in the inserts.  "Bazooka" was the original Topps mascot character and thankfully he did not outlast the 40's.

Once you get to #120 or so they are from the early 50's methinks and then Topps just started mixing and matching.  Things got well in the 400's eventually.

Here's a bunch, courtesy of BFF o'the Archive Jeff Shepherd that all likely predate Bazooka Joe & His Gang, who debuted in mid 1954:

These would have been wrapped around the penny piece of Bazooka, along with a comic, so there were two discrete inserts.

The larger five cent Bazooka gum rolls had their own inserts and two of them them relate to baseball premium offers.  These are two separate pieces obviously and don't quite fit together here, but you can see how they fit together.  I think these commenced in 1955 given the expiration date of June 30, 1956 and likely continued into the early part of the latter year.  I could see them being inserted into wax packs for the '55 & '56 Baseball cards. Bazooka Joe and his brother Pesty are front and center by now:

Those pennants were offered on the 1952 Baseball Wrappers.

As you can see, the same wrappers also (sometimes) offered team emblems, so those are the same ones presumably, updated for team changes.  But what of these, which I believe also were offered somehow:

By 1953 the pennants had moved to the comics. Buzzy was probably the last comic standing before Bazooka Joe took hold.  Good thing, as he seems like a dolt:

There must be city variants for the early Braves, Browns (Orioles) and A's pennants but these dang things are hard to find! That #121 numbering, which supplanted #112 (and was not the only premium Topps changed the early numbering on) for the pennants would continue into the 1980's. Why the numbering changed, who knows?!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Year Of Ration-al Thinking

One little known aspect of Topps far flung operations was that they provided gum for US Military Field Rations in the 1940's and 50's.

Everybody's heard of K-Rations, which fell out of favor and were discontinued around 1948 (and didn't have any Topps Gum). They were replaced by C-Rations and Topps managed to secure a deal with the government sometime around 1949 to include what would have been a penny tab of candy coated ammoniated gum (2 peppermint Chiclets-sized pieces) in the accessory pack.

Derived from the penny tabs of Topps Gum that were the first Topps product, the C-Ration gum packaging looked like this:

Picture the old one-cent piece of Bazooka if you're of a certain age-that's the size of these. The bottom was similar:

Looks at these tasty ingredients, courtesy of the indicia:

Mmmmmm...Carbanbide!  You can see how "ammoniated" gum derived it's name from Ammonium Phosphate.  That was the big thing after the war actually, although it's hard to believe now.

Here's the 1949 copyright, which I am thinking must have been the date these were introduced into the rations.  If not, they were in them by 1951 at the latest:

An alternate version exists as well, it has a slightly different shape.

That one also has a 1949 copyright, according the BFF o'the Archive Jeff Shepherd, who provided that scan.

I believe Topps was able to keep their contract with the government through 1958, although details are pretty scarce.  I have yet to find a picture of a full ration kit showing the gum, which may have been wrapped in dark plastic along with some cigarettes and a few other small items.  Have a smoke, then pop some Topps Gum for minty fresh breath in your foxhole!

UPDATE: Intrepid reader Scott Boroczky posted a great link in the comments.  Check in at the 18:45 mark for Topps Gum content, or watch the whole thing-it's pretty entertaining and the vlogger is nuts!