Friday, November 30, 2018

Cut From The Same Cloth

It's some almost 50 year eye candy to look at today kids.  I've covered the 1970 Cloth Baseball Stickers here before and while I can't really offer any new information, I can show a dozen examples that popped up in a Heritage auction earlier this month.

A brief recap is in order first. Topps used somewhere between 33 and 66 subjects to run off what I estimate to be between two and four examples of a second series proof sheet (66 subjects proofed) in a cloth sticker format, usually with backing, likely as a materials test.  Some subjects are only known as "partials" where just a portion of the sticker survived and there is at least one where it doesn't look like a backing could have been applied. They would repeat this process in 1972 (33 hard to find stickers that were never released) and 1976 (2 subjects, 4 different materials, in-house only) baseball subjects before they formally issued a 55 subject cloth sticker set in 1977.  While baseball was the experimental category, the tests may have also assisted with things like Flags Of The World (1970 saw a test issue with cloth stickers) and Wacky Packages Cloth Stickers (1973), not to mention the 1973-74 Baseball Action Emblems and sticker inserts in various sports sets of time that used similar material.

I'm not sure how the 1970 Cloth Baseball Stickers first entered the hobby pipeline but it's probable they exited the Topps premises in Brooklyn via the Bill Haber and Woody Gelman backdoor not long after they were made, as a July 1972 Fred McKie article in The Trader Speaks states "I understand that there are at least 66 in the set."

Stirling Sports Catalog, a price guide and reference that predates the Sport-Americana's by a couple of years, describes 66 subjects being known.  Those are the only references I can find with a count that high and there's been no evidence since to substantiate anything near that number. It is, however, theoretically possible based upon the uncut sheet array.

Twenty two of them were offered in a Card Collectors Company ad in the September 1979 issue of The Trader Speaks.  As we all know, numbers divisible by 11 are pretty normal fare for Topps issues due to this being their default row length on the production sheets but this time it may be an accident as the left and right columns of cards have not yet been seen as full stickers. This ad was the culmination of about a 16 month run where Card Collectors Co. and a couple of other sellers uncapped a string of Topps test and proof issues through TTS (and likely other hobby pubs of the time as well), a gusher of issues likely due to the death of CCC founder and all-around Topps MVP Woody Gelman on February 9, 1978.

What I can tell you is 30 subjects are presently known., 27 full and 3 partial and another (#262 Padres Rookies) is strongly suggested to exist as a full sticker due to the real estate used to carve out the stickers.  The below list details these 30 known subjects and identifies the twenty two offered by Card Collectors Co in '79.  The Heritage examples are all in this grouping as well, although they may not be the same ones as two examples of some are known. "VAR." means the sticker image differs from the regularly issued card image. However, as you can plainly see above the Fred McKie TTS article stated he owned a Higgins and that it matched the issued card.  I'm not sure what to make of that statement and have to presume it's a mistake unless a variant sticker of Higgins shows up that matches the regular issue.

This is the known checklist as of December 2018


(UPDATE 12/2/18: Nye is now shown with the Cards, he was inferred to be with the Cubs in the original post. Topps managed a team change although he's shown in Cubs duds on the proof and sticker.  More info coming in on this set, an update post will be made).

That's 28 full stickers if you factor the Padres Rookies in, a figure noted previously here as being the possible limit of full stickers.  In addition to the three partials shown above five others may exist, again based upon how the proof sheet was setup:


That's 36 potentially.  If you look at the way the full stickers were proofed, it's clear the two left-most and right-most columns of the sheet contain all the partials.  If you then take the remaining possible subjects from the four known rows the stickers copied from the proof sheet, you also can see how the following eight subjects could be extant, one way or the other:


That gets us to 44 actual and potential subjects, in whole or in part, or the four bottom-most rows of the sheet.  My take is that is the figure to use when contemplating what proofs were stickerized.

Whew!  OK then, here's some scans from the auction-these all went for a small fortune: from $3,120 all the way up to $9,000 for the Ryan!  I guess a couple of examples below are "almost" full sized and a few seem to fit together-you can see how the McNertney fit above the Niekro due to miscuts. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Head Count

Today's episode is a confluence of a some older and newer threads on the 1968 Topps Giant Stand Ups set, a legendarily rare issue that is seldom discussed and even more sporadically seen.  I've presented scans of about half the set previously and thought it would be nice to top that off with a  fully annotated checklist as Friends o'the Archive Keith Olbermann, Al Richter and Bob Fisk have been kind enough to send the completing scans.

This is the checklist and it's worth noting the set appears in issued, die-cut form and also in proof form, which are thinner and have no die cuts.  Either is hugely difficult as these are among the rarest Topps cards ever issued:

1. Pete Rose - Outfield - Cincinnati Reds
2. Gary Peters - Pitcher - Chicago White Sox
3. Frank Robinson - Outfield - Baltimore Orioles
4. Jim Lonborg - Pitcher - Boston Red Sox
5. Ron Swoboda - Outfield - New York Mets
6. Harmon Killebrew - 1st Base - Minnesota Twins
7. Roberto Clemente - Outfield -  Pittsburgh Pirates
8. Mickey Mantle - 1st Base - New York Yankees
9. Jim Fregosi - Shortstop - California Angels
10. Al Kaline - Outfield - Detroit Tigers
11. Don Drysdale - Pitcher - Los Angeles Dodgers
12. Dean Chance - Pitcher - Minnesota Twins
13. Orlando Cepeda - 1st Base - St. Louis Cardinals
14. Tim McCarver - Catcher - St. Louis Cardinals
15, Frank Howard - Outfield - Washington Senators
16. Max Alvis - 3rd Base - Cleveland Indians
17. Rusty Staub - Outfield - Houston
18. Richie Allen - 3rd Base - Philadelphia Phillies
19. Willie Mays - Outfield - San Francisco Giants
20. Hank Aaron - Outfield - Atlanta Braves
21. Carl Yastrzemski - Outfield - Boston Red Sox
22. Ron Santo - 3rd Base - Chicago Cubs
23. Jim Hunter - Pitcher - Oakland A's
24. Jim Wynn - Outfield - Houston

As noted previously here, Rusty Staub and Jim Wynn are just shown as being with Houston; using the name Astros was a no-no for Topps until 1969 due to a trademark dispute between Monsanto and the team. Houston is an odd choice for two players representing the team as well. I get the extra player from Boston and St. Louis, teams that met in the 1967 World Series and even the Twins, who had been in the Fall Classic in '66 and were a game back in '67 but Houston was a 9th place team!

Also odd is the position distribution.  There are no 2nd Baseman at all, the NL is lacking a Shortstop and while they had four Pitchers represented, the AL had no one to catch!

Looking at it a little more closely, every player in the set was a 1967 All Star selection and every team has at least one subject, so that makes sense, but there were 53 All Stars selected that year and if you wanted to overweigh the NL team, the Giants had finished in second in 1967, and while a good ways back in the standings, they were a strong team at the time.  The Cubs were also good in '67 and with only a single NL pitcher include and Fergie Jenkins would have been a pretty obvious choice.  As an aside, did you know that Jenkins never was on a team that made the postseason?!

So what happened with this set's player selection?  My own guess is that Topps loosely planned a second series, although it's debatable whether another 24 players from the All Star rosters would have been all that interesting:

967 MLB All-Star Rosters
Rod Carew, MINTim McCarver, STL
Carl Yastrzemski, BOSTony Perez, CIN
Tommie Agee, CHIRusty Staub, HOU
Max Alvis, CLEPete Rose, CIN
Ken Berry, CHITom Seaver, NY
Paul CasanovaFergie Jenkins, CHI
Dean Chance, MINHank Aaron, ATL
Tony Conigliaro, BOSDick Allen, PHI
Al Downing, NYGene Alley, PIT
Andy Etchebarren, BALJoe Torre, ATL
Bill Freehan, DETErnie Banks, CHI
Jim Fregosi, CALLou Brock, STL
Steve Hargan, CLEOrlando Cepeda, STL
Joe Horlen, CHIRoberto Clemente, PIT
Catfish HunterMike Cuellar, HOU
Al Kaline, DETDon Drysdale, LA
Harmon Killebrew, MINBob Gibson, STL
Jim Lonborg, BOSTom Haller, SF
Mickey Mantle, NYTommy Helms, CIN
Dick McAuliffe, DETDenny Lemaster, ATL
Jim McGlothlin, CALJuan Marichal, SF
Don Mincher, CALWillie Mays, SF
Tony Oliva, MINBill Mazeroski, PIT
Gary Peters, CHIClaude Osteen, LA
Rico Petrocelli, BOSChris Short, PHI
Brooks Robinson, BALJim Wynn, HOU
Frank Robinson, BAL

I guess we will never know.  So on to the rest of the visual checklist (click the Label for this set to the right to see images previously shown).

These are courtesy of Keith Olbermann-Catfish Hunter has an airbrushed logo due to the original photo showing him in a KC hat and of course the two Astros had their lids wiped :

Here is a Clemente (proof), from Bob Fisk, another guy with a drool-worthy collection:

Here are the remaining three, courtesy of Al Richter.  A couple are proofs and that Cepeda might actually be a repro, although Al warned me it was a low-res scan.  Actually every Cepeda I've seen looks like the original picture is pixellated:

PSA has graded a total of 22 of these suckers.  Are they the rarest, issued Topps pure baseball set?  Could be, could be.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Tax Time

More NYC Municipal Archives tax photos today kids!  Unlike the post here last week featuring buildings that no longer exist, everything I am showing you today is still standing, although Topps is no longer in any of them except the last. I've posted more current pictures of these places before but since the Municipal Archives material is only readily available now I though I'd time trip a bit, so forgive any repetition.

Topps started life by renting a floor in the Gretsch Building at 60 Broadway in Brooklyn.  Mere blocks from the Williamsburg Bridge, this ten story building was where Gretsch Instruments manufactured some of their products.  The Shorin and Gretsch families seem to have known each other and in fact Morris Shorin bought a house on tony President Street from Fred Gretsch around 1920.

The "four Shorin boys" (Abram, Ira, Phil and Joseph) founded and ran Topps from the get go.  Morris either provided funding and/or was a silent partner until he died in 1947, having likely retired from the leaf tobacco business in 1938. They set up here right around the time this photo was taken, with a bunch of old machinery installed to make their first product, Topps Gum.

Dig that infrastructure either going up or coming down (I suspect the latter).  The other feature I see a lot in old pictures of Brooklyn and Manhattan are domes, like the one atop the building next to Gretsch. This is not the main view of 60 Broadway; it's mysteriously missing from the tax photos online.

By 1944 Topps appear to have their moved their executive offices out of the Gretsch Building, which was still their production floor in Brooklyn (they also had one in Chattanooga, Tennessee following the purchase of Bennett-Hubbard in 1943).  They ended up at 134 Broadway:

Right around this time they also purchased a local Brooklyn concern called Shapiro Candy, who were running things out of 383 3rd Avenue.  Topps would eventually run their Candy Division out of this building for a couple of years:

It's the building with the truck in front of it. There's a small, low-slung garage/loading bay attached to it, which you can see on the right just past the truck as your eye looks toward the vanishing point. It's funny how the trucks look pretty modern while you expect Murder Incorporated to jump out of the sedan passing by the building with tommy guns blazing.

By the middle of 1946 though, Topps had decamped to Bush Terminal, where they maintained production for the next twenty years.  Don't worry, they were still using all of their older spaces for storage during this period as well! Nothing got cleaned out of them until the Duryea, PA move in 1966. This is the 237 37th St. address on the right, with 254 36th St., where they expanded operations in the mid 50's to the left. I can't get the address locator to show the right building for 254 36th St., it keeps showing Building No. 4 (using Bush Terminal building numbering scheme) when I believe it should be No. 2. Their space at 237 37th St. was in  Building No. 1 by the way.

Topps kept their executive offices in Bush Terminal until 1996, when the moved to One Whitehall St. in Manhattan, upending 58 years of running things from Brooklyn. With production facilities moving to Pennsylvania in 1966, longtime art director Ben Solomon devised a series of codes to be used on production materials to keep track of what was going on with the various sets being put together in Duryea.  One Whitehall St. was only erected in 1962, so I had to go with a more with a recent picture as the 80's tax photos are horrible:

I used to occasionally visit One Whitehall as part of my job in the 1980's but that was before Topps moved in.  Word is they still have a trove of test issues up there, many unseen outside of a few select folks, just waiting for the right offer.  I would not put anything past this company, so who knows?

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Photo Finish

The New York City Municipal Archives recently made available their trove of their 1939-41 tax photos (over 900,000 in all) and let me tell you, it is like traveling back in a time machine.  Upon seeing the announcement I immediately set to investigating several address associated with the American Leaf Tobacco Company (1908-38) and American Gas Stations (1928-39), which as all of  my intrepid readers undoubtedly recall, were the two Shorin family businesses that were closed and sold, respectively, as they were launching Topps Chewing Gum in December 1938.

The two addresses associated with the American Leaf Tobacco Company (ALTC)  that I have found, both in Brooklyn like all other Shorin family ventures of the time, were located at 140 Throop Avenue and 7 Debevoise St.  I started with the aboriginal address at 140 Throop Ave and found....nothing.  It was clear the original building had been either knocked down or so modified as to be useless to me.

So I crossed my fingers and went hunting for 7 Debevoise St., hoping I could at last find an image of the name or company logo but alas, it looks like the tax photo was taken just after ALTC would have vacated.  7 Debevoise St is the building in the middle:

Zooming in shows what looks like the succeeding business moving in-you can see the boxes piled up in the window:

The detail is pretty remarkable on these pictures-although the official image of #7 was at the end of a film roll and not usable but the one I found was for the address next door, which gives a perfectly fine view of the building I previously showed on a circa 1905 Brooklyn Eagle postcard. You can easily identify #7 to the left, although it had what I gather were lightning rods atop it then:

Undaunted I next turned my attention to American Gas Stations (AGS), which is a better documented company than ALTC both on the web and in my own collection of Topps ephemera (I have zero on ALTC, not even a matchbook cover, and have never seen anything at all associated with the company).  The AGS HQ and main location was at 1619 Bedford Avenue, which was a block north of Ebbets Field.  Here's a view of the fabled ballpark you rarely see:

A caveat: the sliver of gas station shown to the right (this view is from Sullivan Place) is probably not the AGS HQ. The block and lot numbers don't quite match up in some locations on the tax photo database and search pages to current day coordinates but I'm pretty sure this was actually a Sobol Brothers operation with AGS up Bedford Avenue (running in the direction of the Camel sign from right field to center) about a block from here. The address of Ebbets Field was 55 Sullivan Place, which may explain this picture (can't tell, it's garbled on the locator site) and it's such a neat shot I wanted to show it to add some flavor.

I can definitely ID this next shot at 1381 Atlantic Avenue (Brooklyn Avenue at the corner of  Atlantic Avenue) as an AGS location, although it had been sold by then to Socony (who bought out AGS in 1939).

I was a little disappointed not to find an actual American Gas station but I persevered and found this spectacular shot finally, from 547 Vanderbilt Avenue (at the corner of Pacific Avenue):

AGS sold Socony (Standard Oil of NY) products, which were usually branded as Mobil, so that's why you see the name on this shot, which must slightly predate the other one, but this is the quarry I was after.  Check out the three attendants, all in their spiffy uniforms, standing near the pumps!

I plan to keep digging through the tax photos to see what pops up.  The search functions are a little off kilter sometimes and more than a few addresses seem to be missing but it's 95% accurate from what I'm seeing and you can suss out some more of it yourself after you poke around and get the lay of the land. Find out how to navigate the photos yourself by going here.

All the buildings above are gone, although several AGS locations remain as gas station sites.  The zoning laws in New York City probably have something to do with that but I think the last extant AGS structure at 1815 Ocean Avenue was torn down around 2012 and replaced or updated with a more modern building (a Sunoco) which now in turn looks to have been quickly eradicated for an apartment building expansion. Progress...

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Presto Change-o!

Every once in a while, something comes down the pike that still blows my doors off. I was just trolling the waters of eBay the other day when this bad boy popped up:

There was another one as well but it was more than triple the price of this one and not even as nice, so I BO'd this sucker and it arrived a short time ago.  It's about 9 inches in length and the straw is pretty thick  plastic. It's in solid enough shape I'm sure you could still use it to drink something if you were so inclined.

While it's a neat piece, I don't necessarily collect Topps pure candy and gum items but I bought it because of the contents, which I will get to momentarily. But first, a closer look at the label, which actually doesn't reveal much more:

There's no product code on it anywhere but I'd guess it's from around 1973-74 because I'm pretty sure this was leftover Block Buster gum from a failed attempt to resurrect that brand.  Take a closer look:

Block Buster debuted around 1951 or so and looks to have fizzled out as a stand alone retail product around 1955.  Topps then looks to have used leftover gum from this product in their 1956 Baseball Button issue as the "Candy Coated Bubble Gum' that came in the box with the Button. I'm sure it was cello-bagged as I've never seen a pin with any kind of residue and the box insides I've seen look clean as a whistle.

After bringing the Block Busters brand back in the early 70's, it appears Topps once again sold off excess gum in the Presto straw. I have more on Block Buster here if you want to know a little more.