Saturday, June 27, 2020

Bonus Bazooka Blast!

It's a grab bag of Bazooka this week kids!  Here's some Bazooka eye candy I think you will all enjoy.

Wesley Morse drew Bazooka Joe comics for Topps for less than a decade (1954 debut) and then they figured out how to stretch is work even more after he died in 1963-his drawings ran until 1982!  It looks like he did some other work for Topps as well, take a gander at the line work and style on this envelope:

(courtesy Jeff Shepherd)

I'm not positive but I think the 2 cents US postage metered rate ended sometime in 1958, so this looks like a mid 50's envelope.  That traffic cop looks just like an amalgamation of Sarge and Herman from Bazooka Joe,  doesn't it?

I recently found a true date attribution for the Bazooka U.S. Presidents package design set.  It was described in Woody Gelman's Card Collector as a 1962 issue and I think in the few guides that covered it over the years but it's from 1960. That makes total sense given it was a presidential election year.

In 1969 Topps experimented with a foil Bazooka wrapper on what may have been a test of a nickel roll twin-pack (dig the markdown from Grant's), harkening back to the product launch in 1947:

I have no idea why they did this, nor why they brought back the sepia comics of yore:

Finally, on the heels of last week's waxy insert post, I thought I'd revisit this 1973 Bazooka comic inserts showing how Topps would sometimes gyp the kids with an ad instead of Bazooka Joe and His Gang:

Stay safe out there folks!

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Wax On, Wax Off

It's funny what's turned up in Topps packs over the years: plain white gum separators through the mid-50's, cello wrapped caramel in 1951 and a string of contest and premium offer cards in the late 50's into 1960.  Topps then moved into more familiar inserts starting with the 1960 Football cards, which for the most part ended in 1971 for Baseball and Football. In retrospect these were clearly sales stimulators so long as costs allowed. In 1967-69 though, something else made an appearance that not too many folks know about.

Ads, specifically in-house ads for upcoming inserts and sets, are what came in certain wax packs these three years. The first one I'm aware of is this little bit of wax paper from 1967, roughly the size of the era's penny Bazooka comics:

Love the Tigers player and his knowing look!  My research, which is admittedly a bit limited as I am just in the training wheels stage when it comes to the series-by series specifics of vintage Topps wax packs, shows the Pin-Ups were issued throughout the season (they are known in 2nd, 5th, 6th and 7th series cello packs for sure), so I'd imagine these were found in 1st series packs.

QUICK SAME DAY UPDATE:  I found this commencing with the Classified Ads in the March 1972 Issue of The Trader Speaks.  Same pitcher, slightly altered facially and on the uniform and I suspect Woody Gelman had a hand. He appeared, along with his battery mate, in TTS until the last Dan Dischley published issue came out in September 1983, save one or two occasions):

1968 brought an ad for the Game cards, complete with cursory instructions:

From Mantle, Mays and Aaron to Campy, who was a helluva player but not in the same zip code as those guys, and I suspect at least one other player, if not more, was named (see batter's ankles and feet at the top). The Game cards seem to have started showing up in 4th series packs, so these would be from the 3rd series. However, that wasn't all. The 6th and 7th series wax packs carried two tones of Football preview:

These are noticeably larger (much taller) than the Baseball waxy inserts and according to Darren Prince's 1993 Wrapper and Pack Guide, came in 6th and 7th series packs. Dig the commodity codes and fold lines - were these printed and actually folded in with the wrappers?! 1968 was the first combined NFL/AFL set issued by Topps and they clearly intended to make a big splash.

1969 seems to be the end year for the waxy inserts, possibly due to rising costs; remember, ten cent "cello" packs debuted this year to mimic the Baseball wax in a large scale pricing experiment and the dime wax pack debuted for real with the '69 Football release (and some Non-Sports issues).  Friend o'the Archive Dave Schmidt sent me a scan of the installment from '69 as I have not yet found one of these (the others are from my collection):

The Deckles debuted in Series 3 but there were also the Decal inserts in 1969 so it's possible another  ad insert exists for those.  Prince has the Decals ("Magic Rub-Offs" actually) as appearing in 2nd and 5th series packs so I'm not sure what's going on with that.

I've also just gotten this one in from across the pond, it's from Topps UK:

That little, oddly-fonted ID number off to the right says "UK 24" which didn't help with dating but I found a Footballer wrapper from 1979-80 over at the awesome Nigel's Webspace that helped zero in on it:

Sorry for the murk, I found a better scan of the offer, which is not an exact match to the insert but fairly close:

While being fairly non-conversant with the ins-and-outs-of the English First Division teams of the time, I did know Celtic & Rangers were both from the Scottish League so I had to do a little research. The last season Topps issued Scottish League cards was 1979-80 (in their own set) and the English League teams (first and second division) were in the set this wrapper enclosed. so the timing fit. I then found 21 of the 22 first division teams that played that season on the insert, missing only Bolton, which was by far the worst team in the league and ended up relegated (and likely just ignored by Topps UK) along with Bristol City and Stoke, both of which made the scarf cut as a booby prize I guess. This waxy insert must have part of the Bazooka Joe comic series over in the UK in either 1979-80 then, or the next season if they were burning off excess premiums.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Berger's Baltimore Barge Balderdash

I've been reviewing a small mountain of old hobby publications these past few months and am presently in the midst of a mid-70's run of Sport Fan, which was put out for many years by Bob Jaspersen.  If there was ever a hobby 'zine that resembled a gossip sheet, I suspect Sport Fan would be case #1, although most publications of the era had a lot more personal notes in them than anything put out since the mid 80's. Reports of specific cards at specific prices changing hands were commonplace and a lot of convention and gathering photos were taken with collectors wives' portrayed in the pictures the accompanying articles and not just in Jaspersen's publication. Hell, I would have loved to have attended some of those mid 70's soirees, some were even held in taverns!

One of the more common features in Sport Fan (and other hobby pubs of the day) was massive coverage of collector's conventions, which often ran on for three or four very informative 8 1/2" x 11" pages. By 1975 the larger gatherings were garnering media attention and the Sixth Annual Mid-Atlantic Sports Collectors Association (MASCA) show held the last weekend of April outside of Baltimore was no exception. The show was well extremely well attended and brought at least one notable figure to town: Sy Berger, Sports Director of Topps.

Berger was interviewed on Convention Eve by local radio host Ted Patterson on WBAL and this may be where the legend of the 1952 Baseball High Numbers getting dumped at sea began. Sport Fan has the front page scoop:

As readers of this blog know, I do not buy the story and have been looking for its origins for some time now. It's possible Sy trotted this tale out prior to this but the next day (4/25/75) the Baltimore Sun ran a piece highlighting it (and Sy) that would certainly have given it legs with the hobby and without:

I'm surprised he didn't add something about cement shoes to further embellish the narrative! Also, it's 97 cards in the series but that's a minute point. Bonus chestnut in column one's penultimate paragraph: the 250,000,000 cards printed annually story, first promulgated around 1959 IIRC. Classic shot of Mr. Berger though!

I have nothing against Sy and in fact consider him a true innovator, a fantastic PR ambassador for Topps and an astute businessman but for reasons I've discussed here previously just can't believe this tale and have to think it was all "corporate PR" fluff as he was certainly a man to toe the company line. No matter, the 52 highs are legendary and so is Sy!

This will be my last mid-week pandemic post and the blog will be returning to its standard, weekly  Saturday posting schedule. Hopefully it's been a little bit of a diversion these past couple of months for some of you.

Friday, June 12, 2020

A Series Of Fortunate Events

We're half a day early as I screwed up my scheduling of posts!

There's a really good thread going on over at about the 1963 Topps Baseball set and how the series stack up SP and DP-wise.  I won't immediately ruin for you, here's the linky dink.

While we are on the subject, here is a 4th series half sheet from '63, a thing of beauty:

It's a great set to study as the color scheme of the cards made it necessary to invert half of them to facilitate printing; the inset circles also are symbiotically tied to the main color at the bottom of the card as well.  This, coupled with the Topps practice of pushing the next series checklist onto the current sheets made for an interesting observation or five by the Original Poster, one Kevvyg1026.

Herewith the executive summary:

  • The idea that the last (7th)  series started at #523 is incorrect
  • The idea that there are short prints in the last series is also incorrect.
  • The idea that short prints could occur in anything other than multiples off 11  is wrong (we already knew this here at the blog)
  • For whatever reason, there is one subset of 11 cards that were "extra prints" in the 5th series. Other than the 1st series, which traditionally held 110 cards (109 plus an extra checklist) in this era, the rest of the series work out to either three impressions of each card over a full 264 card sheet (series of 87+1 extra checklist=88) or four (series of 65 + extra checklist=66) except for the 5th which has 77 (76+1) cards.  For some reason a row was double-printed in this series. Those 60's Topps 1st series runs usually had 22 extra card per half sheet, but the quantities were so high you can't tell the SP's from the DP's.

Here's the likely series breakdown (you would need the sheets to be 100% confident), kudos to Kevvyg1026 for figuring all of this out:

Series 1: 1-109 (110 cards incl. extra checklist)
Series 2: 110-196 (88 cards, ditto)
Series 3: 197-283 (88 cards, ditto)
Series 4: 284-370 (88 cards ditto)
Series 5: 371-446 (77 cards, ditto)
Series 6: 447-511 (66 cards, ditto)
Series 7: 512-576 (66 cards, ditto)

These won't actually match the series configuration son the printed checklists by the way:

Series 1: 1-88
Series 2: 89-176
Series 3: 177-264
Series 4: 265-352
Series 5: 353-429
Series 6: 430-506
Series 7: 507-576

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Holy Sheet!

I've been rolling through a ton of old hobby publications of late and am presently in the midst of The Trader Speaks (TTS) issues from 1978.  TTS of course was owned by the recently deceased Dan Dischley (a New York City cop who sometimes used his connections to go after hobby fraudsters) and was the pre-eminent hobby 'zine of its time until being overtaken by Sport Collectors Digest (SCD) in the early 1980's as the entire structure of selling and marketing baseball cards was changing.

197 issues of The Trader Speaks were published, with all but the last 18 under Dischley's stewardship. The first edition came out in November of 1968 and once the fifth issue came off the presses it followed a fairly set format, first with checklists and updates of same then more and more short articles.  It was punctual (almost unheard of at the time), informative and opinionated. Dischley published 179 issues including a special "Convention" issue for a three day show held at Shea Stadium in August of 1978 and never missed a month.  There were practically exponentially expanding numbers of shows occurring at the time and perhaps the most fertile time of hobby growth was from the Summer of 1977 through the Fall of 1978. A lot of this was aided and abetted by the appearance of the Sports Collectors Bible in 1975 and a couple of other early price guides.  Jim Beckett also conducted two price surveys in this time period, with TTS dutifully publishing the results and by time of the Shea Convention the modern hobby had been born.

Lew Lipset, a name familiar to all of us grizzled old collectors --and certainly a few ungrizzled ones-- very quickly became a major dealer (and eventually cataloger) in the mid 70's and by 1977 had a regular TTS column called Lew's Corner that was pretty entertaining but served the real (and dual) purpose of tracking pricing of star cards among other things. Hobby price guides and the Beckett surveys had mostly focused on full sets and certain series within those sets and while dealers had been warming up to the idea of what we would now call superstar card pricing since the early 70's, Lew was one of the first guys to discuss and embrace this idea. He had some other neat observations as well and today I'd like to focus on one in particular, which came via letter to him:

Most readers under the age of 50 or so probably do not recall the glorious messes that were usually referred to as "junk stores" but along with antique shops, classified ads and "trading post" periodicals (TTS was modeled after the latter) they essentially comprised the eBay of their time and even the smallest towns always seemed to have a handful of good to great ones ones. Meyer's sure seems like a classic junk store but also one that gave us a lot of Bowman oddities that have survived to this day.

I'd wager a good chunk of the handcut 1949 Bowman PCL cards circulating today originated from Meyer's and were just overlooked by the writer of the letter. There are unusually high amounts of the pre-1953 Bowmans out there that are print oddities, such as this Murry Dickson from my collection, that could have come from the shop as well:

Bowman's 1949 PCL cards are now thought to have had some distribution on the west coast, both in their own packaging and also (possibly) mixed in with the MLB cards for a very, very short period of time. While still difficult, there are found more readily today than they were in the 70's, when they were widely considered to be among the toughest of all postwar issues. Lew's concise comment the prior month says it all:

The PCL cards have been steadily demystified over the years and while still a bit pricey, you could assemble a couple of sets with ease just from current eBay listings.  Don't get me wrong, they are not easy but the PSA pop report has 569 showing, or around 15-16 of each on average and interest in PCL issues is not what it used to be.

Here is the concise history of TTS publishers in case you were wondering:

Nov. 1968-Sept. 1983: 179 issues (Dan Dischley)
Oct. 1983-March 1984: 6 issues (Sonny Jackson)-mailing list then sold to SCD's parent company
June 1989-May 1990: 12 issues included in copies of SCD

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Here's An Idea

I'm in the midst of an extended series of posts that will probably begin to see the light of day in the next couple of weeks so today's effort is not going to involve a lot of heavy lifting.  I thought it would be fun to look at some of Woody Gelman's filing system today, namely the Idea Books he kept at Topps.

Woody had an extensive filing system and I'd imagine a pretty good amount of space at Brooklyn HQ by his notebooks, ephemera and whatnot.  He thought of this as part of his "idea retrieval" methods, which in a way are what the internet became well before anyone outside of ARPA or Bell Labs could grasp such a concept. Unfortunately, instead of being kept intact, these notebooks have been looted and pillaged over the years with all the pages and files being scattered across the hobby landscape with reckless abandon, stymying any hope of getting a complete picture painted. And so we have scraps...

Here's a neat one, possibly the earliest I've seen, 1955's Hocus Focus (large):

It's a little fuzzy and the infamous Woody all caps scrawl makes it even harder to read but above IDEA it says "Published" and the Item is "Photographic".  The Subclassification is "Hidden Pictures" and the See Under line has the set name.  This would not be consistent throughout Woody's long tenure at Topps, although he appears to have used mostly the same Idea page for his entire tenure with the company while inconsistently filling in the blanks. Having said that, the one I'll show next does not have any of the lined items off to the right, which looks like they tracked reaction from some group or groups of people (Topps execs, kids?) and some progress detail, which seems to be blank on most of the ones I've seen. I wonder if they kept a "clean version of some sets to show prospective licencees?

Here is "Copyright Merch." of a "test series", namely King Kong from 1965 (I have it as either '65 or 1966 but no matter this seems to cinch it at the earlier year), that got pulled when Donruss got the licensing deal.

Tattoos? Got ya covered (sorry) with 1967's Dr. Doolittle, unclear why it's not "licensed merchandise" though:

I'll close with perhaps the most interesting one of all:

"Inserts Types" is what this is, and yes that is a 1964 Topps Giant Size Sandy Koufax cropped excerpt shrunk down to the size of a 1969 Deckle. This makes me think the original idea was to do this almost-great insert in color, which would have been stupendous.  I suspect color would have been a bit more expensive though, in a year of chaos and cost (a lot of pictures had to be takes once the MLBPA agreed to an enhanced deal with Topps and due to the expansion that year). No clue what 27-B means though in the Progress Record.

Pretty neat, eh?

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

White Letter Day

1969 saw a 20% increase in the number of major league baseball teams with the addition of the Seattle pilots and Kansas City Royals in the American League and the Montreal Expos and San Diego Padres in the Senior Circuit, all of which siphoned players from other rosters in their respective leagues. The entire sport probably seemed like it was on the move when that season's Baseball set was being planned at Brooklyn HQ. Coupled with this, Topps had been embroiled in a dispute with the Major League Baseball Players Association, who were boycotting Topps after Arthur Shorin told Marvin Miller he didn't see his "muscle" in negotiations of licensing fees. That little problem didn't resolve until a large portion of the cards had already been composed.  It was a tough year to get everything straight (a challenge even in quiet ones) and Topps ended up up with a very interesting set, definitely shored up by a solid design.

In the area of challenges, 23 cards from the 5th series (#426-512) ended up with the player name entirely in white letters, where either the given name or surname was supposed to be yellow. Here is the list, courtesy of Friend o'the Archive Bob Fisk; anything else was intended to look the way it did, white letter-wise at least. For the corrected version, substitute yellow for white.

440a Willie McCovey (last name in white)
441a Dennis Higgins (last name in white)
444a Joe Moeller (last name in white)
447a Ralph Houk (last name in white)
451a Rich Rollins (first name in white)
452a Al Ferrera (first name in white)
454a Phillies Rookies (names in white)
461a Mike Epstein (last name in white)
464a Dave Marshall (last name in white)
468a Pirates Rookies (names in white)
470a Mel Stottlemyre (last name in white)
471a Ted Savage (last name in white)
473a Jose Arcia (first name in white)
476a Red Sox Rookies (names in white)
482a Jim Gosger (first name in white)
485a Gaylord Perry (last name in white)
486a Paul Casanova (last name in white)
491a Twins Rookies (names in white)
493a Wes Parker (last name in white)
500a Mickey Mantle (last name in white)
501a Tony Gonzalez (first name in white)
505a Bobby Bolin (last name in white)
511a Diego Segui (first name in white)

Huggins & Scott have come up with a partial 5th series sheet (and a very informative partial proof) that contains the entirety of the issued white letter subjects and it's a neat little bit of Topps visual history. See the Mick in slot 5 five of row 2 for white-on-white confirmation.

REA had a repaired version with the correct yellow letters awhile back for comparison, although it's a bit fuzzy (sorry):

The white letter variant partial does not show the 4 repeating rows (replicating the top four rows) so it's unclear if the white letters were on both impressions of the duplicated subjects (the other half sheet would have the middle four rows from the one sheet at the top of the other then the 88 card iteration below) from H&S.

Also of note are the ten All-Star cards--not because they have variants but because the back of them has the Pete Rose puzzle on this proof:

However, the blank front of this proof is where the good stuff is.  Check out this extract:

There's your press run green light date: April 11, 1969, with 85,200 sheets run (I presume 264 card full sheets) or about 22,250,000 cards -  about a quarter million of each subject.  But of course there were other press runs so the actual number printed would be much higher.