Saturday, September 26, 2020

Triple Tatoo Tales

(UPDATE 10/2/20-Friend o'the Archive Lonnie Cummins deciphered a puzzle for me and I've amended this post as respects the exterior wrapper graphics. No change has bene made to the listing of subjects.)

Well I didn't win the lot, dagnabbit, but a whole lotta Topps Tatoos were sold on eBay recently and there was enough content in the auction to allow me to take a real stab at checklisting this thrice  issued set.  You can click on the links on the right side of this post to see my prior musings on these BTW.

Initially put out in 1948, Tatoo was the first Topps "novelty" issue and seemingly quite popular.  A reissue occurred in 1949 and another in 1953, each time in a slightly larger size. I think it's possible it was sold almost continuously from 1948-53 but need to verify this during the "interregnum" to be sure.

Here are the three recognized issues, with their sizes growing each time:

It's believed one or both of the 1948 and '49 varieties came in both traditional counter-top/gum vender penny tabs but also "Tourist" pouches, as detailed by Chris Benjamin in The Sport Americana Price Guide to The Non Sports Cards No.2. 

I am not aware of a Tourist Pouch ever popping up for sale, nor do I have a huge amount of confidence in the commonly accepted dating of each size and variety of wrap beyond the 1948 "text instructions" version, so we may never know.

As for the checklist, I started with the below "macro" scans then identified individual images. If you look closely many of these are "mirrored" and I think Topps possibly took advantage of this to cheaply increase the advertised set size from 100 to 150.  But, as always, we'll get to some alternate information that impacts this theory down the line.

You will note the size variances. This precludes my ability to determine which set had which scans so the checklist that will be presented here in a subsequent post, will encompass all of the different issues. Today I will show you all of the subjects I extracted from these four scans, plus one from my collection and a number from Chris Benjamin's book which are in black and white and where I can't swear to the orientation of the "horizontal" subjects he illustrates. Intriguingly, most of the subjects Benjamin included in his guide are not in the eBay lot. I believe these eBay scans all to be "notch up", meaning they are oriented correctly.

I've applied my own naming and identification conventions, probably messing up a couple that relate to US Military Service logos (some of the detail is pretty hard to make out on these but others seem to be oh-so-close) so corrections are welcomed.  You will see how easy it was for Topps to mirror an image pretty quickly. A change of spot color would sometimes accompany a mirrored image but this was not always the case.

Here's the single scans, line art and a full checklist will be presented a couple of outings from now:

8 Ball

      Ace of Spades

American Eagle Facing Left, Facing Right (mirrored)

American Flag      
American Indian Dancing

 American Indian with Full Headdress

  American Indian With Tall Headdress 



      Atlas Supporting The World Facing Left, Facing Right (mirrored)

Baseball Hitter

 Baseball Pitcher

Basketball Player Left Handed (there is right handed original line art known so mirrored) Note reversed number 2 on uniform, looks like a 5 here


 Beefeater Portrait

 Blimp Tethered

Bomber Dropping Bombs Flying Left, Flying Right (mirrored)

 Bowler Left Handed, Right Handed

Boxer Gloves Left, Gloves Right (mirrored)-note spot color changes







Cocktail Glasses

 Coiled Snake


 Cowboy on Horse Waving Hat

 Cowboy with Kerchief

 Cowboy with Scarf

Crossed Flags with Torch

 Crossed Rifles

 Diamond Ring


Dwight D. Eisenhower

 Eagle with Sword in Talons

 Eiffel Tower

Explorer with Van Dyke Beard

 Fighter Plane Battle Facing Down, Facing Up (mirrored)

 Fire Engine

Fish and hook

 Flying Fish





 Hand with Cigarette

 Hand with Torch

 Human Cannonball

Jefferson Davis

 Jester Facing Left, Facing Right (mirrored)

 Jet Pilot with Helmet and Oxygen

 Jockey on Horse


Knight in Armor with Shield

 Laughing Superhero with Helmet Facing Left, Facing Right (mirrored)


Lightning Bolt


Lion with Mountain Backdrop (eBay single)

 Marine Corps Logo

Military Rank Insignia Blank Middle, Red Middle (same subject with color changed)


Pilot Wings With Stars Atop

Pipe Smoker

Pirate Portrait

Pirate with Sword

 Prop Plane Facing Left, Facing Right (mirrored)

PT Boat Correct, Reversed (Mirrored, you choose which one is reversed!)

 Race Car

 Robert E. Lee

 Rocket Hurtling Pointed Left, Pointed Right (mirrored)

 Roman Boat

 Roman Centurion Facing Left, Facing Right (mirrored)

Sailing Ship Facing Left, Facing Right (mirrored)


 Sea Serpent

  Seahorse Facing  Left, Facing Right (mirrored)



 Skull and Crossbones

 Soldier Saluting

 Soldier with Rifle Shooting Left, Shooting Right (mirrored)



 Swami with Crystal Ball

 Tank Shooting


Tennis Player Left Handed, Right Handed

 Top Hat with Cane and Gloves

 Top Hatted Masked Man

 Totem Pole Eyes Look Left, Eyes Look Right (mirrored)

 Tribal Warrior

Two Hearts with Cupid's Arrow

 Uncle Sam

 Union Jack

 US - Georgia State Flag Three Bard Facing Down, Facing Up (mirrored) similar to both flags but identical to neither

 Volcano Erupting



Woman's Portrait

I make that a count of 121. That figure will increase when I review the line art next week. There's also the matter of 1981's 24 Tattoos, which repeat a large number of designs from these sets (and some others in between such as 1968's 21 Tattoos) and appears to include a huge amount of subjects that probably debuted here as well but are as yet unconfirmed.

There's two subjects I found on eBay but have been unable to find again: "Sailor with Spyglass" and "Snake Lady". There is another where the washed out remnants of the tatoo are very faint but matches up with an image later seen in 24 Tattoos, "Porpoise with Compass". As all three of those are found in 24 Tattoos but without confirmed Tatoo scans presently, I'll leave them off this visual checklist. So that's 123 so far counting mirrors and Benjamin's examples.

More next time!