Saturday, June 26, 2021

Premium Power

Your humble blogger won a sweet lot of two old Bazooka premium catalogs the other day and they have now arrived here at the Topps Archives Research Complex.  Check out the mailing address on the label, it shows the premium enclosed (#105, of which more below) and, as a bonus, the visage of the original Bazooka Joe.  I can't believe this envelope survived all these years but it did:

Bazooka Envelope Mine.jpgThere were two paper items in there as well. One was a Bazooka College Collection Pennant Club catalog, resplendent yet refined in black ink. I previously showed the blue ink version here and as noted previously, there is no numbering of the pennants on the black ink version like there is on the blue.  I suspect Sid Luckman's star billing had a lot to do with his being an Erasmus High student as the Shorin family would have had several of their children grandkids/cousins/etc. educated there over the years and Woody Gelman was also an alumnus.  Woody, if not already working at Topps when this catalog was put together, was certainly working on their account along with Ben Solomon at their co-owned art service. 

Luckman Pamphlet Black Page 1 Mine.jpg 

The baseball pennants and emblems would be the same ones offered on the early 1950's Topps wrappers:
Luckman Pamphlet Black Page 2 Mine.jpg 

So many teams.....

Luckman Pamphlet Black Page 3 Mine.jpg 
And on, and on, and on.............
Luckman Pamphlet Black Page 4 Mine.jpg 

Riding along was this sweet Bazooka Premium catalog, which I think is only their second one and the first only had eight premiums.  "Bazooka The Atom Bubble Boy" was featured in comic book ads from mid 1948 to mid 1950 but the panels along the bottom seem drawn just for the catalog:

Bazooka Gift List Page 1 Mine.jpg 

More baseball emblems can be found here and, ta da!, premium #105, the Mexican Coin Bracelet:

Bazooka Gift List Page 3 Mine.jpg 

Such a clever lad, that Bazooka and dig the O. Henry ending-he usually blew a ginormous bubble, chanted his name backwards (Akoozab! Akoozab!) and flew into the sky to perform a feat of lifesaving derring-do. Not here though, turns out he just some used typical J.D. skills of the day:

Bazooka Gift List Page 2 Mine.jpg 
As I mentioned above, the freckle faced kid below was the first Bazooka Joe:
Bazooka Gift List Page 4 Mine.jpg 

I kind of wish the Mexican Coin Bracelet was still hanging around with the paper items but most of these premiums didn't last too long and those that did have, for the most part, simply been lost through attrition as time marches on.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Deckle Faced

 Here's something you don't see every day, an uncut sheet of the 1969 Deckle Baseball inserts:

I suspect there should be three more rows at the bottom and you can see some funkiness at the top right side border but it's an impressive sheet no matter. A full 33 card set is printed over the course of three rows and with the sheet having both the Wilhelm and Staub cards, we know this was part of the initial press run as those two were replaced by Jim Wynn and Joe Foy respectively, thereafter. 

Here is a 66 card proof sheet, also from the first press run-note the grayscale color bars (and blue for the fake sig).  There's also handwriting along the top and some arrows along the edges that must have been added by one or both of  Ben Solomon's or Woody Gelman's teams at Topps.

I'm not sure what "ALBAMARL" refers to-could be a specific printer or location of one (say Albemarle, Virginia), or perhaps a note as to the glossy finish or even something else entirely-hopefully someone can comment. The red color of that note matches Woody's predilection in that vein and he also indicated what the deckling should look like (kinda) by drawing it around El Tiante!   However the "33 to set" notation looks like it could have come from Ben Solomon's hand:

I can't make out what's printed along the lower left edge but it's seemingly not an indication of which slit the proof belongs with. Perhaps it's the brand name of the photo stock.

The 33 card array was laid out as follows; why Topps didn't just set it up in numerical order escapes me.  You got one insert per pack and it would seemingly be a little easier when composing the set:

17  10  12  27  7   18  8    31  19  28  1
20   9   33  25  11  4   22  32  29  30  26
13  21  14  15  2   24  23  3    5    6    16

I've shown other proofs for this set previously, or more likely in-house tests, and you can dive in here. There's a look at the issued variations and some other goodies at that linked post as well.

This looks like some of the "process" for making the Rod Carew Deckle:

And a little more (or less) for Richie Allen; check out the rounded corner version, like the Game cards from the year prior:

There's certainly plenty of nuances in what looks like a plain-old insert set, isn't there?

Saturday, June 12, 2021

The Dating Game Is Afoot!

The precise dating of Topps sets and those of other issuers is, to my increasingly cluttered mind, primarily a vestige of baseball card collecting, where determining the year of a player's rookie card appeared has a massive impact on value.  Sports are, of course, determined by their seasons and for the most part an issue date for a specific set from the last 75 years can be ciphered quite easily. Peek back earlier than World War 2 though and it's not always so simple, even for baseball and football sets.  As for non-sports, for certain sets it's difficult to figure out exact issue dates well into the 1960's and even into the 70's on occasion.  Compounding things is the propensity of Topps to sell hot sets over more than a one year period or something they issued across the "New Year's Divide".

Popeye Tattoo and its two (or four-stay with me) subsquent offspring is a perfect example of both effects. The original tattoo series has been described as being issued anywhere from 1956 to 1958, with the latter date seemingly the consensus. Here is the original series wrapper:

It's not dated of course, just the King Features Syndicate and Topps copyright lines appear. However, I'm pretty sure it was a 1957 issue that was sold well into 1958.  Take a look at the box, or rather two pieces of it-rather stunning I'd say when the top graphic is blown up-but sadly the only display remnants I can find:

Not exactly a ton of information, although there is a solid clue. I've dug around a little and found that the Quality & Purity logo, which was featured by Topps going back to the 1940's, shows up on both the Isolation Booth ('57) and 1957 Football display boxes. I can't track it into 1958 anywhere, even on the boxes that still have the old "Atom" Bazooka penny tab wraps shown on the back panel issued in the first half of that year. So the Q&P logo appears to have been ditched by late 1957.

Could it have been issued in 1956?  Well, George W. Woolery compiled three volumes about Children's TV back in the 1980's and these books are immensely useful in determining premiere dates, series air date spans and the like. Per Woolery, Popeye premiered in syndication on September 10, 1956 in the New York City and Chicago metro areas and within a month was on the air in LA. He describes the show as a "smash hit" and it certainly was but no one in the fall of '56 really knew at the time how it would play out.  This was, after all, the first theatrical-cartoons-to-TV syndication package ot its kind when the deal was cut between the syndicator and Paramount Pictures (which owned Famous at the time). So I doubt 1956 was the premiere year for the tattoos.

The original cartoons in the syndication package were early, black and white ones but color TV was already available and had been since late 1953 (did you know Dragnet was the first show shot in color?), although the sets were quite expensive early on, with small screens and heavy cabinetry abounding.  It wasn't until a year later that the color Popeye cartoons, which kicked off theatrically in the middle of World War 2, were negotiated into the syndication deal cut by Paramount.  As documented here on numerous occasions, Famous and it's predecessor Fleischer Studios employed Ben Solomon and Woody Gelman for several years and the connection should not be lost on people when it came time for Topps to issue their first licensed character tattoo set. Big cities generally sold expensive electronic products first and New York, LA and Chicago perfectly fit that bill with the color shorts becoming available.

By 1960 Popeye was airing on 150 stations nationally and described as the most popular syndicated cartoon show in the country. Topps was on it before that though and I've already detailed a jobber's invoice from March of 1960 covering the "New Series" of Popeye Tattoos

Between that and the American Card Catalog, where Gelman was an editor, giving 1959 as the year of issue, I think it's safe to say these indeed debuted that year. This all suggests a 1957-58 window for the original series and 1959-60 for the second.

Now we come to Popeye's Mystery Color Tattoos. Rights to the theatrical cartoons were controlled by Paramount but don't forget that Popeye was first a comic strip, where the rights were owned by King Features Syndicate. KFS commissioned 220 new shorts, made just for TV, to debut in the 1961-62 season. Popeye was still a hot, hot property and Topps of course wanted to remain onboard while perhaps freshening up their product a little:

I like how Topps subbed in a fish on the wrapper application graphic! That fish appears on the underside of my example, whcih I think was a salesman or promo verison as there's no production rip at the top:

Again, no date is found on the wrapper but the Third American Card Catalog Update, compiled by Buck Barker, appears in the February 1, 1962 issue of the Card Collectors Bulletin and clearly identified the mystery tats as being a 1961 issue, 13 lines down:

Given how the tatoo series would have been timed to the TV season, it seems logical this was a 1961-62 release.

Many thanks BTW to Friend o' the Archive David Kathman for providing definitive dating of this ACC update, which was inexplicably described as undated in Chris Benjamin's compilation pamphlet. There's another great tidbit on the page as well, namely confirmation that Civil War News (see line 14) was indeed issued in time to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of hostilities between the North and the South in 1861. Every source I've seen describes it as a 1962 release but clearly it was not if Barker had it pegged as a 1961 issue.

I did mention four additonal Popeye tattoo series, didn't I?  Having covered a duo, that leaves two still. Well here is one from Venezuela:

Intriguingly, the wrapper sizing is far smaller than the US version of the original series which measured out at 1 5/8" x 3 3/8".  The Venezuelan wrap is only 1 1/8" x 2 3/8", or the size of the original 1948 Topps Tatoo wrapper!

Finally, Popeye and Topps reunited in 1966 with this new/old wrapper:

It's very small and quite hard to read but the commodity code, which was still being developed in the wake of Topps moving all but their executive offices from Brooklyn to Duryea, PA in early 1966, ends in a 6, so it's a 1966 conception and an issue almost certainly designed for the 1966-67 television season.  This is a tough wrapper compared to the others, so maybe the gleam off the spinach can was fading for Topps by then.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Super Solution Saturday

Well, it took a Fleer fanatic to provide the answer but the riddle of the 1970 Topps Super sheet arrays has been solved. Yes, Friend o'the Archive John H, over at the Fleer Sticker Project blog, sent along an image from an old Topps Vault auction showing the entirety of Slit A and the elusive two left-most columns thereon.  And without further ado:

The first thing most folks will notice is that the Powell card does not reappear in the two leftmost columns!  I have no idea why Topps went with this amazingly confusing array across both slits but Powell was either deliberately super (*groan*) short-printed, somehow damaged in one location or just plain missed but it's bizarre. Really, why not just print all 42 cards three times over two sheets for a set almost no kid would ever be able to fully collect when it was issued?!

The next thing to know is that this confirms the conventional hobby wisdom as to the other short-printed cards (it happens sometimes).  Here is the two-slit impression count:

The last thing to know (OK maybe not) is that the McCovey and Clemente cards, with big white stripes at their resepctive tops in some examples, were in the middle of the arrays; the A slit versions though do seem to display some excessive white strips on those two.  I can't blow them up enough without losing details but the Stargell at the bottom left corner above also has a ton of white atop it as an example.  

Alrighty, back in numerical order for one last list:


The 1971 Super Baseball set appears to have been printed in full twice across both slits-no fun there!