Saturday, July 24, 2021

How Great It Is!

I've not touched upon the somewhat puzzling 1971 Topps Greatest Moments set in quite some time and my prior peeks have been somewhat cursory.  I ran through the two proof sheets and before that gave a super short capsule review in a kind of catchall post a while back so it's high time I readdress these oversized (2 1/2" x 4 3/4") cards.

Their origins in the hobby are a little murky but the set of 55 was seemingly tested in Brooklyn and the Boston metro area during the summer of 1971. It's likely one or two other areas saw them as well (you would have to surmise test stores around the Topps plant in Duryea, PA had them) but Brooklyn and Boston are the only areas I've seen positively identified. A display box is known as is a test wrapper:



While the box clearly says they came with gum, examples of the cards showing this are hard to find, at least in my experience. The wrapper is typical of the era's test issues; this one is courtesy of Friend o'the Archive Al Richter and it is ridiculously hard to find:


The earliest hobby reference I can find is in October 1971, where The Trader Speaks editor Dan Dischley gave his readers a checklist and quick rundown:


The cards look super nice.  I have three, two of which are Mets and those two are also short-printed.  Topps must have really liked the black border look in '71 - I know I do:


The backs tell the tales (both of which I remember happening as a wee lad):


Topps was very much trying to get "super" sized sports cards going in 1970-71 and I have to assume they thought there would be enhanced profit margins selling such behemoths. They probably wanted to create a full "super" line, which was clearly being ironed out from 1968 to 1971, but the plug got pulled before any large size 1971 Football set would have been issued. It seems to me it's likely a combination of poor sales and cost-cutting efforts due to their imoending March 1972 IPO (the latter possibly influencing the poor retail distribution of Greatest Moments) killed these sets off.

The set has 33 short prints and 22 double prints.  The DP's are often found in groups of 22 while the SP's are usually found as singles in my experience.  The Double Prints are as follows:

1 Thurman Munson
4 Carl Morton
5 Sal Bando
6 Bert Campaneris
15 Pete Rose
16 Jim Fregosi
17 Alex Johnson
18 Clyde Wright
19 Al Kaline
24 Bob Gibson
25 Tim McCarver
26 Orlando Cepeda
27 Lou Brock
28 Nate Colbert
36 Ernie Banks
39 Rico Petrocelli
40 Carl Yastrzemski
41 Willie Mays
43 Jim Bunning
50 Sam McDowell
51 Luis Aparicio
52 Willie McCovey

As you have no doubt observed having read this far, the cards are mostly grouped by team.

Bob Solon, writing in the same October 1971 issue of TTS, was unimpressed by Topps "distribution" network shenanigans, although his prediction from 1972 was wrong:


The ad from TTS November 1972 has a typo or two (I think he meant "55" not "33" and the year of issue is wrong) but gives an indication of how the DP's would be found in groups:


Supply was affected by the 1975 fire at the Card Collectors Company warehouse as this ad from February 1978 shows:


Looks like they lost a bunch of SP's and DP's alike based upon the Mint ones left unscathed by the blaze! Despite this setback, it seems most extant examples came from Card Collectors Company.

PSA has graded just under 4,900 of these, or about 63 of each slot (of 77) on the press sheet. Clearly an aftermarket supply, deservedly derided by Bob Solon, was made available and three or four favored dealers got some post-test stock one way or the other. The SP/DP pops run roughly 50-60/110-120 and of course for every graded card, especially black bordered ones, there are resubs and superstar skews, plus raw examples still in the wild (at some kind of multiplier like 3x I'd say if you sleuth eBay listings) but it's a good confirmation of the double print vs. single print ratio.

The set is one of the better looking extras issued by Topps over the years IMO.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

A Variety Of Unconnected Items

More mix 'n match today kids!  I continue to plumb the depths of my hard drive and the wilds of eBay and cool stuff continues to emerge!

First, we stop in Philadelphia, where Bowman, like their eventual purchaser Topps, offered premiums in exchange via a magically derived formula of wrappers, comics and cash.  This 1949 Baseball card had a premium offer for a baseball ring:


The ring is a tough item but here it is in all its 15 cent glory (hat tip to Dan Barcomb for this elusive image):


Football and Basketball rings also were produced but they are nowhere near as nice as the Baseball version. 

My recent post on the 1957 Popeye Tattoos lamented that only partial remnants of a display box had been sighted by yours truly. Well Friend o'the Archive Lonnie Cummins came up with a full box flat and it is glorious.  No additonal helpful information resided on the bottom though, rats!



How about a 1959 Funny Valentines saleman sample, with sweet Jack Davis artwork?


Dig that shot of Frankie on the reverse!


Finally, we time trip to 1971, when Rocks O' Gum hit the candy stands. I can't ever recall seeing this product in a store but its offspring Gum Berries persisted into at least the mid 1970's so it must have had some success.  Here's a Topps reference copy (yes, they folded the larger sheets and filed them away):


Note the handwritten note along the bottom left side regarding the varnish to be used for the retail box and a date of April 29, 1971 signifying some step anywhere from final art approval to filing away something likely not to be seen again for many years:


Man, that's a great graphic!  Bam!


Saturday, July 10, 2021

American-International Intrigue

World On Wheels was a classic Topps Giant Size set, issued in at least two and possibly four series.  The low numbers span from #1-160 and appear to have been issued in two distinct series, generally thought to be 80 cards in number apiece. Ten high numbers follow and while difficult, they are do-able compared to the "high-high" numbers spanning #171-180, which are extremely tough and possibly came out, either in whole or in part, after the rest of the issue had been put to bed.

The method of distribution of the last ten cards has never been fully determined so far as I am aware. A handful of wrappers exist that indicate 1955 models were included, so that makes sense but almost all end at 1954, like so:

(courtesy Huggins & Scott)

I'll leave them out of the mix here but there are at least two varieties of nickel wrappers as well that span 1896-1954.  They are close to each other in appearance but not quite the same. Here is a "55" one cent wrapper:

(courtesy Lonnie Cummins)

I can't say I've seen a nickel wrap with 1955 on it but that doesn't mean they weren't issued.

Paging through my set the other day, I noticed the subject matter of the four cards that were not 1955 models in the"high-highs", which we will get back to shortly:

171 Pontiac Strato-Star
172 Chevrolet Biscayne
173 Buick Wildcat III
174 Messerschmitt

The Messerschmitt is the only foreign car in the "high-highs", all the others were US models. We'll also get back to that tidbit momentarily.

These last ten nosebleeders can be found with red backs (matching the first 170 cards), or blue, which is unique to the last ten subjects. The use of blue ink is a mystery and it's worth pointing out the red or blue color bars on the reverses of these ten in either color do not extend to both edges of the card, they fall slightly short, which is not always noticeable due to miscuts, which plague these last ten cards. The color blocks on the front also fall short of their side edge border, which are also sometimes noticeable due to miscuts but seem to have been designed this way. Allowing for the blue ink examples, none of the earlier 170 cards in this set exhibit these characteristics. 

In additon, the color of the red bars and secondary red coloring in the cartoon background on the backs of the "high-highs"matches the color of the red bars on the lower numbers while the blue seems to match the primary and secondary ink colors on the backs of Topps 1955 All American Football cards. Yup.

Here, check it out.  Here are a high-high front followed by a low number front:


Note how the left yellow border of the Nash does not bleed into the left edge of the card. The backs are like so:


The Roadster is on dingier stock than the Nash and the colors are a little muted but hey are the same reds.  Now here is a Caddy matched with an All American Football player:

Once again, the left border of the obverse color block does not have a full bleed. Now for the backs:

Note the Eldorado's blue color bar does not bleed to either edge!  We have matching blues on these two backs to boot.

So I got to thinking a little and am wondering of the "high-highs" were, in addition to a limited appearance in the "55" wrappers,  partially distributed at the New York International Auto Show, which was held every year back then at Madison Square Garden.  As near as I can tell the event was usually staged back then at the end of March and.or beginning of April.  It kind of makes sense-maybe Topps was a sponsor or just got a contract to print the cards. Maybe they just took advantage and issued a limited release in the NYC metro area.  

The International Auto Show was a major event in New York City and society was only just entering a period where such things started to lose their luster to TV, so it's possible but more evidence would be needed.  Other than the Messerschmitt, the three concept cars (Strato-Star, Biscayne, Wildcat III) all were featured at the 1955 event so I have to think there ws some kind of intentional tie-in to the show by Topps.

What I really need is a program from that event to see if there is any reference to Topps.  I'd also love to know how the All American Football set came to use the same reverse color scheme as I doubt they were printed at the same time as the "high-highs" or in time for a spring release (which would be quite odd).  It's worth noting however, that the All American Football set is complete at 100 subjects while the press sheets were comprised of 110 cards.  Also worth noting is Richard Gelman has told me sometimes Topps would use an extra row on a sheet to print something separately.  However, this does not explain the red backed high-highs.


Saturday, July 3, 2021

Sale-A-Bration Time

Friend o'the Archive Jason Rhodes recently alerted me to a really sweet display box he picked up last month; he snagged a real toughie and the bottom on this particular piece of Topps history revealed something of interest to me (and Jason) as well.  The item in question is a 1967 Funny Travel Posters five cent retail display box:


In addition to showcasing some of Wally Wood's finest work, Funny Travel Posters (click here to see what I mean) the box bottom has a Topps Sale-A-Bration Deal stamp prominently displayed, albeit not quite driven fully home by some poor schlep at Topps' Duryea plant:

We've seen this stamp before on 1968's Batty Book Covers:


Once again, here is the stamped box bottom:

I've re-found a third one, on a 1968 Planet Of The Apes box, thanks to a massive hard drive organization project I've been concentrating on during the pandemic and, while I'll probably still be at it until the end of my days, it will be no doubt help with enhancing future endeavors here:


Here she is:

There must be more of these out there from the late 60's.  The POTA movie premiered on February 8, 1968 and based upon that I would say the Sale-A-Bration deals seen here probably hail from 1968, as the unsold stock came back from various jobbers and the overstock was out out to pasture. Of course it could have run for a time before and after. I would say these were precursors to the X-Out boxes Topps sold later on, so marked as to prevent any further returns on what would have been discounted and discontinued products.

If anyone out there has more examples, please let me know.