Saturday, September 24, 2022

Triple Double Take

In terms of confusion, the 1980-81 and 1981-82 Basketball sets rank up there with the 1955 Hocus Focus fraternal twin sets and 1988's Pee Wee's Playhouse extravaganza atop what, to be fair, is a rather large heap created by Topps.  I don't collect the set as I consider anything hoops related issued after the ABA got busted up to be avoided at all costs but got back into the hobby just after the 1980-81 set was released and remember it perplexing just about anyone who encountered it.

To refresh your memory, Topps went back to an old formula and issued three mini cards on one standard-sized card:

Score!  (sorry, that's a really bad pun!).  Here's the back:

All well and good but 176 standard sized cards were produced with 264 poses featuring 168 different players!  This article from the May 3rd, 1991 issue of Sports Collectors Digest (SCD) gives you the gist (sheet shenanigans, no surprise):

So the current day Sports Collectors Daily (which I usually abbreviate as SpCD) has nice piece on the set, with a killer image of an uncut sheet:

You can make yourself dizzy looking at it!  Without giving away too much of the SpCD post, there are two sheets of 88 but there are many differences between the two.  I can't find any references anymore but my recollection is that there was some kind of professed method to this madness in terms of distribution but personally, I doubt it! 

The good news you can get each player with only 88 cards but what fun is that!? There were no checklists issued by Topps but SCD included a helpful master alphabetical checklist with their article, which may or may not unfurrow your brow:

1981-82 saw even MORE confusion!  A 66 card nationally distributed set was produced but then Topps added 44 cards for each of three different regions; East, Midwest and West, with 110 cards available in each Franken-set. They must have done this to stimulate sales but it apparently didn't work as they bailed on the basketball card market thereafter.

The first 66 cards comprise the National set and they are numbered 1-66, with 43 player cards and 23 Team Leader cards (four divisions with 6 in all but the East, which had 5).  Regional numbering picked up with #67. So why didn't Topps just create 4 regional sets?  Beats me!  What they did do was consolidate some teams into geographic regions that only make sense in the context of forcing the issue.

Eastern Region collectors got these 6 teams (NBA Conferences and Divisions in parentheses), totaling 63 subjects with the number of players per team varying wildly. Each team's count has their leader card in the total:

Atlanta Hawks - 10 (Eastern Conference, Central Division)
Boston Celtics - 14 (Eastern Conference, Atlantic Division) NBA Champions for 1980-81
New Jersey Nets - 8 (Eastern Conference, Atlantic Division)
New York Knicks - 12 (Eastern Conference, Atlantic Division)
Philadelphia 76ers - 11 ((Eastern Conference, Atlantic Division)
Washington Bullets - 8 (Eastern Conference, Atlantic Division)

Midwest Region got 9 teams, with 65 subjects:

Chicago Bulls - 7 (Eastern Conference, Central Division)
Cleveland Cavaliers - 11 (Eastern Conference, Central Division)
Dallas Mavericks - 5 (Western Conference, Midwest Division)
Detroit Pitsons - 6 (Eastern Conference, Central Division)
Houston Rockets - 9 (Western Conference, Midwest Division)
Indiana Pacers - 6 (Eastern Conference, Central Division)
Kansas City Kings - 5 (Western Conference, Midwest Division)
Milwaukee Bucks - 9 (Western Conference, Midwest Division)
San Antonio Spurs - 7 (Western Conference, Midwest Division)

West Region got 8 teams, with 67 subjects :

Denver Nuggets - 8 (Western Conference, Midwest Division)

Golden State Warriors - 7 (Western Conference, Pacific  Division)
Los Angeles Lakers - 10 (Western Conference, Pacific  Division)
Phoenix Suns - 9 (Western Conference, Pacific  Division)
Portland Trail Blazers - 8 (Western Conference, Pacific  Division)
San Diego Clippers - 8 (Western Conference, Pacific  Division)
Seattle Supersonics - 10 (Western Conference, Pacific  Division)
Utah Jazz - 7 (Western Conference, Midwest Division)

That's 195 subjects and each region got their own checklist card. Super Action cards of a few players were also included, in addition to their regular card in the National set but these were regional as well.

Here is a nationally distributed card, front and back:

I like the little stars in the number circle but is that while semi-circular blob dominating the reverse landscape a backboard or a diagram of how to play HORSE?

That little A in the indicia must mean it was the National set. Here is Magic's Super Action card for comparison:

I dunno, his regular card looks more action packed to me.  The reverse has some stats not delineated on his regular card:

Here are the three regional reverses, with indicia for each region running up and down the right border but no indication as to which are the Super Action cards:

A ten year old collector in say, Detroit was probably wonder what in the name of the Wide World of Sports was going on!

Well, I might as well show a Team Leaders card to round things off:


Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Finigan Begin Again and Again....

Sorry folks, formatting issues (still ongoing, apparently, so forgive the crazy quilt of fonts) kept impacting my post about the 1955 Baseball first series slits and the related 1955 Topps Stamp mockup/test.  The first part is now here and the balance below.
Here is the section of interest, from the 2,3,4, and 5 columns of the double Spahn sheet:
Related to all this is the 1955 Topps Baseball Stamps test, which was in-house only. I've previously speculated about these noting they came from a 40 subject section of an uncut sheet.  In addition, from those 40 cards (4 x 10 in array) at least one subject is known in every column and row.  The latest checklist I have for the Stamps (2011 Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards) has two no-prints from the above slits among its listed subjects.  Their list includes 23 subjects, with a 24th, Aaron considered likely by me.  I guess it's possible the stamps came from the other "series" sheet but I kind of doubt it as one of the possible subjects, Wally Moon, is 4x here.  This is why visual checklists are so important, although the Standard Catalog may indeed be correct. 


Interesting, no?  Here's the breakdown, noting there are several "One impression" players on it:




Numbers = Impressions on slits above.

However, unless a third sheet exists with a different array than the two presently known, it appears the Stamp array was rejiggered from the regular card's sheets by Topps for unknown reasons. I'm working on a full update, which will be posted here as soon as the facts warrant.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Finigan Begin Again

For some bizarre reason, I've never really put together the fact that the two 110 card first series slits are known for 1955 Topps Baseball Topps had some interesting things occurring on their press sheets from the inaugural 1952 Baseball set on and things just got weirder each year.  

1952 saw three double-printed high numbers, presumably due to Topps running out of viable players. By the time 1953 rolled around, Topps  had already been in court several times with Bowman (and possibly other companies) and they hedged their bets a little, leaving a five number "punctuated equlibrium" gap as each series went on, backfilling subjects once their contract status was deemed airtight enough, although they got tripped up in the end, with a total of six numbers never being issued.  

1954 saw some interesting gaps and a move to 110 card half sheets (which, forgetting Ferris Bueller's sage advice, I only realized about a month ago, thinking they were 100 card arrays per side for a very long and embarrasing time).  The problem with 1954 is I do not know more than one slit, which had a gap where cards #151-175 did not make the slit.  Although I based that on the idea the known slit was arrayed 10x10 and not 11x 10 I think that gap still holds up. I think Topps did this because the set size went down to 250 cards and, while a plan to keep gaps makes sense, they seemingly had a good enough grip on their players that year it wasn't required.  So the trend was downward on set counts: 407, 274, 250. 

Then we hit the planned 210 card 1955 set, a nadir for sure as Topps went below the Bowman set count for the first time since their direct competition started in '52. Bowman went big of course, issuing 320 cards and going out, on the baseball front at least, in a blaze of glory before their president, John Connelly, decided he wanted nicer things to play with.

As well all know, the 1955 Topps set lost four subjects in the high numbers, possibly printed but either way pulled and never to be identified, landing at a final count of 206 and making me think Mr. Connelly was still contemplating his next moves, which I don't think even he fully knew until the 1955 Bowman Football set got bum rushed by Topps. Here are the two "first series" slits and you will soon realize why I used quotation marks.

Here is the first slit, I think it's the "A" slit but but am not positive as there are no markings:

At least one other sheet with this array is known.  The other slit, let's call it "B" but also the "double Spahn" for what will be obvious reasons:

That was posted over at Net54 not too long ago.  It looks so clean I thought it could be a digital recereation (and it very well may be) but this extremely old REA lot shows what I believe is the same sheet, as you can clearly see two Spahns stacked up in the lower right, even with the grainy shot (it was their June 25, 1993 auction).  While it's likely enhanced by whoever shot the original, the Aaron to the right of Spahn and Ted William in the lower right corner of the REA sheet nicely confirms this sheet array is legit:

Also of interest, the backs on the LOTG sheet are misligned!  At a guess, knowing that Topps printed the backs first, the  Love of the Game sheet was likely a test for the obverse colors. Ordinarily, I'd say there's a chance the double Spahn sheet array was altered prior to final printing but a miscut card of ol' Warren, as noted in the Net54 thread, proves otherwise:

The proof is on the reverse, as the miscut stat line is clearly Spahn's:

In the thread on Net54, it's also noted a "double" miscut Hodges exists!  He's #187 in the set as a high number, so Topps was clearly doing it on purpose (more below on this). Now, let's count together, from most to least:

70           ROSEN

14           FINIGAN             
23           PARKS  
29           WEHMEIER        
31           SPAHN 
58           RIVERA
59           ALLIE    
61           JACOBS
62           KIPPER 
67           MOON 
80           GRIM   
81           CONLEY 
84           PASCUAL            
86           WILSON               

2             WILLIAMS           
3             FOWLER               
7             HEGAN 
8             SMITH   
10           KEEGAN               
16           SIEVERS 
18           KEMMERER        
19           HERMAN             
24           NEWHOUSER     
26           GROAT 
30           POWER 
32           McGHEE               
33           QUALTERS           
34           TERWILLIGER     
36           KIELY     
39           GLYNN  
45           SAUER  
49           PORTER 
57           O'DELL  
63           COLLINS               
64           TRIANDOS           
66           JACKSON             
72           OLSON  
77           PORTOCARRERO              
78           JONES   
82           HARMON            
83           BREWER               
89           FRAZIER               
100         IRVIN    
106         SULLIVAN           

5            GILLIAM            
11           FAIN      
13           MARSH 
20           CAREY   
25           PODRES               
40           HOAK    
41           STOBBS 
47           AARON 
50           ROBINSON          
54           LIMMER               
55           REPULSKI             
74           BORKOWSKI       
90           SPOONER            
103         WHITE   
105         DIERING               

1             RHODES               
4             KALINE 
6             HACK     
9             MILLER 
12           THEIS     
17           HOFMAN             
21           GRAMMAS         
22           SKOWRON          
27           GRADNER            
28           BANKS  
37           CUNNINGHAM 
38           TURLEY 
42           McCALL 
43           HADDIX 
44           VALENTINE         
46           KAZANSKI           
48           KENENDY             
52           TREMEL                
53           TAYLOR 
56           JABLONSKI          
60           STONE  
65           BOONE 
68           DAVIS   
69           BAILEY  
71           GOMEZ 
73           SHEPARD             
76           POLLET 
79           SCHELL  
85           MOSSI  
87           HOUSE  
88           SKINNER              
102         WESTLAKE           
104         HARSHMAN       
107         ROBERTS              
108         WALKER               

15           PENDLETON       
35           JOLLY     
51           HUGHES               
75           AMOROS            
91           BOLLING              
92           ZIMMER               
93           BILKO    
94           BERTOIA              
95           WARD   
96           BISHOP 
97           PAULA  
98           RIDDLE  
99           LEJA       
110         ZERNIAL               

It looks like Topps plugged in both the puncuated equilibrium and consecutive number gap processes at the same time in 1955! Nos. 15, 35, 51, 75 and 110 from the former method and nos. 90-99 using the latter, with 14 "no prints' resulting.  There's a lot of single prints and even a 5x player in Al Rosen, so clearly whatever the next "series" was should have included these, perhaps leaving some gaps they hoped to fill in, until the last series came and they were bereft of any further subjects, leaving 175, 186, 203 and 209 to never see the light of day. Presumably some of the 2x prints were trued up a bit as well but that's not a guarantee. Given the "divide by 5" look to the tranches (and Rosen plus the zeroes add to 15) it looks pretty well planned out to me, even though the arrays are all over the place. Just look how parts of a couple columns repeat elsewhere, the random placements like Spahn and the plethora of single prints.

APOLOGIES: There is some kind of weird formatting problem going on with this post.  Please see the continuation of it here.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Asta Mysto

About four years ago I posted about some concept design cards that seem linked to the 1948/49 Topps Magic Photos set.  These were created by a firm in Chicago, known by a few different names near as I can tell, but helmed by a real outside-the-box-thinker named Sam Gold.  Sam, and later his son Gordon, were responsible for, among many, many, other things, creating many of the in-pack toy and send-away premiums found in cereal boxes across the continent (and the globe, really) from the 1940's well into the 1970's.  There's a whole book or three waiting and needing to be written about the Gold's (I am being 100% serious) but today it's just this li'l ol' blog post.

Click this link for my previous post which covered what was dubbed Quiz-o-Rama and offered by Hake's Auctions, happily won by me. This was part of the lot:

Well, Hake's recently concluded selling a similar batch, which I did not bid on, dubbed Mysto Sports Quiz, which is the focus today. Like the Quiz-O-Rama "cards" which I now think may have been earlier design models, these came with an affixed piece of special tissue paper that, when moistened and rubbed on the obverse of the card, revealed the answer, in a simple line drawing, to a question posed on the reverse. Quiz-O-Rama was bereft of any producer details, whereas Mysto was not. Here, check it out, quiz side first:

We now have a 1951 copyright by Premium Specialties, Chicago which was indeed Sam Gold's company at the time.  Here's some undeveloped frontage:


OK, let's face it-no kid was going to know a great polo player unless they were Richie Rich or knew someone who owned a string of poloponies. In fact, all three of these subjects would be pretty foreign to the average kid of the day, except perhaps for Jones.  Alice Marble, which is a spectacular name by the way, was an excellent tennis player and a bona fide celebrity in the pre-TV era, and who may or may not have had a very adventurous time duringWorld War 2.

However, there was at least one big sports name in the "set" and it belonged to a subject clearly missing from the Quiz-O-Rama lot I won, namely Lou Gehrig, who can be seen on the banner above.  Here is the Iron Horse:

I have to think that image could also have been the one from Quiz-O-Rama as it's a portrait from the waist vs. the very similar portrait from shoulders seen on the banner. The quiz was, well, a piece of cake for Gehrig:

Here's what the affixed tissue looked like:

Some additional concluding observations are in order:

1) Mysto was sports focused, unlike Quiz-O-Rama, which included general subjects. I'm not sure if that means anything but it could indicate Gold was pitching to a company that made a breakfast cereal resembling Wheaties. Perhaps he wanted in on the sports premium market or even Wheaties itself, which had focused heavily on professional sports and fitness almost from the time they were introduced around 1926 and debuted their motto "Breakfast of Champions" from the mid 30's in some minor league ballpark advertising.  It was then allegedly popularized thanks to Red Barber ad-libbing a commercial during the first ever televised baseball game but since there were only about 500 TV sets in use when the game was broadcast in 1939, I doubt it; my money's on relentless marketing by General Mills. It is worth noting however, the Dodgers game was shown at the New York World's Fair that day at the RCA pavilion.

2) I don't believe either Quiz-O-Rama or Mysto Sports Quiz ever made it into a cereal box or any other kind of product, and certainly not in the format where the tissue developing paper was attached to the card.

3) My earlier theory that Sam Gold may have pitched Quiz-O-Rama to Topps, or they just copped his idea, may or may not still be correct.  Instead, it may have been just the opposite, with Gold copying Topps and the Magic Photos issue. Or, perhaps he did pitch it to Topps and this was a revamped, or refined idea.

Now, let's go play a chukka or two of polo! Just need to find a horse...

Saturday, September 3, 2022

The Numbers Game

As promised last time out, today we'll be looking at how Jefferson Burdick and his editorial acolytes, especially Buck Barker, shifted around the numbering system used in the American Card Catalog.  Barker (I assume it was he) eventually came up with a useful system for companies like Topps that had a number of annual issues but it was never really used by collectors.  Instead, the alphanumeric numbering used in the 1960 ACC has been "locked in" and remains the standard after 60+ years.

Using a famous example, the T206 set, was originally designated simply and numerically as "521" in the 1939 catalog, the became the alphanumeric T206 in 1946.  For the Bowman and Topps comparison, the 1946 ACC is useless as it predates card issues from both companies, although I note Bowman's predecessor was Gum Inc. and that company would certainly have had 1939 entries; alas, I do not have that catalog or access to any portion of it.

So we will start with Bowman's 1948 Baseball set. Every post needs an image, so let's go with the very underrated (in my view, at least) Stan Musial rookie card:

The 1953 ACC has the set as R701, while in 1960 it's the far more familiar R406-1 as suffixes became introduced for companies with regular issues (or varieties within their issues).  Here's the full Bowman Baseball comparison:

Year of Issue              1953                  1960
1948                           R701                 R406-1          
1949                           R708                 R406-2
1949  PCL                  R721                 R406-3
1950                           R713                 R406-4
1951                           R715                 R406-5
1952                           R724                 R406-6
1953 Color                 N/A                   R406-7
1953 B&W                 N/A                   R406-8
1954                           N/A                   R406-9
1955                           N/A                   R406-10

The 1960 Guide assigned the "400" level to Sports Issues Since 1948. These were sub-headed as follows:

R401-Leaf Gum Co., Chicago

R405-Bowman Gum Co. Basketball

R406-Bowman Gum Co., Baseball Issues

R407-Bowman Football Issues

R410-Pro Basketball


R412-Topps Hockey

R414-Topps Chewing Gum (T.C.G.), Baseball Issues

R415-Topps Football Issues

R416-Frank H. Fleer Baseball Issues

R410 was the Topps 1957-8 Basketball set in a solo listing and R411 just had Ringside obviously.  So very inconsistent entries were legion in this section.

Other Bowman issues such as Football and even those from companies like Topps and Leaf were interspersed in the somewhat chronological number assignment in the 1953 guide before being corralled by sport and year in 1960. A lot of information was packed into a single line or two as well.  For example, using 1953 and under the headings of Issues Since 1948, then Sports Issues:

R700- Sport Thrills (20) Swell gum  (Phila. Chew. gum) b&w _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ .02

R701- Baseball Players (48)  Bowman gum, medium, b&w (Play Ball 1948) _  _ .02

R702- Babe Ruth Story (28) Swell gum, medium, b&w _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _.02

R703- Touchdown Football (108) Bowman gum, medium, b&w  _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _.02

R704- Basketball Series (72) Bowman gum, medium  _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _.02
           (Portraits and diagrams)

Burdick squeezed in the ACC number, set count, gum name, issuer name, size and and b&w notation, plus a price and even some variety information as warranted!  

The editors in 1960 were no slouches with information compression either.  Here's the 1955 Bowman Baseball entry:

1955. 10-Color TV Set (320) 2 1/2 x 3 3/4 (251-310 5c).... .03
           Error and Corr. cards No. 48-101-157-205... .15        

That was under a heading that read: R406-Bowman Gum Co., Baseball Issues, all numbered. 

That's a whole mess of detail in two lines, isn't it? But in a time where reproducing photos was expensive, not to mention how much space they would have to consume, it's a simple and elegant way to describe a set, including a reference to high numbers and variations. I'm wondering though, if the typesetter went home and cried every night....

The Topps story is even more labyrinthian.  Under Issues Since 1948 we get:

Set                                            1953                  1960
Bazooka Comics                      R500                 R711-3       
It Happened to A President      R501                 R711-5
Story of the Atom Bomb          R503                R709-3 
-et al, then for some more well known sets: 

         Set                                             1953                   1960
         Wings                                        R534                   R707-4
          Look 'N' See                             R534                   R714-16
          Fighting Marines                      R533                   R709-1

Wow!  So what changed? Well, the 1960 guide started with sub-categories under the General Issues Since 1948 section.  There was, to name but a few:

R701-Bowman Gum Co, or B.G.H.L.I.

R707-Topps Chewing Gum (T.C.G.) Airplane Cards

R708-Topps Cartoon Cards

Somewhat haphazard, just like the 400's. 

Topps only had a handful of issues when the 1953 ACC was issued.  Here is the comparison to 1960:

Year        Set                                               1953                  1960
 N/A       Topps Varsity gum                       R712                 R415-1         
1951       Baseball Players Topps gum        R716                R414-5
1951       Connie Mack's                             R717                 R414-2
1951       Baseball Team Pictures                R718                 R414-4
1951       Major League All-Stars               R719                 R414-3
1951       Magic Football                            R720                  R415-2
N/A        Ringside                                       R723                  R411
1952       Baseball Players                          R725                  R414-6

I've abbreviated a bit for space but you get the idea using the 1953 guide as the basis for the set descriptions.  The 1960 Guide assigned the "400" level to Sports Issue and it was still a bit inconsistent, with years of issue not always shown, etc. There was definitely more detail in the 1960 ACC but you sometimes had to use your imagination.

You can get lost in this stuff and that's not my intention here.  Rather, I want to show how Buck Barker started assigning listings in the Updates. The January 23, 1966 seventh catalog additions that ran in Card Collectors Bulletin still followed the 1960 scheme. Then Barker had a long section on Catalog Corrections, covering both the 1960 book and the updates that had followed. At the end of these he makes some comments, such as this: "Also believe R414 Topps baseball should be broken into 3 sets. 1 -baseball cards, 2-Bazooka baseball, 3-paper baseball issues."

The updates were somewhat themed, so Barker didn't get back to the R cards until the ninth set of additions of February 1, 1968, where he still was using the 1960 system.  The latest Topps entry I can find in that update is for Who Am I?, designated R714-38 and noted as "scratch-offs, 1967." The next (and last) R card update was from the June 1, 1971 CCB. Barker has now gone to a new system that uses the suffix to designate the year of issue.  It looked like this:

R403-68    Bazooka PD. Baseball

R403-69-1 Bazooka Baseball Extra

R403-69-2 Bazooka Baseball All Time Greats

So you get the grouping for Bazooka then the year and variety within follows.  What a neat and orderly method! For some of the regular and irregular Topps Baseball issues, Barker went with:

R413-70-1 BB Scratch Off Cards 1970

R413-70-2 BB Story Booklets 1970 

R413-70-3 Baseball Stars Candy 1970

R414-68 Topps 1968 Baseball Cards

R414-69 Topps 1969 Baseball Cards

R414-70-1 Topps 1970 Baseball Cards

R414-70-2 Topps Baseball Cloth Stickers (Barker notes blank backs, test set)

R414-71 Topps 1971 Baseball (6 series)

Kinks were clearly being worked out but a more useful system had been devised.  At a guess, this was done in the wake of the 1967 ACC failing to launch and the "think tank"duties  moving on to either Barker or others along with his input.  With a little more refinement this could have been a really good way to move forward.  With grading companies no longer having a generally accepted reference to, well, refer to, at least since the Standard Catalog went poof, it seems like some method to keep the ACC alphanumeric scheme alive would be worthwhile.