Saturday, October 29, 2022


Well Hallowe'en, or what passes for it now, is a couple of days away kids!  Every year, when it rolls around, I am reminded of one of my favorites as a trick-or-treater, a sleeve of Bozo bubble gum balls.  I was all about chocolate and bubble gum as a kid, with the chalky Necco wafers, Mary Jane's and the like going to my dad straight out of my bag, while I hoarded $100,000 Bars, Baby Ruth's, Almond Joys and any and all bubble gum.

Bozo, at the time (mid 60's to mid 70's) came in a clear sleeve.  This promo ad gives you a good idea of the look:

I always seemed to get the assorted flavors and the whole shebang got popped into my mouth in one swoop once opened.  Happy days!

Bozo was a very early Topps product, sold in bulk originally to the wholesalers, who in turn supplied the folks with vending machine routes and businesses.  It was a very important early line for Topps and they were able to avoid a lot of packaging costs by dealing in bulk.

This July 29, 1950 Billboard article indicates a surge in popularity for ball gum, which caused some consternation at Topps (or more likely, their PR firm).  At a guess, this is when all those red topped Oak vending machine "trees' started appearing in the exit corridors and vestibules of grocery stores:

Bozo popped up in something resembling the party-sized Bazooka boxes found in stores for a spell in the 1960's but it seems to have flitted in and out of US retail consciousness for a couple of decades, possibly due to waxing and waning legal issues with Bozo the Clown.  It seems to have had a more sustained existence in Canada and there were countertop vendors that carried the branding, distributed by O-Pee-Chee:

I think a good supply of "new old stock" Bozo gumball machines has been unearthed as you can find those pretty easily in close to pristine condition.  Those were clearly designed to sit on a countertop as the top just screws off.

There were four or five flavors available along with the assorted:

I'll have to hit up my grand-nieces and nephews next week to see if Bozo even makes an appearance anymore!

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Buzz Kill

Somewhat lost in the wake of Batman capturing the attention of the nation's TV viewers, both young and old, in the Fall of 1966, The Green Hornet is primarily remembered today as the show that introduced Bruce Lee to America. Originally a 1930's radio program originating out of Detroit, Britt Reid, a.k.a. the Green Hornet was eventually revealed to be the grand-nephew of John Reid, known to millions as The Lone Ranger. The Green Hornet fought crime wearing a mask and using a gun (sound familiar?) and the show had a compelling theme song, a fully orchestrated "Flight of the Bumblebee".

Commercial radio took off in 1920 and by 1933 was firmly entrenched in America. Detroit, thanks to the concentration of automobile manufacturers and related industries located there and nearby, had a wealth of resources available when it came to creating and marketing entertainment, no surprise for the fourth largest city in the United States at the time. The Lone Ranger debuted on George Trendle's station WXYZ on January 31, 1933, the same day the eight station Michigan Regional Network it spearheaded was hatched. The show was broadcast three times a week and quickly worked its way east, conquering Cincinnati (on WLW, which had the highest powered transmitter in the country at the time), Chicago (WGN) and New York (WOR) by 1934.  That in turn led to the formation and rise of the Mutual Broadcasting System among these four stations, the first national network in the country to have content created by each market, as opposed to the three existing networks (CBS and NBC's Red and Blue) where content was created in New York and then distributed downstream. 

The Green Hornet was in coast-to-coast markets by 1937 and Trendle, looking to expand the audience for the show, eventually ported his own station's creation from Mutual to the NBC Blue Network.  After some government induced gyrations NBC Blue several years later became ABC and that is where The Green Hornet premiered on television in September 1966, nine months after Batman hit the airwaves, with the "Flight of the Bumblebee" theme music still intact. Despite being given the important, and kid-oriented 7:30 PM slot on Fridays (Batman, with which it shared a production company, had that time slot as well but on Wednesdays and Thursdays), The show was thought to be a star vehicle for Van Williams but the Green Hornet, lacking the camp and wonderfully odd comedic gravitas that defined Batman, played it straight and tanked with only 26 episodes produced.  Lee, of course, became a worldwide star while Williams faded to occasional guest star roles for the most part thereafter.

Topps produced a 44 sticker set that was a bit of a mess design-wise. Donruss ended up with the rights to produce a set of trading cards commemorating the show, so it appears two licenses for similar products were granted.  Actually make that three, as Ed-U-Cards also made a deck of 52 playing cards using black-and-white images from the show. A lot of tied-in geegaws were also created outside the realm of cards and stickers and it's clear the show was considered, prior to launch, to be can't miss viewing, especially as Batman was in full ascension as it entered its second season in September of 1966.

Topps was not able to include gum in their Green Hornet packs as a result of Donruss obtaining the confectionery license and it's noteworthy that this was the first time Topps dropped their bespoke chew for a licensed property:

It's a very green theme, as you would expect.  Note the primordial commodity code at the top right.  That wrapper was a miscut (common for some reason with these) and the full code was like so:

I can't quite make it out but believe that reads 466-01-1-6.  Topps had just started using such codes in 1966 after all production was moved from Brooklyn to Duryea, PA.

The box used similar colors:

The bottom indicia was typical of the times and provided an excellent looks at the new curved-T Topps logo, which was never a feature on the pack and visible box graphics for licensed properties:

466-06-1-6 for that indicia I think.

The stickers were all over the place and may feature the most designs on a per-capita basis of any Topps set up to this point.  Here are just some of them:

Nice five o'clock shadow there Van.  Topps must have run out of publicity stills as some cards were illustrated:

That's just weird! The backs were typical pressure stock, scored once:

While the stickers can have their issues and were essentially designed to be destroyed, they are found quite easily today as Topps must have been stuck with a ton of unsold inventory. I suspect they ended up selling a lot of these in Fun Packs and at a guess that would have been during Hallowe'en 1967.

The set is a right mess, especially when compared to the Donruss cards, which are among the nicest that company produced but the main problem was with the show itself. I've seen a handful of episodes and they are, well, kinda boring. I know some folks are fans of the show but Batman pretty much sucked up all the oxygen in 1966 and The Green Hornet wasn't even rerun much, probably due to the low number of shows available for syndication (where 65 episodes was the magic minimum number), so it has still not been widely seen to this day. As noted above, it's mostly remembered today for Bruce Lee.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Full Sleeve Tattoos

Look around any concert stage or pro football field these days and you're likely to see one, if not more, players with a full arm sleeve of Tattoos.  It's old hat now but Topps had nearly everybody beat when it came to tattoo sleeves.  Of course, I'm not talking about ink but rather penny Tattoo sleeves, which were used by Topps when shipping certain items.

Friend o'the  Archive Lonnie Cummins alerted me to several of these recently, in turn based upon information from Eric Roberts over at the Vintage Non-Sports forum. Warning:  that is a tattoo rabbit hole if you click over! These two sleeves were used to protect the inner box of  "New Series" Popeye and Woody Woodpecker tattoos, both hailing from 1959:

There is some bottom indicia on the sleeves but I can't make it out!:

Popeye was the first major cartoon series to be syndicated for TV (in 1956) and the "New Series" was the middle issue of a three set run of tattoos from Topps that commenced in 1957 and by 1960 was the most popular syndicated show in the US. Woody Woodpecker was syndicated two years later and Topps managed this lone issue, with a later one put out by Fleer.

It's not 100% clear as to why the sleeves were used but they somewhat matched the boxes.  Popeye seems to be lacking the additional indicia found on the sleeve and I'm guessing it just has the information for Canadian release.

On the other hand this was the Topps file copy of the box:

I don't know what's on the bottom of a Woody Woodpecker retail box as I don't believe one has been seen in the hobby, at least that I am aware of, and if it's lacking the corresponding Canadian portion of the indicia, it likely was only retailed in the US.  A negative of the Woody box cover exists though:

Woody Woodpecker was popular but not nearly to the extent of Popeye. So were these a 2-1 deal, packaged separately, overstock?  I am not certain at all but they are pretty neat.  

Lonnie is chronicling all the various Topps tattoo issues from the vintage era and is making tremendous inroads in checklisting them. It's a painstaking task as almost none have captions and Topps repeated some designs across myriad sets. I wrestled the 1960 Football Tattoo checklist into submission once and it was a nightmare, even with a large chunk of the subjects already known.  Lonnie's tackling over a dozen-yikes!

Saturday, October 8, 2022

Get Your Rah Rah's Out

The ever vigilant Lonnie Cummins alerted me to an interesting eBay auction recently that really blew me away.  I've covered the Topps Sports Club previously (most recently here), which was a promotional effort by the company that, given the bang for the buck, really should have been more of a success.  There were a number of pretty neat things Topps included with membership, including previews of card sets, large color photos of some top names in sports, uncut team checklist sheets plus the ability to order some spectacular premiums.  Promoted primarily via wrapper panel ads and the reverse of some Rak Pak header cards, the Sports Club debuted right as I was exiting the youthful portion of my hobby years and I never even knew about it until after I started this blog.

Anyhoo, Lonnie managed to uncover one of the all-time great Sports Club premiums offered by Topps, namely the 1975 Giant Size Football Action Poster!  Behold its mighty power: 


I've shown the advert slip for it previously but it's well worth a repeat look:

It's a little hard to read as that's an old screen grab but those bulleted items running down the left side rode along with the poster and required some effort to put together by the recipient:

Boy, there' s a lot going on! There were a number of "card stands" you could assemble and which held, what else, Topps football cards.  Other things though, were needed to deck out your football field:

Those numbers were to keep score you also got to put team names in each end zone. Topps left nothing to chance as they gave you several formations to choose from:

Again, apologies for the fuzz-fest.   For me the best part of all this was the "field figures" along the bottom:

The cameraman is a nice touch as the poster has a TV and Radio booth (and a press box-so where's Oscar Madison?), but those refs are anticipating the plays too much!  And dig the cheerleaders:

I'd say whoever drew the pom-pom girl was using Mary Tyler Moore as their basis for that drawing. As for megaphone-man, no clue. The other neat thing is that the poster was created by Topps and not just supplied by a third party.

The football field was also a Topps creation:

I wish I could get a better shot of the fans-I love trying to figure out when the repeat graphics start on such things!

If one of you out there had room in your man cave, I hope you picked up this remarkable premium, which was offered in two separate lots for some reason.

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Getting A Handle On Things

Topps had  robust rewards campaigns for their distributors and retailers, a practice they maintained from day one in confectionery business. Boxes of products contained premium certificates for the local retailers, while better rewards could be had by their wholesalers (jobbers in the parlance). Sometimes they would offer incentives, especially with larger sized orders, or when they wanted to blow out some  product that was in danger of going stale. Bazooka was famous for this kind of promotion and I recently saw a couple of these premiums online and grabbed some scans.

For the executive type, a briefcase was offered as part of one campaign:

That graphic reminds me of Hallowe'en for some reason!  The briefcase in question looks like it was quite snazzy:

Old school security system there with that key! I'm not certain on the dating but believe it to be early-to mid-1960's.

For the family minded, Topps offered a picnic bag, in a wonderful plaid pattern.  This promotion looks like it was used to push a nickel "Clip" version of Bazooka, which I assume was a looser cello containing some product for a vertical counter display:

I'll get to that 211922 code in a second. First, here is what I believe to be the clip in question.  You can find these on eBay pretty easily as a supply of NOS popped up awhile back:

Side view-the clamping pressure is pretty strong on my own examples.

Not sure what the idea was there, maybe there was an easel or backing board that rode along. As for that packing code, it translates to April 19, 1962 and shows it was packed on the second shift.

OK, now for the big reveal of the picnic bag:

Neat-o!  And you know what, it reminds me of  a certain above average bear:

For some reason, I am now very hungry.....